Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan. I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in Miami in South Florida for nearly three decades. The phrase, first off, let’s kill all the lawyers is from 15th century Shakespeare play, drew a lot of laughs at the time, it’s debatable on what it was actually supposed to mean. But the thought behind this show was, maybe let’s not kill all of them. Let’s take some South Florida lawyers, let’s shine some spotlights on them. Let’s talk about some trending topics in law. And maybe one by one, we can take them off the list. My guest this morning should be very easy to get off the list. When I say new member of the Florida Bar, we’re talking about in the last 72 hours.
Yeah, as of Monday at 11:30am. Alright, but who’s keeping score? What happened on Monday is this young man, who is my law partners son, passed the Florida Bar and got those results just 72 hours ago. We’re going to talk about that, because it’s no small feat. But first off, congratulations, and welcome to the bar.
No, thank you. I really appreciate it. And thank you for having me on here today, of course,
And you’re going to realize now you get into the practice of law that Yeah, most people do want to kill all the lawyers. So, we’re going to see what we can do to dispel some of that, but, but let’s talk about passing the bar, we’ll talk about present and then we’ll work backwards and kind of go forward, passing the bar, because it’s pretty surprising. Of 3343 people that sat for the bar back in July 27 2014 – 183, passed a 44% pass rate. So, no small feat in in in passing the bar, How’s that feel?
It feels great. It was a culmination of a lot of hard work, a rough summer, but after everything’s, you know, fell through it all worked out in the end.
Excellent, excellent. So, while it’s a gruesome rate, I will put this out there that the University of Miami School of Law, the Dean went and I’m an adjunct faculty did have an 82% pass rate, which actually was up significantly. So, talk a little bit about Dean, we’re going to talk about what you did in law school, but this was now totally online. I mean, it’s a thing, you know, annually, people hit the convention center in Tampa, big thing, what were the thoughts of, of taking it online.
So, my initial concerns, and I think a lot of my peers also had that same concern of when you’re taking it in the Tampa test center, from what you hear, there’s not a lot of things that are outside of your own control. So, if you’re in the Tampa test center, and someone’s rattling their pen, or clicking their pen or pencil, you’re hearing all of that, but so is everybody else in the room. Now, when you’re taking it online, depending on where you take it, you could be taken up by a busy intersection with fire trucks coming back and forth. Your fire alarm in your building can go off. And I know that’s what actually happened at the NYU School of Law. They rented out rooms, right? Yeah, they rented out rooms to all their test takers who didn’t have a place to take it, and they had a fire alarm go off in the middle of the exam. So, I feel like taking it online, that was a lot of nervous. nerve racking for a lot of different people just because there were so many factors that were probably outside of your own control.
Yeah, it’s interesting and I think they’ll probably delve into that. And hopefully we’re, we’re moving past things that we get back to take it into person, but I talked briefly to my daughter about this because she’s working on her master’s. And she goes, the odd thing is you’re sitting taking the test and you’ve got yourself in the screen up there. You know, somebody is watching you the whole time, right? It’s not like a teacher just wandering up and down the hallway. So she goes, it’s kind of an odd feeling. But let’s go back a little bit. Okay. Obviously, your dad’s a lawyer. Yeah, we’ll say nice things about him. Your dad and I are law partners. I love practicing with your dad. I think he’s a phenomenal, phenomenal lawyer. What is it, that got you into thinking about going to law school?
So, like every kid growing up, loved sports, and wanted to find a way to be involved in sports. So, growing up, I was like, I’m definitely not good enough to play any sports. So let me try to find the next best thing, which was a sports agent. So that was my dream, kind of when I initially started on this path, that’s obviously changed later on. But when I started this path, my whole dream was to be a sports agent. So, I went to the University of Texas, I got my degree in sport management. And then I realized probably after my first year at Texas that going down this path is not really one that is all as glamorous as it turns out to be. Obviously there are a ton of successful people in the industry and in that specific field, but I realized that wasn’t really where I wanted to dedicate myself and go down this path. So I knew at that point, that I still wanted to be a lawyer and go to law school and get my law degree but find a different path and it wasn’t really until I started working in law school figuring out where that path exactly was going to take me. That’s interesting and it was funny because you know when I got out of you I’m and then I bounced around the NFL went to law school people like, oh, you’re going to be an agent, this and that. And, and I think, and we’ll get off on a tangent just quickly. The whole concept of agent makes no sense to me. Why everything structured in the NFL, right? Why are you automatically getting a percentage of money of something that that guy could walk in and say, look, I’m the fourth pick the fifth round, I want what the fourth peg in the fifth round got last year, and they would go here. So I’ve never figured out and you know, to me, athletes should just go hire a lawyer and negotiate that first contract, hire a PR person hire somebody else that aren’t all related to each other but that’s a whole different issue on agents. So you get shifted and what shifts in law school what all of a sudden piqued your interest.
