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‘The journey is better than the end’ — the Richard A. Sicking American Inns of Court pays tribute to its namesake

Special to the News Columns
Richard A. Sicking

The Miami-Dade Workers’ Compensation Bar worked diligently to create and support the Richard A. Sicking American Inn of Court, dedicated to practitioner Richard A. Sicking, who has practiced more than 50 years as a member of The Florida Bar.

It would be difficult to find anyone who has had a more profound impact on Florida workers’ compensation law and practice than Richard A. Sicking. In May, I was privileged to attend a meeting of the Richard A. Sicking American Inn of Court in Miami. This was a special event during which Judge Jeffrey Jacobs’ pupilage group gave a presentation, entitled “Workers’ Comp’s Greatest Hits.” Unbeknownst to the honoree of the evening, this presentation would highlight some of the important decisions resulting from the career of Richard A. Sicking. After the presentation, leaders of the workers’ compensation bar, including Ray Malca, Richard Chait, Karen Gilmartin, and Robert Rodriguez, rose with tributes to Mr. Sicking.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Sicking’s storied career, a Westlaw inquiry will reveal some of what he has accomplished over the last 60 years. Mr. Sicking has made 126 appellate arguments, including 20 before the Florida Supreme Court. A search of Mr. Sicking’s name will bring up 248 appellate and Supreme Court decisions. Collectively, these decisions have been cited no less than 8,746 times and including important cases such as Lee Engineering and Construction Co. v. Fellows; DeAyala v. Florida Farm Bureau Casualty Co.; Martinez v. Scanlan; Murray v. Mariner Health; Castellanos v. Next Door Co.; Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg; and City of Hallandale v. Casey.

While the tributes and presentations only strengthened my high regard for the honoree, what struck me most was the audience. Those assembled celebrated Mr. Sicking’s career and accomplishments, regardless of their roles within the workers’ compensation community. The audience included current and retired judges, young and “seasoned” defense lawyers, as well as well-known claimant lawyers whose names you would recognize and some less so. The meeting struck me more as a gathering of family and old friends than a professional assembly. It was heartwarming.

I was reminded of a conversation with an attorney who had been reluctant to participate in the Tampa Inns of Court due to past professional conflicts. I encouraged this attorney to attend and said in part:

One of the advantages of this Inns of Court is that it provides the opportunity to interact socially with those that have been through similar life experiences. This is a profession that can be trying. If you do it long enough, scars are inevitable, if not ubiquitous.

While the Inn does not formally engage in therapy, it is a group of people who understand the life we have chosen. The group has value because through recognizing that we are a community, we can improve the professionalism that will benefit us all. We can also find others who understand the difficulty inherent in our profession and provide support and assistance in a way that those who have a different life experience cannot.

I respectfully suggest that the reasons you do not want to join the organization are the same reasons that you should. This group of people is unique because they have been through the same things that you have. Being a member gives you the opportunity to help others and in turn to help yourself by sharing experiences that others will understand.

This lawyer attended the next meeting, and I think found some of that community. I would suggest, however, that while one visit is beneficial, the promised reward requires persistence and participation. The enduring lessons for me, reinforced by the tributes to Mr. Sicking’s career, is that in addition to personal success, there is real value in building community. It is not hard, but does require effort: acknowledging the value in our peers, adversaries, and even those with whom we are only recently acquainted.

While few of us will know what it is like to have an Inns of Court named in our honor or to have colleagues present our own cases on the occasion of our retirement, we can all contribute to and benefit from community.

To that end, remember that your opposing counsel is a person too. Remember that what you say to someone may be remembered for years, if not decades. Know that you will likely spend whatever money you earn and not even remember where. Treat others as you would like to be treated and know that character, honesty, and empathy matters. Community matters.

Mr. Sicking, thank you for all you have accomplished both inside and outside of court, and Godspeed as you begin this next chapter of a life well lived.

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