Bill Graessle is chair of the Jacksonville Bar Association Appellate Law Committee and board certified by The Florida Bar as an appellate specialist.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My grandfather, both parents, two uncles and an aunt were attorneys. From an early age I was ready to speak up and defend my position or defend someone who I believed was being treated unfairly. Being an attorney was unavoidable for me.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I studied political science and perceive that an understanding of how our government is structured and functions and particularly the role of the judiciary was an important basis for pursuing a legal career. The law was a natural fit for me and a good background for my practice of law.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? My first job after law school was as a law clerk to Justice Ray Ehrlich of the Supreme Court of Florida. I was absorbed by the work itself and got to experience written and oral advocacy at its finest. It was a logical step for me when entering private practice.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? The recognition that appellate practice and trial practice are really different areas of specialization.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Wave the magic wand and eliminate the serious problem of access to the legal system by those who are not economically prosperous. Government funding for civil legal services for those who cannot afford an attorney is the best and most economically efficient social policy and I would like to be able to have that understood by our lawmakers.
What community service have you pursued and why that? I have spent considerable time doing pro bono work for the Guardian ad Litem program, served on The Florida Bar Foundation Legal Assistance for the Poor Committee and the board, and always handle pro bono cases, both for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and in my own practice. I am currently on the board of Southern Legal Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm that specializes in impact litigation.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Breathe. Do your homework. Keep your word. Get involved in something that helps make life easier for someone who needs help. Be proud to be an attorney who has the ability to help people.