I actually clerked with you guys for a few months prior to the pandemic. And that’s when I kind of got into working more plaintiffs work for personal injury and medical malpractice with you guys and I really just enjoyed that field more than a lot of the other ones I had done some insurance defense work prior to that and I thought just being on the plaintiff side was a lot more engaging, a lot more rewarding and being able to communicate with your clients a lot more and one on one and really going out of your way to try to help people so to me that’s what made that that shift to want to stay on the plaintiff side and continue working plaintiffs side
Alright, excellent. We’re going to talk about that but let’s talk about law school because you go from UT in one of my favorite cities, and you come to Miami and when you start in law school, the world still normal, right? Right. So when did you start and then just talk a little bit about that shift and kind of how you other students schools had to adapt I mean it’s a whole different universe, you know, your university setting you’re going in, you’re with colleagues, you know, there’s always brainstorming before and after classes and now all of a sudden, you guys are in your bedroom somewhere in your kitchen, going to school.
Right? Absolutely. So fortunately I was able to be there for a year and a half before the pandemic hit so that first year and a year and a half I guess was really beneficial because as we’ll get into a little bit later learning and trying to do law school online is pretty difficult and fortunately my first year I was able to have that in person experience and that first year is so huge on trying to learn all the concepts and figuring out your best way to study and collaborative efforts like you said so I was lucky enough to have that my first year and then right we were on spring break in the middle of my two year and we start seeing all this COVID stuff start to pop up and my friends and I are talking being like there’s no way we’re going to you know go back to school u M was one of the later schools to announce it a lot of other schools in the country have already said you know, two weeks off don’t come back from spring break and then all of a sudden with two or three days left on spring break we get an email saying you know we’re going to delay coming back two more weeks until this COVID stuff dies down. So we’ll be online for two weeks and then be prepared to come back in person and obviously as we all know that didn’t end up happening at all we’re getting right so we were forced to be online that remaining semester and then it was just a completely different experience you really don’t get that same feel for being in an environment I think a lot of the professor’s were also you know, understanding of the circumstances so you lose the whole element of being cold called and you know, having to make sure all your cases were read to a tee before class so you don’t get embarrassed and you went from being in the classroom and speaking every day and being cold call to now you could just as easily have your camera off in a lecture and you know, be walking around your house doing nothing with the camera playing in the background, and then just two weeks before the final cram and, and do what needs to be done.
So how did how did you and others if you’ve talked others, sort of find the way to be able to kind of refocus, because you’re right. I mean, you know, if you may not want to go to class, but you stumble into an 830 class or lecture or whatnot. You know, you better be ready. I mean, that’s part of the whole Socratic method of being able to do that. And I mean, we went you know, in litigation skills went to online and it’s just it’s different. I mean, it’s a little easier for me because I only had eight students at a time, but it’s still hard to engage. You don’t know you’re not making eye contact necessarily with that person. You’re looking at your own little camera. So, what was it that changed and how were you able to sort of stay refocused to say, now I got a year and a half of an alternate universe that I got to get through. Right. So, for the litigation skills class, for instance, I think there were certain classes that throughout law school, you always wanted to prioritize More so than others. So, for me, if I was taking litigation skills, even if it was online, I knew I wanted to be involved in litigation somehow down the road. So, there was no point in me for trying to figure out a work around the system. I know others would, you know, were practicing opens opening statements today, and they would have their Microsoft Word pulled up right in front of their camera and just read down the line. And, to me, I figure, you know, if I’m going to be going into litigation, there’s no reason to try to cut corners and go around, and if all this stuff is going to be beneficial to me later down the road. And I mean, even though it didn’t get switched online, and the trials were different than what we’ll be doing trial wise, we now are seeing a lot of the court system switching to zoom and likely staying on zoom for a lot of the hearings and motion calendar. So, we were kind of the first class to be able to be taught like that. So, there’s really no way and trying to cheat the system, if later down the road that you’re going to have to be doing the same exact things without any cheats to it. So to me, I prioritize those types of classes and the ones that I’d be focused on, and just really try to cut any corners and really tried to get whatever the university was trying to offer me.
