Jim Vickaryous

Jim Vickaryous is a civil trial lawyer and the managing partner at the Vickaryous Law Firm in Seminole County, Florida. He is a member of the Florida Bar Board of Governors, representing 2,200 lawyers in Seminole and Brevard Counties (Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit).

Jim attended the University of Miami as an undergraduate on a full U.S. Army ROTC scholarship. He also attended Florida’s premier courtroom advocacy training institution, Stetson University College of Law, receiving both his Juris Doctor and MBA degrees. Jim is recognized as having the highest jury verdict in Seminole County, Florida for a head injury causing a debilitating migraine.

Jim is a proud veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, having received the NATO Medal for Service in the former Yugoslavia and the prestigious U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal. He is also a past president of both the Seminole County Bar Association and the Central Florida Trial Lawyers Association.

Managing Partner

Jim’s latest articles

BE A CHOOSY LAWYER - September 26, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”  These profound words from Abraham Lincoln resonate deeply with the legal profession, emphasizing the importance of making intentional choices and considering long-term aspirations.  Being a choosy lawyer is not merely a luxury, it is a necessity.  Every choice we make, from selecting our friends and associates to choosing our law firm and practice area, can either elevate us to new heights or jeopardize our professional growth.  Let’s delve into the significance of being a choosy lawyer and how it can shape our practice, success, and happiness.

If we look honestly at ourselves and our life paths, we are the sum of our choices up to today.  We have all made thousands of choices over our lives, some great, some we regret, many that we have forgotten about until someone reminds us.  Our character, for better or worse, is a testament to these choices.  In reflecting on past choices, we need to go easy on ourselves.  The past is immutable, and our agency lies solely in the present.  Dwelling on bygone choices only depletes the energy needed to confront today’s difficult decisions.  Given this, there exists no better time to make a resounding, positive choice than right now.

One of the fundamental aspects of being a choosy lawyer lies in the art of making effective legal arguments.  In the courtroom, attorneys are often faced with a multitude of potential points to raise.  However, a skillful lawyer knows that not every point carries equal weight or impact.  By carefully selecting the strongest and most compelling arguments, a lawyer can significantly increase their chances of persuading judges, juries, or opposing counsel.  Similar to Lincoln’s quote, a choosy lawyer exercises discipline by resisting the temptation to present every conceivable point and instead focuses on what is most crucial to achieve their desired outcome.  After all, throwing people a laundry list is not being choosy, it makes them angry that they have to make a choice for you. 

Choosing great relationships is one of the most important choices in being a lawyer. Selecting the right friends, colleagues, and partners is vital as they directly influence our reputation, opportunities, and personal development.  Associating with individuals who share our values, work ethic, and professional integrity can elevate our own standing and open doors to new avenues of success.  Conversely, aligning ourselves with those who lack integrity, engage in unethical behavior, or have a negative reputation can tarnish our own standing and hinder our progress.  There are many who are no longer lawyers due to making a horrible choice in who to trust.  As lawyers, we must exercise discernment and be mindful of the company we keep, for our associations can either propel us forward or drag us down.

Being choosy about your clients may be your most important choice.  Your practice, your income, and indeed, your satisfaction are dependent on who you chose to represent.  At certain points in a legal career, your client choices may be limited.  However, always strive to come to a place in your practice of law where you can have the leisure to choose the clients that best dovetail with your practice of law.

Choosing the right law firm to work for is a pivotal decision that can shape an entire legal career.  Different law firms possess unique cultures, values, and areas of expertise.  By conducting thorough research and self-reflection, a choosy lawyer can identify the firm that aligns with their professional aspirations and personal goals.  A firm that values collaboration, professional growth, and excellence will foster an environment where lawyers can thrive and reach their full potential.  Conversely, joining a firm solely for its prestige or financial rewards, without considering its values and cultural fit, may lead to dissatisfaction and hinder long-term success.

Equally important is selecting the type of law to practice.  A choosy lawyer understands their own strengths, interests, and long-term objectives, allowing them to make an informed decision about the area of law with which to specialize.  Practicing in an area that aligns with their passions and talents not only enhances job satisfaction but also promotes continuous growth and expertise.  Young or old, keep being choosy as you progress in the legal practice.  You can always change what area of law you practice in and try something else.  Personally, I’ve navigated through at least five distinct legal domains in my career, each transition marked by significant success.  We are not captives in a plush office.  As lawyers, agency and choice are our bedrock.  We have choice, and with a robust network of relationships, you can always change your practice for the better.

Unfortunately, we frequently find ourselves facing an array of unfavorable choices.  Even when faced with choices that are bad and worse, we must still make a choice.  These choices separate great lawyers from the average.  Don’t let the process of choosing between bad or worse paralyze you.  A choosy lawyer does not fall prey to the darkness of analysis paralysis. 

Don’t let your guard down on mundane choices either.  A decision may appear innocuous, leading us to assume it carries no significant consequence, be it positive or negative.  Unfortunately, this assumption is frequently mistaken.  A noted expert on making momentous choices, George Washington, believed small choices were life’s most consequential:  “Real crises are often concealed in occurrences so trivial in appearance that they pass unobserved.”

Being choosy is so consequential that its importance is frequently overlooked.  Strive for excellence in pivotal decisions, endeavor to extract value from less favorable options, and do not underestimate the significance of seemingly minor choices.  Let’s all resolve to be choosy lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE AN EARLY LAWYER - September 17, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


I have vivid memories of my father gazing through our picture window into the Alaskan darkness, the first light of the day still concealed beyond the contours of Pioneer Peak.  It was always cold on the porch, and you could see the steam rising from his coffee.  He would take a few moments to collect his thoughts, take another sip of warmth, and then stride resolutely into the bitter cold, primed to gain an early advantage in tackling the day’s demanding tasks on his dairy farm.  

Unlike farmers, perhaps it’s not an absolute necessity for lawyers to get up before dawn.  However, it sure helps to get a head start on your day.  The only drafter of the U.S. Constitution that was not a lawyer, Benjamin Franklin, advocated an early start to the day with this wisdom: “He that rises late must trot all day.”  I must admit, in my younger years there were days where I wished I had risen early but regrettably had to trot hard.  

In the legal profession, punctuality and preparedness are vital for success.  Being an early lawyer encompasses more than just arriving at the courthouse ahead of schedule, it is a mindset that enables attorneys to maximize their productivity, reduce stress levels, and demonstrate professionalism.  Let’s explore the benefits of being an early lawyer, from enhancing focus and argument formulation to fostering effective leadership and inspiring others.  By adopting an early mindset, lawyers can position themselves for greater achievements and unlock their full potential in the legal realm.  

The early hours offer solitude, allowing lawyers to delve into case files, review evidence, and conduct thorough research undisturbed.  This uninterrupted time fosters a comprehensive understanding of the legal nuances involved, empowering attorneys to craft well-supported arguments and anticipate potential counterarguments.  By starting the day early, lawyers can harness the cognitive advantages offered by a fresh mind, ensuring that their arguments are meticulously structured, persuasive, and compelling.  

Arriving early at the courthouse grants lawyers the invaluable opportunity to start their day with a calm and focused mindset.  By beating the rush hour traffic and avoiding last-minute anxieties, lawyers can dedicate their undivided attention to formulating compelling arguments and strategizing their cases.  The tranquility of an early morning environment provides the ideal backdrop for deep concentration and critical thinking, enabling attorneys to analyze complex legal matters with clarity and precision.  In today’s world of virtual court appearances, being early helps too.  Logging in 10 minutes early allows you to iron out all the glitches that tend to crop up when you log in a mere 30 seconds before your scheduled hearing.   

Being an early lawyer not only benefits individual attorneys but also fosters an atmosphere of professionalism and effective leadership within the legal team.  By arriving before their staff, lawyers can establish themselves as role models, leading by example and inspiring their colleagues to embrace punctuality and dedication.  Being an early lawyer also creates a collegial culture in your firm.  You have time to say good morning to the staff and see what they need from you, as you have already determined your day’s goals.  Your staff and colleagues appreciate your cheerful morning greetings and encouragement.  It makes a difference.  If you are trotting into your office and shutting your door due to a late start, it does not build the relationships you need in your office for long term success.  

Seeing a sunrise is one of the unexpected joys of life.  Despite all the sunrises we have seen, a new day’s first light always inspires.  Each sunrise has its own promise and character, and new meaning for us each day.  Early lawyers experience the beauty of a sunrise and find inspiration in the world beyond the courtroom.  Witnessing the dawn of a new day can be a powerful reminder of the potential for growth, progress, and success.  It offers a moment of reflection, enabling lawyers to connect with their purpose and reaffirm their commitment to the pursuit of justice.  

By embracing the early hours, lawyers can appreciate the journey rather than focusing solely on the destination.  The serenity of the early morning allows for introspection, creative thinking, and personal growth.  It provides an opportunity to set intentions, cultivate gratitude, and approach each day with renewed energy and enthusiasm.  

In the legal profession, being an early lawyer offers numerous advantages that can significantly impact one’s career trajectory.  From enhanced focus and argument formulation to reduced stress levels and improved time management, the benefits of starting the day ahead are undeniable.  Moreover, embodying an early lawyer mindset fosters exemplary professionalism, effective leadership, and inspires others to follow suit.  By embracing the early hours, lawyers can unlock their full potential, achieve greater success, and find inspiration in the possibilities that each day holds.  

Remember, the early bird does indeed get the worm in the legal realm.  Let’s all resolve to be early lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A LABORING LAWYER - August 9, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”  This serves as a poignant reminder for lawyers to eschew laziness and embrace the laborious nature of our craft.  In the legal profession, there are no shortcuts to success.  The path to becoming a formidable lawyer is paved with perseverance, dedication, and a commitment to hard work.  As lawyers, it is crucial to constantly remind ourselves of the importance of diligent preparation, including understanding our arguments and those of our opponents, along with meticulously checking the facts of each case.

The Florida Bar rules define diligence (FL Bar Rule 4-1.3) and demand that lawyers work hard.  “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”  That is, lawyers are obligated to work diligently, but it does not require the use of offensive tactics or preclude the treating of all persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect.  Lawyers must manage their workload in a way that allows them to competently address each matter.

One of the fundamental aspects of being a laboring lawyer is understanding the arguments at hand.  It is not enough to rely solely on our own perspective, we must strive to grasp the position of the opposing counsel as well.  By doing so, we broaden our perspective, gain valuable insights, and become more effective advocates for our clients.  Engaging with the arguments of our opponents allows us to anticipate their strategies, identify weaknesses in their reasoning, and develop counterarguments that are both convincing and well-informed.

Understanding the arguments of our opponents demonstrates respect for the legal process itself.  The adversarial nature of law requires us to engage in a battle of ideas, with the main goal of arriving at the truth and ensuring justice.  By taking the time to comprehend the arguments put forth by our adversaries, we demonstrate our commitment to upholding the integrity of the legal system.  By immersing ourselves in the arguments of our opponents, we expand our legal acumen and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the of a case.  This depth of knowledge allows us to anticipate counterarguments, craft persuasive responses, and present a well-rounded and compelling case before the court.  The effort we invest in comprehending opposing viewpoints not only strengthens our own arguments but also promotes a fair and robust legal discourse that upholds the principles of justice.

Equally important is the necessity to diligently check the facts of a case.  The practice of law is intricately tied to facts, and it is our responsibility as lawyers to uncover the truth and present it convincingly.  Facts serve as the foundation upon which our arguments are built, and any negligence in verifying their accuracy can have grave consequences.  A laboring lawyer understands that thorough fact-checking is not a tedious chore, but rather a vital step towards presenting a strong and compelling case.  Our duty to seek truth requires us to diligently investigate and verify the accuracy of facts presented in a case.  Through careful examination, cross-referencing, and consulting reliable sources, we can uncover hidden nuances, discover crucial evidence, and ensure that our arguments are firmly rooted in reality.

By prioritizing the laborious task of fact-checking, we uphold the integrity of our profession and maintain the trust bestowed upon us by our clients, the court, and society at large.  We demonstrate our unwavering commitment to accuracy and reliability, which are essential pillars of the legal system.  Through our rigorous pursuit of truth, we contribute to a more just society, where decisions are based on facts and where trust in the legal process prevails.

While technology has made information more readily accessible, it is not a substitute for the painstaking work of a diligent lawyer.  Automated searches and online databases may provide a starting point, but it is through meticulous investigation, scrutiny, and critical thinking that we truly uncover the truth.  A lazy lawyer who relies solely on easily accessible information risks missing crucial details, misrepresenting facts, and ultimately weakening their case.  By embracing the laborious task of fact-checking, we demonstrate our commitment to the pursuit of truth and the delivery of justice.

Embracing hard work and diligence is not without its challenges.  It requires sacrifice, long hours, and an unwavering dedication to our clients and the pursuit of justice.  However, the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.  By being laboring lawyers, we equip ourselves with the knowledge, skills, and reputation necessary to make a lasting impact in the legal profession.  By consistently engaging in the laborious tasks of understanding arguments and checking facts, we develop the skills and expertise necessary to excel in our profession.  We become better advocates for our clients, equipped with a deep understanding of the intricacies of the law and the ability to articulate compelling arguments.  The reputation we build through hard work and dedication not only benefits us individually but also contributes to the overall integrity and trustworthiness of the legal profession.

The path to success as a lawyer is not for the faint of heart.  It requires resilience, perseverance, and an unwavering commitment to hard work.  A laboring lawyer understands that there are no shortcuts to excellence.  While laziness may offer temporary respite, it ultimately hampers professional growth, diminishes credibility, and compromises the quality of legal representation.

Being a laboring lawyer demands a relentless commitment to hard work, thorough preparation, and unwavering dedication.  We must continuously remind ourselves of the importance of understanding our arguments and those of our opponents, as well as the necessity to meticulously check the facts of the case.  Laziness has no place in the legal profession, as it undermines the pursuit of justice and compromises the integrity of the legal system.  By embracing the laborious nature of our profession, we embody the ideals of excellence, integrity, and professionalism.  Let us cast aside laziness and rise to the challenges before us, knowing that through our hard work, we can make a profound difference in the lives of our clients, the legal system, and society as a whole.

 Let’s all resolve to be laboring lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE AN INDEPENDENT LAWYER - July 10, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


A lawyer looks at a jury and takes a deep breath. He is going to finish his closing argument in a mass murder trial: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact; if an assault was made to endanger their lives, the law is clear, they had a right to kill in their own defense.” The lawyer and his clients are worried during deliberations. After all, the eight are accused of killing five people. A city rioted because of what they did. The jury comes back with a verdict of not guilty for six of the lawyer’s clients, and manslaughter for the remaining two.

On that frigid afternoon in Boston, December 4, 1770, the scene unfolded. John Adams, a diminutive figure, directs his gaze toward his clients, garbed in the distinctive crimson coats symbolizing their service to the British Empire. As he shifts his attention to the courtroom gallery, he confronts the seething countenances of the numerous Sons of Liberty and the grieving families of those whose lives his clients extinguished. Within him, an apprehensive unease grows, anticipating the conversation that awaits him with his cousin, Sam Adams, the brewer and revered founder of the Sons of Liberty, an organization often credited with igniting the flames of the American Revolutionary War. John Adams already knows precisely what he will say, “I have a duty to uphold the law, whatever the consequences.”

As can be seen from the professional life of America’s second president, a lawyer’s duty of independence long pre-dates our country’s independence. This duty long pre-dated the adoption of the American Bar Association’s codification of a lawyer’s duties in its Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Florida requires a lawyer to exercise independent professional judgment: A lawyer shall not permit a person who recommends, employs, or pays the lawyer to render legal services for another to direct or regulate the lawyer’s professional judgment in rendering such legal services (R. Regul. FL. Bar 4-5.4(d)).

Exercising independent professional judgment can be an arduous task, especially in the face of dissenting opinions from all sides. It can be tempting to succumb to the influence of the majority, to be swayed by the prevailing sentiment. However, for those aspiring to become exceptional lawyers, the unwavering commitment to the duty of independent professional judgment becomes paramount. It is an obligation that demands daily implementation.

The independent lawyer is a legal professional who embodies autonomy and critical thinking within the legal profession. They possess the ability to think independently, critically analyze complex legal issues, and make well-informed conclusions. Independent lawyers understand the importance of independent thought and giving great advice to clients. They prioritize thinking independently and exercising professional judgment, ensuring their advice is objective and based on legal expertise rather than being influenced by clients’ desires. Courage and integrity are essential qualities for independent lawyers, as they provide advice that may be unpopular but legally and ethically sound. While navigating potential risks and costs associated with independence, such as client disagreement or job security concerns, they remain committed to professional integrity.

It is impossible to serve two masters well. This concept is incorporated into the practice of law. The concept of professional independence is no exception. If you share a fee with a non-lawyer, it deleteriously affects your independent judgment. There has been much debate over the past decade over whether lawyers should be allowed to join forces with non-lawyers in providing legal services to clients. Even if there are some arguments for efficiency to do so, it would be a poison pill. Often times, the best independent legal judgment is inefficient. And purposefully so – great legal work often requires taking the time to pause, reflect, and formulate excellent guidance. Indeed, our very own Florida Supreme Court’s official seal adopts the motto Sat Cito Si Recte. Translated from Latin it means, “Soon enough if correct.” Interestingly enough, you have to walk across the moto in order to enter the Florida Supreme Court’s courtroom.

Independent thought is vital for a lawyer’s ability to serve clients effectively. Lawyers must possess the capacity to critically analyze legal issues, considering multiple perspectives and relevant factors. By engaging in independent thought, lawyers can provide comprehensive and well-rounded advice. Independent thinking allows them to identify potential pitfalls, anticipate challenges, and offer innovative solutions that may not be apparent otherwise. Ultimately, independent thought empowers lawyers to navigate complex legal landscapes with confidence and competence.

Independence comes with costs, as independent lawyers often encounter professional risks. Instances may arise where clients disagree with or reject independent advice, leading to negative outcomes. However, maintaining professional integrity is crucial, even in the face of losing clients or job security. Upholding independent thinking and ethical responsibilities not only protects lawyers’ professional reputation but also ensures the integrity of the legal system as a whole. Lawyers that work for only one client may have the most difficult time when it comes to giving independent advice. They might lose their job in maintaining their independence.

Striking a balance between maintaining independence and respecting clients’ autonomy is a delicate yet essential task for independent lawyers. While offering independent advice is crucial, lawyers must also consider clients’ perspectives and preferences. Effective communication plays a vital role in presenting advice that resonates with clients. Building strong relationships based on trust and mutual understanding enables lawyers to navigate this fine line, ensuring that independent thought is valued and integrated into the decision-making process.

Embrace the valor that comes with being an independent lawyer, for you stand in esteemed company. Let us take pride in the fact that on July 4, 1776, our nation’s Declaration of Independence bore the signatures of 25 lawyers among its 56 signers. Furthermore, four out of the five drafters of this momentous document were lawyers themselves. It is noteworthy that the lawyer who successfully defended six out of the eight Red Coats also played a significant role in both drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence.

By championing independent thinking, lawyers leave an indelible mark on the legal landscape, upholding the principles of justice and integrity that define the legal profession, and indeed, freedom. Let us celebrate our independence of thought, and let’s all resolve to be independent lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A VENTURING LAWYER - May 31, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


Venturing in a skiff somewhere north of Lower Matecumbe Key, we watched the sun set over Florida Bay.  The dusk was copper-tinged.  The sea was so calm it could have been glass.  I broke the silence and said out loud, “What a wonderful sunset.”  Upset with my failure to set a hook into any fish, the weathered captain tersely said, “Shut up and fish.”  Perhaps the old salt threw in a few expletives.  My Australian friend had caught five tarpons on that charter, and good naturedly ribbed me for all the tarpons that had jumped off my line.

Following the captain’s orders, I stood up and grabbed the tarpon rod with both hands.  I turned my back to the west and looked toward the ruined arches of Flagler’s old bridge, where my line had drifted.  A second later, the reel began to scream with the tell-tale sound of a very big fish on the line.  The monster jumped into the air several hundred yards away, slapping the water with the sound only a tarpon makes.  My heart sunk seeing the distance my line had wandered.  I had not paid attention to how much line I let out while watching the sunset.  The captain shouted, “Set the hook!  Don’t let him off!”  His bark made me do what I had failed to do all day, take several steps back and pull the rod in one motion.  With the rod now bent into a bow, the hook was set, the competition between man and monster began.  Not wanting to lose this tarpon, the captain worked me like a drill sergeant.  It was dark as I pulled in the 200lb silver king, both fish and man utterly exhausted.

Before letting it go, the captain showed me all the missing armor-plated scales that looked like scars on the great old fish.  Long ago, anglers would cut out an armored scale as a keepsake of landing the great Megalops Atlanticus.  The ancient silver kings lived on with these battle scars, reminders of old fights.

As we age into the practice of law, we lawyers have as many battle scars as the old silver kings.  Each scar helps us learn and grow, but they also tire us out.  Being a lawyer is an incredibly demanding and challenging job.  It requires constant attention to detail, a strong work ethic, and a deep understanding of the law.  We wake up in the middle the night worrying about whether a deadline was missed or not.  We worry about our clients, as we want what is best for them.  We must deal with tough characters who may not want to make peace.  We constantly worry about not taking the bait, so to speak.  These thoughts can weigh heavily on the mind and soul.

Rest is the best elixir for the burned out and scarred lawyer.  A long and adventurous vacation provides the space for restoring the peace of mind that all of us need to live happy lives.  The art of a long vacation is a dying art.  I can’t tell you how many lawyers never take a true vacation.  They consider a long weekend a rest.  It really isn’t.  If we are honest with ourselves, it can take at least a week to forget about practicing law and not dream about deadlines.

A venturing lawyer is one that takes a long vacation to someplace that he has never been before, looking to have some fun with a focus on the here and now.  A true adventure makes you forget the day-to-day battle of practicing law and helps you recover the non-lawyer in you.  A venturing lawyer is someone who understands the importance of taking time off to refresh and recharge.

One of the most important aspects of being a venturing lawyer is the value of a vacation.  Many lawyers view vacations as a luxury or a sign of weakness, but in reality, they are a crucial part of maintaining mental health and avoiding burnout.  When lawyers take time off, they are able to step away from the stresses of their job and come back refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges.

There is a medical reason to take long vacations.  Lawyers have high-functioning brains.  High-functioning brains are influenced by serotonin levels.  Stress and work demands can impact serotonin levels and function, which can contribute to feelings of burnout and decreased cognitive performance.  Over time, depleted serotonin levels can have consequences, particularly in terms of mental health and well-being.

There are ways to boost your brain’s supply of serotonin.  Resting without stress can have positive effects on serotonin levels and overall brain health, recharging the serotonin needed to be a high functioning sharp lawyer.  You may scoff, but a long vacation is exactly what every lawyer needs to be the best lawyer they can be for their clients.

Taking a long vacation is also good for your business model.  If you say your firm can’t run without you, you have not put in place good systems.  Taking a vacation as long as a month can provide insight into your law firm that you will not get by being there each day.  I ventured for a month through the Buccaneer Archipelago.  In exchange for seeing a bright band of the Milky Way and a night sky hung with the Southern Cross, there is no cellular or internet service for hundreds of miles.  My family and I explored deserted islands, built bonfires, fished, and ventured through Western Australia.  The trip highly increased my serotonin levels and cleared my mind.

I had left specific instructions for my firm while I was gone.  When I came back, I was happy to find that the firm had not just survived while I was away, it had thrived.  However, there was one exception.  One member of my firm seemed to do nothing while I was away.  This was a person that had worked well when I was physically present at the firm, taking my constant direction.  I had not realized how much prodding I had to give, how much time each day wasted on supervision.  After coming back and seeing with fresh eyes what was going on, it was time for us to part ways.  The long vacation metric has helped me greatly over the years evaluate who can work independently and who cannot.  Your law practice is much better served with hard working independent-minded team members.  Your life will be much less stressful surrounded by these types too.

Of course, taking a long vacation is easier said than done for many lawyers.  The demands of the job can make it difficult to step away for an extended period of time.  However, building a practice that is systematic and organized can help lawyers take time off without worrying about emergencies.  By putting systems in place to handle routine tasks and delegating responsibilities to others, lawyers can take time off knowing that their clients and cases are in good hands.

It is also important for lawyers to understand that they are not the end-all-be-all.  Many lawyers fall into the trap of thinking that if they are not behind their desk, things will fall apart.  However, this is a fallacy.  At some point, the task will be handled by another person that you gave diligent and supervising instructions to.  By recognizing this, lawyers can reduce their ego and take time off without feeling guilty or anxious.

Another important aspect of being a venturing lawyer is understanding the importance of networking and building relationships outside of your immediate legal community.  Many lawyers become so focused on their daily practice that they forget to connect with other professionals in related fields or even potential clients.  I’ve made some of the best friends of my life bumping into engaging people who are also on a long vacation.  One lifelong friendship was made at a ski lodge after a blizzard forced us off the slopes and into the après ski bar.  As they say, you never know who you will bump into.  It could be your next best friend.

Being a venturing lawyer is more than just taking time off.  It’s about embracing being adventurous, trusting your staff and the system you have built, appreciating the work it takes to create the time and space for resting your mind, and embracing a venturing mindset.  By being a venturing lawyer, we can avoid burnout, stay motivated, and be the most effective advocates for our clients and mindfully present for our loved ones.  It’s okay to have some missing scales, as long as you can recharge and relax before the next battle.

Let’s all resolve to be venturing lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A SERENDIPITOUS LAWYER - May 11, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


I walked into a crowded courtroom in Southwest Florida for a cattle-call hearing. There was one seat left in the back row, so I took it. There were many lawyers arguing their motions that afternoon. Many made the same argument I was planning on making, and they all failed to persuade the stand-in senior presiding judge. I became worried. I could not think of another argument that would sway this judge. Surely, I would lose this afternoon. The lawyer sitting humbly next to me didn’t seem too worried. I quietly asked, “What works with this judge?” He whispered back to me a winning argument. I used my new friend’s work product and the judge ruled in my client’s favor.

How serendipitous, I thought. Had I not been running a little late trying to get through an unfamiliar courthouse, I would not have had to sit in the last open seat in that courtroom. I was also fortunate that my case was far enough on the docket that day that I was not called first and I had an opportunity to see my argument was a loser. Most importantly, it was supremely serendipitous that my new friend shared his very wise counsel with me. I didn’t tell my client how I was successful for them that day. They just thought that I’m a great lawyer. In truth, I was a serendipitous lawyer.

Serendipity falls into the lap of well-prepared lawyers often. You look for one thing that you think is essential for your client’s case. However, in looking for what you thought would be the answer, you end up coming across something even better, which you could not imagine before searching. You take the statement of a random witness and end up learning what really happened in a case.

Serendipitous is my favorite word and concept in the English language. Unlike most English words and concepts that are borrowed from other languages, serendipitous was created by an English writer in the 1700s and used for the same meaning we assign it today. It is truly an English concept which we Americans have embraced and used to our great advantage. It is the unexpected blessing that comes when a lawyer works hard and keeps their eyes open to possibilities. It is finding something even better than what you were looking for, not even knowing you were looking for it. Some have defined serendipity as a “happy accident”.

However, I would disagree. “Happy accidents” don’t just happen. Louis Pasteur, the great French chemist, once said, “… chance favors only those minds which are prepared.” Serendipitous occurrences happen when a person is actively seeking something, putting effort in what they believe is worth pursuing, and because of that effort, finding something so much better and useful. Serendipity is finding what you really wanted, but you just didn’t know that was what you wanted or needed when you started out on your quest.

Interestingly, courts love to use the word. It is found in hundreds of reported cases. A cursory case search brings up many dozens of reported cases across the country incorporating serendipitous events that are the turning point of a case. Seeing a serendipitous event probably is much easier to recognize from the bench. It definitely makes for great reading in a case note.

As a lawyer, it is essential to be well-prepared and proactive, however, it is also important to be open to unexpected and serendipitous events that can help advance your career and lead to new opportunities. Being serendipitous can be an incredibly valuable trait. Being open to unexpected opportunities and chance encounters can lead to new clients, new cases, and even new career paths. But being serendipitous is not just about luck – it requires being active in networking, building relationships, and staying open to new possibilities.

One of the most compelling reasons being a serendipitous lawyer is so crucial is that the legal profession is constantly changing. New laws and regulations are being introduced all the time, and legal technology is advancing at a rapid pace. This means that lawyers who can adapt to change and stay ahead of the curve are more likely to be serendipitously successful.

Being a serendipitous lawyer means being open to opportunities that may not be part of your original plan. Often, the best opportunities come from unexpected places or chance encounters. Being serendipitous means having the flexibility to recognize these opportunities and take advantage of them. Being serendipitous also allows lawyers to expand their client base and take on new types of cases. By staying open to unexpected opportunities, lawyers can connect with clients who they might not have otherwise encountered. This can lead to new areas of practice and increased revenue.

Of course, being serendipitous does not mean relying solely on “happy accidents” or chance. What is key is for a lawyer to recognize happy accidents when they occur and have the boldness to incorporate them into what the lawyer had already planned to do. It is important for lawyers to continue to develop their skills and expertise, to network strategically, and to be active in seeking out new opportunities. But by staying open to unexpected possibilities and being willing to take risks, lawyers can increase their chances of success in an ever-changing legal landscape.

Being a serendipitous lawyer makes practicing law fun, happy, and unpredictable in a very pleasant way. Serendipitous lawyers are open to new changes, expanding their client base, and taking on new types of cases. Being serendipitous requires activity, keeping your eyes open, being flexible to unexpected possibilities, taking risks, and being willing to step outside of one’s comfort zone. Sometimes, being a serendipitous lawyer has solely to do with where you chose to sit. Let’s all resolve to be serendipitous lawyers

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A STORYTELLING LAWYER - Apr 11, 2023 By Jim Vickaryous


I have noticed that the better educated a person is, the less likely they can tell a gripping story.  Ask a sailor, fisherman, or cop for a story, and you can’t stop listening.  Ask a lawyer for a good story, and you immediately regret it.  Somehow, our modern education system has bleached out the natural ability of a person to tell a great story.  The best storyteller I have ever come across had a third-grade education and was barely literate.  You could tell that my Grandpa Tony was about to tell one heck of a great story because it started with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a wry half-smile on his weathered face.  He was an Alaskan homesteader who could raise the hair on the back of your neck recounting a midnight run-in with an angry grizzly bear, and how he survived to tell the tale.     

While storytelling might not come naturally to those who had to memorize the rule against perpetuities, it comes in handy in a lawyer’s toolbox of skills. In a world where communication is often reduced to cold facts and figures, the art of storytelling can be an incredibly powerful tool for lawyers.  By weaving together compelling narratives that capture the essence of a case, a storytelling lawyer can connect with judges, jurors, and clients on a deeper emotional level, and create a sense of shared understanding and empathy that can be invaluable in achieving positive outcomes. 

So what exactly is a storytelling lawyer, and how do they differ from your typical modern lawyer?  A story telling lawyer is someone who recognizes the importance of narrative in the legal process, and who has honed their skills at crafting compelling stories that can help to sway opinions and influence outcomes.  They understand that people are wired to respond to stories, and that by tapping into this innate human trait, they can more effectively communicate the key points of a case and engage with their audience in a way that is both memorable and persuasive.  A storytelling lawyer knows that even his adversaries can’t help but listen when a compelling story is being told.  A story with a reason, a parable, goes a long way to renting space in the listener’s head.  If it is a truly great story, it will spend a lifetime in the listener’s head.  

The best stories are self-deprecating.  If the storyteller can make a point using himself as the foil, all the better.  A man and woman walked up from the darkness as my group of friends were enjoying a New Years Eve beach bonfire.  It was cold and windy, and they just wanted warm themselves by the fire.  I told them they were welcome to join us, but we would appreciate a story.  Our new friend with a booming Texas voice began his story piloting his company’s airplane, flying to a problem rig that had not struck oil.  His banker was on the airplane, as they were negotiating a large loan extension.  His geologist and rig operations manager were on the airplane too.  The weather was bad, and he could not land at the airport nearest to the rig.  His company was in dire straits, but his need for money was worse than the weather.  He hoped the fog would burn away by midday. The plane’s fuel pushed towards empty as he circled the airport.  The engines stopped, and the plane began silently gliding down through the fog.  Tears rolling down his cheeks, he told his banker, his geologist, and his ops manager that he was sorry for killing them, because of his fear and greed.  He said a quick prayer.  The fog lifted, and he was gliding straight for a long road in a newly built development with no homes.  He and his passengers survived, and he swore never to put money and fear of failure over human life again.  “Now that’s a great story,” I told him, chills running down my spine.  

Story telling can also help to make legal arguments more memorable.  By framing a case in a compelling narrative, lawyers can create an enduring impression in the minds of their audience.  This can be particularly powerful in cases where the details are complex or technical, as a well-told story can help to simplify and clarify the issues, making them more accessible to the layperson. 

But how does one become a story telling lawyer?  There are many different strategies and techniques that can be used to develop this skill.  An effective approach is to focus on the “big picture” of a case, and to identify the overarching themes and messages that are most important to convey.  By crafting a narrative that brings these themes to life, lawyers can create a compelling story that resonates with their audience. 

You don’t have to tell stories about crashing airplanes or crossing paths with grizzly bears to capture the attention of your listener.  I had the honor of taking a long hike with some Boy Scouts. As I was catching my breath and trying to keep up, I suggested that we each tell a story to help pass the time.  I volunteered to tell the first story. Being a humble Scout, the first young man was reticent to tell a story, claiming that he did nothing to make a story worth telling.  I told him that it’s not the story that counts, but how you tell it.  The best storytellers can get their point across recounting the most mundane things, but in an enticing way.  I asked him what the first thing was he did that morning after waking up.  He smiled and said, “I ate a big bowl of cereal.”  Since we had some time to kill on our hike, we worked on how to tell a great story about eating a bowl of cereal.  It turned out to be a funny story, told in a way that only a goofy 15-year-old boy can tell.  Everybody has a story to tell, you just have to pull it out of them. 

Being a storytelling lawyer can be a powerful and effective way to communicate legal arguments in a way that is engaging, memorable, and persuasive.  By harnessing the power of narrative to bring legal issues to life, lawyers can connect with their audience on a deeper level and create a sense of shared understanding and empathy that can be invaluable in achieving positive outcomes.  However, it is important to approach story telling with care and caution, and to always remain grounded in the truth and accuracy of the case at hand.  By balancing emotional appeal with sound legal analysis, and by developing a nuanced understanding of the art of storytelling, lawyers can become powerful advocates for their clients, and can make a lasting impact on the legal profession.  Ultimately, being a story telling lawyer is about more than just winning cases – it’s about connecting with people on a human level, and using the power of narrative to make a difference in the lives of those we represent. 

Let’s all resolve to be story telling lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A PRIVILEGED LAWYER - Mar 2, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


A happy client gave me a hug, thanked me for years of hard work and a successful end to her case. I was humbled by such a heartfelt compliment. I told her, “Thank you Ma’am, it was my privilege to represent you.” It was indeed my privilege to represent her. After all, we couldn’t be lawyers without clients.

These days, it’s not considered a good thing to be privileged. American culture has always had an antipathy towards unearned privilege. We overthrew a king and created a republic. But could being privileged be a good thing, if it’s earned and used to help others? I think it can.

Being a lawyer is an earned privilege. Don’t believe me? Check out what the Florida Supreme Court says in the Preamble to the Rules of Regulating the Florida Bar, Rules of Discipline, Rule 3-1.1 – Privilege to Practice: A license to practice law confers no vested right to the holder thereof but is a conditional privilege that is revocable for cause.

The “revocable for cause” language used by the Florida Supreme Court is sure to catch every lawyer’s eye. It accentuates that being a lawyer is one of our legal system’s great privileges. It is not a vested right, nor should we treat practicing law as our right. Just because you are a lawyer today, doesn’t mean you will be one tomorrow.

So, just what is the privilege earned upon becoming a lawyer? