Find a mentor. Someone you look up to and can trust to advise you and help you navigate.
It is called the practice of law for a reason. In the beginning, you will most likely feel like you do not know what you are doing and you will question yourself. Don’t. Be patient with the practice. Do not be afraid to fail because that is where the greatest lessons are learned.
Become a sponge. Learn how to read your superiors, your client and your judge. Pay attention to what they are receptive to and make yourself invaluable.
As part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Zuckerman.
Jamie is a founding shareholder of Segal Zuckerman. Prior to founding the firm, she practiced for nearly a decade at a well-known litigation firm in South Florida, where she was a partner. She began her legal career by completing a clerkship with the Honorable Gary M. Farmer at the Fourth District Court of Appeal. Before entering law, she was an auditor at Ernst & Young in New York City.
In Jamie’s business litigation practice, she routinely represents businesses and individuals in the prosecution and defense of partnership, shareholder, board and corporate disputes, real estate matters, professional negligence, business torts, such as breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, and other contractual disputes. In her trust and estate litigation practice, Jamie represents trustees, personal representatives (executors), beneficiaries, and other interested parties in litigation involving probate matters, estates, trusts, guardianships and fiduciaries. Jamie’s matrimonial practice encompasses dissolutions of marriage involving complex equitable distribution and business valuation discrepancies.
Jamie is a tenacious trial attorney and zealous advocate for her clients. She believes that a deep understanding of the legal issues and specific facts of each case is key to crafting an efficient and effective strategy uniquely tailored to achieving her clients’ goals. Jamie is a trusted advisor to her clients and takes pride in offering them intelligent, practical and strategic counsel.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I started my professional career as an auditor at Ernst & Young and while I am grateful for the knowledge I gained, I realized it was not the career path for me. I went to law school because I felt it would enhance my core skill set and make me more marketable regardless of what I ultimately decided to do. During my second year of law school, I interned for a family law judge. I was able to witness firsthand how much attorneys can make a difference and, more importantly, how instrumental they were to their clients, who were going through the worst times of their lives. This is what led me to be a litigator. I clerked for an appellate judge right out of law school and then practiced at a well-known litigation firm for nearly a decade where I honed my skills until my current partner and I left to form Segal Zuckerman, P.A., where we specialize in business litigation, family law, and trust and estate litigation.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
There have been so many but one of the most interesting has to be traveling to Liechtenstein for a court proceeding. They had a translator for me so I could represent my client in the proceeding. The judge told me he needed my bar card and then proceeded to staple it to paperwork he would keep on file in the court there. I had to explain that I could not leave my bar card in Liechtenstein as that is something attorneys need to practice in the U.S. Apparently the judge was seeking my business card, not my bar card, and after some clarification, we all had a good laugh.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The practice of law is always evolving. When my partner and I formed Segal Zuckerman we made it our mission to evolve the way we communicate with our clients and keep them informed throughout the process. Technology can be a blessing and a curse, but we have used it to our advantage in developing a more streamlined approach to communicate with our clients. We don’t just want to keep current, we want to stay ahead of the curve, and we are constantly evolving in order to do that.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
This is difficult without disclosing client names or confidences. Most of our clients wish to keep their names and personal issues out of the public eye and they trust our firm to keep those confidences.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Those that have overcome hardship and used it to propel them to where they are today. Life is full of challenges and obstacles, and we either let those become our story or use it as a driving force to write our own story. Change your story, and it will change your life.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
Listen. Learn. Ask questions. Intern at a transactional firm and a litigation firm and in different areas in the law so you can see what you are attracted to and where you want to go. Take advantage of every opportunity to obtain knowledge and grow.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
– Expand opportunities for law students, attorneys, advocates, and paralegals to provide pro-bono services and representation to clients in need.
– Guarantee legal representation in certain additional classes of civil cases.
– Greater resources for pro se litigants. The current system asks people experiencing civil justice problems to navigate a confusing and often unjust legal maze largely on their own or with limited or inadequate help.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have taken on leadership roles in charitable organizations and contribute to causes I am passionate about. From a professional perspective, I have acted as a mentor to young women lawyers. I think they look to me as a sounding board and I seek to guide them through challenges I myself faced in navigating my career path.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
Always seeking to under promise and over-deliver. Most clients come to me in a fragile state — either financially or emotionally broken at a somewhat dark time in their lives. I am motivated every day to do the best job I can for my clients and leave them in a better, more resolved state.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Find a mentor. Someone you look up to and can trust to advise you and help you navigate.
2. It is called the practice of law for a reason. In the beginning, you will most likely feel like you do not know what you are doing and you will question yourself. Don’t. Be patient with the practice. Do not be afraid to fail because that is where the greatest lessons are learned.
3. Become a sponge. Learn how to read your superiors, your client and your judge. Pay attention to what they are receptive to and make yourself invaluable.
4. Cultivate relationships. When you cultivate genuine, authentic relationships with people and don’t expect anything in return is when you will realize the importance of this.
5. Set boundaries for yourself — professionally and personally. No one will set them for you. Mental health is a real issue in our field. Take care of yourself first, which will lead to you being able to take the best care of your clients.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Anyone who was told they could not or would not be able to achieve what they wanted and did and then surpassed their initial goal of what they thought was even possible for themselves. Anyone who rose the ranks and ultimately became a leader in their industry or field. Anyone who has done the work on cognitive and emotional mastery and reaped the benefits. There is so much we can utilize from hearing about other peoples’ struggles, successes and perseverance. Inspiration is all around us and I love to be continually inspired.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!