Well, it’s excellent. And, and obviously, it paid off because you’re now a proud member of the Florida Bar Exam, we’ll talk about that skill set. So you learned all of a sudden to have to go online and do these things. And now, as you said, I mean, pretty much universally, at least motion counter and everything else is all zoom depositions are all being taken via zoom and these platforms. So how did that help you transition now into what you’re doing?
Yeah, so I haven’t had any, you know, as, like I said, just passed the bar Monday, so I haven’t really had to been thrown into the fire yet.
We got to get you to work. Exactly.
So haven’t had to take any depositions and hearings yet. But I feel now I know some people can be a little bit uncomfortable when they’re in front of the camera, and they see their face and see themselves talking and it throws some people off at least. So, I guess having had that experience being in law school and being familiar with technology a little bit more, and having that, you know, skill set acquired through these lips skills, I took one and two as well. So being able to have that structure and understanding of how it works. It’s going to play a big role in my success later down the road.
Well, it is important, and I mean, it’s nice, you’ve got a nice background here and everything else. You know, one of the things I work with my students and it’s amazing that you’ve got professionals, but you get into these hearings sometimes and you know, I mean people are in a collared shirt, I’m like, you got to treat it like a court appearance still. Okay, I mean, you know, and judges looking at you, you know, so set it up. So at least you know that there’s light and you can be seen, because it really is sort of what you see sometimes in some of these hearings, it just it’s mind boggling to me.
No, absolutely. And you know, I’ve been fortunate to sit in some hearings, and you can really tell the way the judge views someone who’s you know, making a call from their car for a motion calendar versus an attorney with sitting in their office prepared, dressed nicely. So, I really think those type of things make the difference and will make the difference later down the road.
All right, you talked a little bit about why you were in law school, you clerked for us. I also know you clerked for judge Venza and did some other things talk about the work experience you had while in law school, because to me, I think that’s so integral, you know, once you get that first year out of the way, which really is probably impossible to try to work and do that. But I think it’s integral to be able if you’ve got the means to be able to go out and work and do some things to get some exposure. So, talk a little bit about the experience, clerking for us and then clerking for a judge and what that was like,
absolutely, yes, I was fortunate enough to be able to work throughout all two of my back-end semester, or back two years at University of Miami. So, I worked at different jobs, those summers as well as during the semester and tried to really expose myself to as many different fields as possible so that when I was coming out of law school, and hopefully passed the bar at that time, I would kind of have an idea of where I wanted to end up. So, I clerked for Judge Denzer after my first summer in law school at the Criminal Division down in Miami, and I was able to observe courtroom hearings and proceedings and some trials. And that really was the first time I was getting firsthand experience. You know, I think I still in the courthouse was open, still in the courthouse was open, it was after my first year of law school. So, the year before the pandemic had happened. So that was my first real experience, being able to see litigators in person and watching trials and watching motion calendar and seeing their composure the way they speak. And I was able to experience that and obviously on the criminal side, you’re seeing, you know, very sad but interesting cases and a lot more interesting facts to the cases. So, it was interesting to see all that and then obviously came declared for you guys after that and was able to do a lot more client relations and speaking with clients and working on Discovery myself. So just being able to be exposed to all these different practice areas. Throughout my time in law school, I was a lot more beneficial than sometimes sitting in a classroom, you know, learning the rules, whereas in practice, you’re using those exact rules and putting them to work.
It’s amazing, you know, law school, they teach you all that, here’s the here’s the rules of evidence. But until you actually start to apply them, you know, when people give an answer, oh, let’s do within 20 days, 20 days of what? Oh, well, that, you know, you got to figure out a story somewhere. So now and then you went over, you’re now with Edwards, Pottenger. In in Fort Lauderdale. Yeah. Tell me how that came about. And then let’s talk about that firm and the type of work you’re doing.
Right. So I was fortunate enough in my lead skills classes at USM, one of my moderators for my final trial, spoke very highly of myself and my other trial partner and our adversaries in that trial, and had mentioned when we were graduating law school, and we were looking for a job, he’d be happy to put us in touch with some people. He was super, you know, thought we’d all be great with the Gators. So, he was very happy to make any connection he possibly could. So, when I was working, in my third year, I had reached out to him and said, you know, I’m graduating, this coming, may I plan on taking the bar in July. If your firm has any openings, if you know of anybody, I’d love to maybe talk and catch up and see if you know anything. So, we’ve got on the phone, and he was friendly with my pet attorney here, Brad Edwards. And he put me in touch with Mr. Edwards. And we spoke on the phone seemed to be a very good connection. And came here I clerked here for it was very, very last minute. So, I was working on an insurance defense firm in Fort Lauderdale at the time. And then Brad had said that I could come work for him for two weeks before I started setting for the bar to see if it would be a good fit. So I immediately as soon as I could put my two weeks notice came to work for Brad for about two weeks, and then was fortunate enough to be offered a position after passing the bar. Excellent.
So, you got to put the black hat on briefly take it off, put the white hat back on, and go and go to the good side.
Let’s talk about because it’s a very interesting firm. You know, obviously, very successful firms. So congratulations on the hiring there. Because I think that’s tremendous thing. Talk a little bit about what they do, because I know that they’ve sort of specialized in some areas and had a lot of national recognition for it. And it’s unfortunately, an area that we’re seeing more and more problems.
Right. So primarily, the firm is a plaintiff’s firm that specializes in crime victims and survivors of sexual abuse. So that’s what we focus on here. That’s a lot what I’ve been focused on in my short time here as well. So, working on those types of cases, and doing everything we can to help those victims and survivors is primarily what the firm focuses on.
Which, again, fascinating and, and, and difficult because I think, you know, the empathy and sympathy you feel sometimes in these circumstances and you know, of trying to find ways, how do we figure out where there’s potential compensation? And how do we try to restore people that in essence had been pretty severely broken?
Right, absolutely. And I think, given the fact that a lot of the cases that I’ve seen so far come across my desk, and obviously I’ve known what the firm has done in the past as well, when you see these types of fact patterns and these types of cases and the people who have been so severely hurt, it means a lot more to try to actually do everything you can in your power, to find a way to make these cases work and to find a way to be able to represent these victims to the best of your ability and you’re willing to go, at least I’ve seen so far and everyone in the firm here as well kind of has that same mentality that you’re willing to go that extra mile, even if it’s, you know, after traditional working hours or doing anything, you can’t figure out a way to make this case work to get into a courtroom and to be able to help these people any way you can.
Well, and i think that’s important, and you sort of hit on it, it really does. I think when you’re on the plaintiff side of things, and you see people that have been devastated by physical or emotional or mental injuries, it becomes a personal thing to you, you know, as the lawyer you’re like, I want to help this person and how can I and you know, it’s not just a matter of, Okay, I got X amount of hours in and I did this and, you know, it becomes a personal issue for you to say, you know, we’re taking you on as part of our firm with this, and what can we do to help?
No, absolutely, like you said that perfectly. It’s, it really does make a difference when you can do something to help these people who have been so hurt and they’re relying on you to help them and change their life and put them on a new path. And when you kind of have that understanding it really puts things into a different perspective. So you kind of throw out the nine to five and are willing to be here you know, early and late and a second phone call whenever you need to try to help these people.
So, how’s the experience been? You had a couple weeks before and now you’re just you know you got your time. I’m in here and did you go back to work before you got the bar results.
Yes so, I went back to work pretty shortly after actually I was willing I wanted to start earning dive in as fast as I can. So I came back I took about a week and a half after I finished the bar and then started that following Monday and I’ve been here now for about a month or a month and a half since Pat since taking the bar and obviously it’s my first week now being an attorney here so I’ve been able to be doing some work as a clerk for them for the last month or so and really figuring out the cases I’ll be working on once I become an attorney and now am an attorney so figuring out the case they’ll be working on and getting a pretty good understanding so really spent this last month and a half obviously working on assignments given to me but also diving into the cases that I knew I’d be working on once I’m an attorney and reading all the facts reading all the pleadings, reading all the deposition transcripts so I can get a better understanding of everything that’s taken place to this point and everything that needs to be done moving forward that can help on
that’s fantastic and where do you see your career going? I mean, obviously it sounds like you want to stay on the plaintiff side of things but what do you envision
right i mean for the time being I envision being here and staying here it’s you know, a great working environment here um, you know, all the co workers here are great, the other attorneys in the firm are fantastic. Everyone in the firm really works together super well. And it’s just a great working environment and like I say everyone kind of has those same feelings I do about doing everything they can to help people and their power and then trying to you know, save these people’s lives essentially. So for the time being, you know, I love to hear and plan on staying here for the foreseeable future.
And that’s Edwards Pottenger in in Fort Lauderdale again fantastic firm I mean you look at you look at the caliber the lawyer so I think great environment for you to be able to be around that because again, when you surround yourself with quality people, you know, that’s where your success is going to come from and hopefully you’re clogging with the you know, when you clerked with your dad and I we didn’t bring it down too much you know, Mike might learn something along the way Absolutely.
So, take out the crystal ball best you can because I know none of us can but where do the courts go I mean obviously we’re opening up and I think you know general consensus is a jury trials are going to have to be in person I mean, you know, both criminal and civil you just there’s no way to do that virtually you know, trying to look at jurors and everything else but what about other aspects Do you think things are going to stay virtual for hearings and things like that? Or where do you see it going? And where are you going to sort of focus the technology end of your career?
Right so like you said, I think trials need to be in person I think that’s going to be the most important thing and the first things and you see it not with the courts that they’re trying to get back in person. Like I said, I was in the litigation skills courses. So, both my trials which I took were supposed to be in the courthouse when the programs were initially designed but those are relegated to zoom and granted Those are my only two trial experiences I’ve had and they’re not even real ones. But when you try to make that connection with the jurors and you try to explain to them the law and empathize with them and try to really make that connection that can make or break the trial itself you really are missing that aspect of being in person and being able to truly resonate with the jury so I think first and most importantly it’s going to be jury trials have to be back in person which you know, we’re already starting to see now but I do think the hearings and the motion calendars and a lot of stuff that’s primarily just between the council and judges. I see no reason for that to have to be back in a courtroom anytime soon I think the zoom has been a great feature and super beneficial to saving time I mean you’re saving time you used to be out in the courtroom super early wait for your you know time to be called speak with the judge for it could be a matter for a few minutes and then you’re out and wasted two hours of your morning that you could have been putting you know your time elsewhere to us so I think the motions and the hearing calendars are here to stay for zoom particularly and I think that’s super beneficial but trials I think need to begin and start being in person
yeah and I think it’s general consensus and we’ve talked about it some on the show before I really do give I mean all of the South Florida judges but I really think the Miami Dade judges were cutting edge on a lot of this and Broward they all work together to be able to continue to move cases via zoom and all that I think Yeah, we’re going to cherry pick those things out and say, Okay, this was the oddest thing in the world. You know, all of a sudden we have to do this but look how efficient This is to be able to do this on emotion calendar and you know, outside of evidentiary hearings where you’re taking testimony. I think a lot of that should stay with the way it goes. And, you know, we’ve got other issues in Miami with our building itself, whether it’s safe or not, but you know, minor details. Beautiful courthouse down there.
So having now graduated and pass the bar, what advice would you give for younger people that are thinking that are either in school or thinking maybe I want to go to law school? You know, is it a journey they should undertake?
Absolutely, I think so. I mean, it’s super rewarding, if not anything. So being able to go through this journey, I think, make sure it’s something that you’re interested in obviously, before you would even embark on this, and you kind of have to be if you’re going to sit through the L sat and prep for all that. So super rewarding once you get through it. And then like I said, I mean it’s, it’s tough to be able to come out of college, and then, you know, you see all your friends, all my friends, I was the only one to pursue a degree after undergrad. So, I was sitting back seats, all my friends who were, you know, in real jobs and starting to make money. And here I was, you know, in law school, three more years, before I can actually enter the workforce and do all you know, same things that my friends were able to do. But at the end of the day, it’s super rewarding paid off and we used to treat it like a job treat it every day. Like it’s like it is your job and you know, do everything you can in your power to succeed in doing so. So absolutely, I would recommend it. And, you know, I’m happy to talk to anybody who’s interested in being coming along or sitting for the bar or currently in law school and give them any advice I can.
Excellent. Well, I know it’s music, your dad’s ears. When you say and now that you can start to make money, you know, off the pair. Well, no, I know your dad’s extraordinarily proud of you as as him I, you know, I got to see you. You know, you did a lot of grinding at our office, getting ready for this thing, and I knew you were putting the work in. So, congratulations. Welcome to the Florida Bar. A brand new young lawyer Dean care working at Edwards Pottenger up in Fort Lauderdale. Dean, I think you’ve got a stellar career ahead of you. It’s going to be fun to sit back and watch and, and I think now even though you’ve only been on the list for a few days as a lawyer, hopefully we can take you off that list.
Now Thank you so much. I appreciate it. David. All right.
Enjoy it. All right. That’s one more hopefully we can take it off the list not to kill Dean care because bright young lawyer I think has a bright young future ahead of him. And I think you know, is typical of what we’ve had to see as these students have evolved starting law school when it’s normal, going to COVID and now in the hybrid practice of law, a lot of fun to see. So, have a great week. We’ll see you next week.