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May 1, 2012

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE THOMAS CRAPPS discussed “do’s and don’ts” with new lawyers and law students attending the Tallahassee Women Lawyers Annual Rookie Camp. “When the judge rules, don’t argue with the judge,” Crapps said. “I’ve seen that many times, and that never works.” Crapps also stressed the role of integrity in and out of the courtroom, saying, “Your reputation is the most important thing you carry with you from place to place.” Also pictured is First DCA Judge Stephanie Ray.

‘Rookies’ get a crash course on doing business

Rainmaking, lattices, and tweets were among the topics discussed during the recent Tallahassee Women Lawyers Annual Rookie Camp at the First District Court of Appeal.

The full-day event, funded through a Voluntary Bar Association Diversity Leadership Grant from The Florida Bar and an Affiliate Outreach Conference grant from the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division, hosted nearly 50 law students, young lawyers, and seasoned legal professionals, and was geared toward assisting newly minted attorneys in their first years of legal practice.

Terry Dariotis, Beth Hakemoller, and Victoria Zepp began the day advising participants on how to approach generational differences in the workplace.

“Today’s lexicon is different than yesterday’s,” Zepp, a partner at National Strategies, LLC, told the audience.

Emphasizing the importance of clarity in communication among co-workers of varying generations, Zepp referenced the popular social network term “tweet,” saying older co-workers “may think you’re a bird-lover.”

Zepp explained the one word that surpasses all generational divides: “rainmaker.”

“If you don’t know what a rainmaker is, you’d better,” Zepp said.

Hakemoller encouraged rookie camp participants to become familiar with the established communication styles within the workplace, noting some co-workers may prefer email to in-person contact, or vice-versa.

Hakemoller, a 25-year veteran legal secretary at Guilday, Tucker, Schwartz & Simpson, discussed the importance of not just communication but teamwork.

“An attorney is not better than the runner, they’re just different,” she said. “Take advantage of the skills and knowledge of the people you work with.”

Dariotis said despite the differences between his generation and that of the majority of the participants, both entered the profession during similar economic climates that have highlighted the importance of networking.

“You have to be diligent in looking for opportunities,” Dariotis said.

A sole practitioner and owner of the Law Office of Terry Dariotis, Dariotis said networking remains important throughout one’s career as you “are selling yourself, your credibility, etc.”

Zepp described her approach to networking, saying, “It can’t be a ladder; it has to be a lattice where your network is your strength.”

Rookie camp participants were provided with a pamphlet compiled by Dariotis outlining “10 things every new attorney should know.” Included were words of wisdom regarding behaviors to avoid in the courtroom, a topic on which Administrative Law Judge Thomas Crapps shed light as a panelist in the segment on the do’s and don’ts of court appearances.

“When the judge rules, don’t argue with the judge,” Crapps said. “I’ve seen that many times, and that never works.”

Crapps stressed the role of integrity in and out of the courtroom, saying, “Your reputation is the most important thing you carry with you from place to place.”

First DCA Judge Stephanie Ray provided insight for appearing before an appellate court, recommending attorneys create outlines rather than inflexible speeches, and become familiar with the background of the judicial panel prior to the appearance. Ray also suggested lawyers not be leery of all questions posed to them.

“Don’t be surprised that you’ve gotten an easy question,” she said. “Use it to the advantage of your case.”

Administrative Law Judge Lynne Quimby-Pennock provided further guidance in pretrial preparation.

“When asked to provide several mutually agreed upon dates for hearings, don’t just provide one day,” said Quimby-Pennock, adding also, “Hearing day is not the time to try out a new pair of shoes.”

Second Judicial Circuit Judge Josefina Tamayo, and attorneys Natasha Hines of Lancaster & Eure and Ashley Ward-Singleton of Banker, Lopez, Gassler, addressed diversity in the profession.

Born in Cuba and having immigrated to the United States at a young age, Tamayo described herself as “the closest thing to a Cuban Southern Peach that you’re ever going to meet,” and related her frequent experiences as the only attorney in her office who spoke Spanish.

