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The New Guard

Six young lawyers share how they’ve succeeded in their competitive and demanding profession.



Ask any seasoned lawyer about the profession, and he or she will tell you that it’s not what it used to be. An increase of law schools churning out more students than the job market can support (in 2014, only 60 percent of graduates found jobs requiring bar-exam certification, according to The New York Times), along with lingering effects of the Great Recession, have created a paradigm shift.

“It’s further reduced demands and opportunities in the marketplace for many, many aspects of law practice,” says Chuck Cohen, cofounder and chairman of Cohen & Grigsby, which has an office in Naples.

The number of active attorneys in Florida grew 8.5 percent from 68,464 to 74,258 in the last year, according to American Bar Association—the largest percentage of growth in the nation. Meaning, the profession is becoming increasingly competitive for fresh-faced lawyers straight out of law school.

Gulfshore Business asked six local attorneys—ranging from 31 to 40 years of age, who continue to earn accolades for their efforts—to provide details on what it takes to win in the courtroom, serve their clients in the best way possible and how to climb the ranks in a more aggressive market.

 

SUZANNE BOY, ATTORNEY AND STOCKHOLDER AT HENDERSON, FRANKLIN, STARNES & HOLT P.A.

Practice areas: employment law, commercial litigation
Florida Bar admittance: 2007
Law degree: Stetson University College of Law
Honors include: Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 (2014), Business Observer 40 under 40 (2014), Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star (2010-2015), Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rated

Suzanne Boy's roots run deep in Southwest Florida. Raised in Labelle, Boy, 35, was no stranger to independent Florida businesses—much like the kind she specializes in aiding today. “We’ve developed an initiative that I’ve helped put together over time to really focus on small businesses and what we can do to help them proactively,” Boy says. She counsels small-business owners in legal matters to help them avoid going to trial. “Litigation is so expensive, that’s why I think of things we can do proactively to avoid it,” she says. “Most small businesses can’t spend that kind of money.” Her ability to find smart solutions has been noticed by Henderson Franklin staff members, including the firm’s employment law department head John Potanovic. “Very early on in her career she’s been a very effective problem solver,” he says. “She’s able to do it in a relatively cost-effective way for her clients and that’s a very difficult thing to master.”

What are some challenging aspects of your job?

For me, the struggle is not the firm but the practice in general, because I care so much about my clients, I get to know my clients, and I have a couple of clients who have become my closest friends. When you go to court and you have to have this money conversation … it can be draining after a while.

What are some high points?

I love the counseling part of my job. I am very passionate about employment law and I am very passionate about HR (human resources). I am fortunate enough that I get to do a good portion of my practice with counseling. That helps me push through the litigation side.

What makes a great lawyer rather than a good lawyer?

A great lawyer is somebody who is willing to go above and beyond the practice of law to really get to know the client and become a true partner to the client, and who can proactively make the business run smoothly and more cost-effectively.

What’s something young attorneys should be aware of?

It’s certainly not the practice you see on TV; it’s a lot of paper pushing, a lot of writing. It’s really a grind. You really have to find a practice area you are passionate about. If you don’t, I think the practice of law would eat you alive.

 

T. ROBERT BULLOCH, NAPLES OFFICE MANAGING PARTNER AT QUARLES & BRADY, LLP

Practice areas: trust and estate planning; fiduciary, trust and probate litigation; financial institutions litigation
Florida Bar admittance: 2003
Law degree: University of Florida Levin
College of Law
Honors include: Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rated; Florida Legal Elite (2011) and Up & Comer (2008); Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star (2009-2015); and Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 (2010)

“I never planned on being an attorney. I just always presumed I’d play professional basketball,” Rob Bulloch says with a laugh—just kidding of course. Firm Chair Kimberly Leach Johnson says clients benefit from his lighthearted attitude. “One of Rob’s strengths is resolving conflicts with families pre litigation. He uses his sense of humor to calm everyone and his sense of fairness to lead to a resolution,” she says. Really, Bulloch came into law by following the footsteps of his parents, who were both involved in the industry. Quarles & Brady named Bulloch, 37, partner four years ago—a position earned partly because of the firm’s trust in young professionals and largely due to Bulloch’s persistence and dedication. “You want to see your ideas and voices be heard,” Bulloch says. “I work my butt off. I have done everything I can for this firm and my clients, and I’ve been awarded with a leadership position.”

What are some key traits that have helped you throughout your career?

Unerring candor, a willingness to have difficult discussions with people and never losing sight in my mind that the best general is still a soldier. You have to work harder than anybody—that’s what people follow.

Starting out, was your age ever perceived as a disadvantage? I started practicing at 24, and I’d be sitting in a room of [clients] 60 years older than me. You have to be very good and work very hard for them to trust you because they’ve got grandkids your age.

How do you get clients to trust you?

You have to earn it every single day; you have to do the correct thing every single time. Clients watch and observe that and they reward you for it. You can lose [their trust] in a heartbeat.

How can an aspiring estate lawyer make himself or herself more competitive?

This is a business. It’s a calling but it’s a business. You’ve got to figure out a way to communicate the value you’re delivering to the client or they’re not paying for it. The biggest arbiter of success in our profession is the ability to relate to other people. If you can develop rapport, you can get stuff done.

 

ZACHARY M. GILL, PARTNER AT GOLDSTEIN, BUCKLEY, CECHMAN, RICE AND PURTZ, P.A.

Practice areas: business litigation, civil trial and construction law
Florida Bar admittance: 2005
Law degree: Barry University School of Law
Honors include: Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star (2012-2015)

You may remember the catchy jingle in older Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice and Purtz, P.A. commercials—so did Gill, 35, when he was in search of a firm where he could practice civil litigation. Prior to joining Goldstein Buckley in 2010, the Southwest Florida native worked as a trial attorney for the State Attorney’s Office in Orange and Osceola counties, and with the State Attorney’s Office in Lee County. In 2014, the firm named Gill partner. “He’s held in very high esteem,” says J. Jeffrey Rice, managing partner at the firm. “One of the judges he practiced before when he was a state attorney recommended I hire him, which says a lot.” Gill credits his success to hard work and loads of preparation. “No matter how insignificant the hearing or meeting, you take the time to prepare because it pays off in the end,” he says.

Now that you’ve made partner, what are some of your goals?

I’m always looking to move forward to be board-certified in civil trial. As a younger lawyer, you should always have a specialization in whatever area you practice.

What else should younger lawyers do in order to succeed?

Hard work is above all. And you’ve got to find a good mentor. I was fortunate enough to have great mentors at the state attorney’s office and I have great mentors [at Goldstein Buckley].

How should one go about accepting critique from mentors?

Really, for any attorney, but especially when you’re young, you need to leave your pride at the door. When it comes to critiquing and developing, you have to take everything in stride. If there’s a negative critique, there’s always a positive at the end.

Any other words of advice?

Younger attorneys have to prepare that much more and that much harder because you have to make up for your inexperience. You have to put in that extra effort more than what someone who’s a little more seasoned has to do.

 

NATALIE C. LASHWAY, ASSOCIATE AT FARR LAW FIRM

Practice areas: marital and family law, divorce and civil litigation
Florida Bar admittance: 2009
Law degree: University of Florida Levin College of Law
Honors include: Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star (2013-2015)

Sometimes people are drawn to the law profession for personal reasons. For Natalie C. Lashway, 31, her family dynamic growing up swayed her to practice marital law. “There was some intrigue because of my own parents’ divorce, and I had some interest in the legal aspect of it,” she says. Today, she regularly counsels couples on legal ramifications that occur with marriage, and other clients on divorce proceedings, equitable distribution, child support and more. Guiding people through such sensitive areas has its tough points, Lashway admits, but she says the way to handle each case is by “being a zealous advocate for your client but not being personally involved. Not taking it home with you and knowing when to draw that line.” Make no mistake—her investment in the people she sees still runs deep. “She’s extremely conscious at advising as well as advocating for her clients who are often going through difficult times,” says David Holmes, managing partner at the firm. “Lots of people will come to her in very difficult times, oftentimes in matters of domestic violence, and not everyone is good at being responsive, but she is.”

Why shouldn’t a lawyer personally invest him or herself in a case?

You certainly want to have passion for your client’s cases to a certain extent, but sometimes I’ve seen lawyers who have become too passionate about their cases to the point of a personal level, and it probably doesn’t do the client much good. If you can step back and more neutrally analyze the situation, you might better serve your client.

What are some key traits of yours that have helped you throughout your career?

I’m a hard worker and I’m detail-oriented. My assistant may get a little annoyed of me at times for having to revise documents, but I make sure our documents go out as close to perfect as they can be.

What makes a successful lawyer?

The ability to focus on the big picture rather than the small details—looking for what the end result might be. And the attorney’s ability to counsel with a client and advise their client on that big picture.

 

RACHAEL S. LOUKONEN, ATTORNEY AND DIRECTOR AT COHEN & GRIGSBY

Practice area: business litigation
Florida Bar admittance: 2003
Law degree: University of Florida Levin College of Law
Honors include: Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star (2010-2015), Gulfshore Business 40 under 40 (2010), Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rated

It's common for lawyers to be creative types, drawn to the practice by a fondness of writing and ability to think outside the box. But Rachael S. Loukonen, 40, always preferred sciences and math to the arts, and her critical-thinking skills and direct problem-solving abilities have garnered attention from her opponents. Cohen & Grigsby recruited Loukonen at the recommendation of her previous adversary. “She’s blessed with a strong intellect that has enabled her to meet significant challenges on behalf of clients,” says Chuck Cohen. Loukonen extends her business litigation expertise to aid nonprofit organizations with pro bono work, and serves as an allied attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, which advocates for religious liberty with faith-based organizations. “It’s been very rewarding to see my legal career come full-circle and to do things I have a heart for,” Loukonen says.

What motivates you?

The pursuit of justice in every sense of the word. That you can take a client from the problem not solved to problem solved. It’s knowing that we as Americans have a legal system and the rule of law prevails, and being able to tap into that for clients.

What’s something important to keep in mind when serving clients?

The key is honesty and candidness. All too often, clients come to me that have not received honest or candid advice. Now they are in worse trouble than they would have been. The way I always approach my clients is I want to be the person to tell them good news but I also want to be the first person to tell them the bad news.

What sort of advice would you give to someone entering business litigation law?

There’s two things I always tell people: One is ABC— Always Be Curious, always. You have to continually want to learn this craft, whether it’s formal courses, whether it’s attending luncheons or getting together with other attorneys or reading. And also take ownership.

What do you mean by take ownership?

You take ownership of your craft and case. You’re the one that’s supposed to have the sleepless nights; you’re the one that’s supposed to be thinking of how to resolve a case. If you take ownership of it, then there’s nobody else that is responsible for that case. Your clients are supposed to know you’ve got them covered.

 

BROOKE MARTINEZ, PARTNER, PAVESE LAW FIRM

Practice areas: civil litigation, commercial litigation, landlord and tenant law, real estate, marital and family law, community association and bankruptcy creditor representation
Florida Bar admittance: 2005
Law degree: University of Florida Levin College of Law
Honors include: Florida Super Lawyers Rising Stars (2012-2015) and Florida Magazine’s Florida Legal Elite (2015)

Fewer than 10 years after joining Pavese Law Firm in 2005, Brooke Martinez, 37, became partner. The 2014 promotion was a high point in her career, but it came with its set of challenges. “Traditionally, a lot of things land on a woman’s shoulders, and recently becoming partner has been a situation I’ve had to figure out,” says Martinez, who is expecting her second child in January. “I think women have to give themselves a break and realize you’re not going to be perfect at it all.” Her firm partner Christopher Shields commends her ability to balance both a growing family and caseload. “She has a strong wortk ethic and ability to juggle, because that’s what you do: handle a number of different cases on any given day,” Shields says.

What’s one of your most memorable cases?

I had a very big trial when I wasn’t very experienced. The attorney on the opposing side always doubted me, and I don’t think he took me seriously because I was young and I was a female. But we went to court, and all of my points were validated and I won the case on my client’s behalf.

What’s something you’ve learned in your years as an attorney?

Sometimes it’s really important to keep your mouth shut and listen. By doing that you can learn a lot, but it also helps in negotiations or mediations and even in court hearings. If you let the judge and opposing counsel talk and just listen, it can be very advantageous to your client.

How do you earn your clients’ trust?

I’m very honest with my clients. If they don’t have a case, I will tell them, and I won’t waste their money trying it. I’m not in it just to get a retainer and get the client in court if I know it’s not able to go anywhere. I’m always honest with them on what to expect and how their case is playing out.

Aside from being honest with clients, what’s something law students should learn to do?

Keep an open mind as to where to go and what to practice. In law school you might have an idea of what you think you want to do, but there’s a good chance that will evolve and change down the road. Don’t limit yourself on the types of organization you can work for. GB

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