Acknowledging that her cultural background is an educational process for others that she has carried with her throughout her life, she embraces it, but doesn’t allow it to overshadow her other qualities.

“I knew if I was going to get ahead, it wasn’t because I spoke Spanish,” she said. “That I speak Spanish is just the icing on the cake.”

Hines, in her first year of practice, found that her background proved advantageous during the hiring process, saying she almost didn’t apply for her current job because she did not have the three-to-five years of experience the firm desired.

“They wanted someone to help them reach the younger people in our community and the people of color in our community,” Hines said, explaining that lack of experience is not always a hindrance. “I look at it as: My qualifications are my qualifications, and if I can do it, I can do it.”

Ward-Singleton agreed, asserting that as a young, female, African-American attorney in an all-male office, she has to prove herself often to clients who may expect to interact with an older, white, male partner of the firm.

“Show them that you have the same credentials and the same training,” she said. “You still have the knowledge; you still have the work ethic.”

Ward-Singleton, however, understands that hurdles still exist.

“Recognize that you’re a woman, and although you want to be accepted by the boys, there will still be ‘boys only’ issues,” she said. “It may be hard to get opposing counsel on the phone because they think you are the assistant or staff.”

All three panelists insisted that diversity should not be ignored.

“Talk about it and address it so that you can move on and get work done,” Ward-Singleton said, with Tamayo adding, “Embrace diversity; know the strength that it gives you.”

In response to a question about the spectrum of appropriate courtroom attire, Judge Crapps made the observation that “lawyers dress like funeral home directors,” and went on to say that while conservative suits never go out of style, nonconservative colors don’t necessarily offend his sensibilities.

“It’s just like good manners,” he said. “You dress to show respect to the court.”

Participants also were given information from various pro bono organizations and were encouraged to become involved.

“Lawyers are starting to have a harder time with pro bono because lawyers are getting more specialized,” said Bibb Willis.

Representatives from the Guardian Ad Litem program and Legal Services of North Florida outlined the many opportunities for law students and attorneys of all experience levels to provide service to the community through pro bono work.

Justice Ricky Polston; Trudy Innes Richardson, of Guilday, Tucker, Schwartz & Simpson; and Jason O’Steen, a partner in the mediation law firm of O’Steen & O’Steen, led the final panel, discussing tips for a balanced life.

“Our profession is not for the faint of heart,” said O’Steen. “A big misconception is that balanced means ‘not busy.’”

One method O’Steen has used to balance his time is to make lists.

“I’m a list-scheduling junkie,” he said, acknowledging that his lists help him to recognize his priorities throughout the day.

“Some people think surviving is balanced,” O’Steen said. “Surviving really isn’t balanced. There are certain times when I recognize that my day or week may not be balanced.”

Justice Polston, a father of 10, offered his own solution to a balanced life.

“My first advice for you is to never have 10 kids,” he told the smiling audience.

Polston also urged participants to take annual vacations and not to feel guilty about saying no to requests from others.

“Other people will fill your calendar for you,” Polston said. “Guard your time.”

Polston identified the relationship between a balanced life and integrity stating, “What leads to lawyer suspensions? Lack of balance in life that results in looking to the wrong sources for relief.”

For Innes Richardson, ensuring that she commits time to her hobbies has helped her maintain balance despite the demands of the profession, but, as she assured the audience, everything is a give-and-take.

“I won’t go in on Saturdays,” she said, because during the weekdays “I’ll be up until past midnight, on my iPad, remotely connected in.”

Richardson encouraged new lawyers to give their time and effort to their community but to set limits to prevent feeling imprisoned by commitments.

“When you’re overcommitted, everything feels like work,” she said.

At the close of the discussion, audience members posed questions to the panel, with one law student asking for insight on balancing demanding schedules with family planning.

“That’s such a personal decision, I don’t know that anyone can tell you when the time is right,” Polston said with a grin. “Just don’t have 10.”

[Revised: 02-08-2017]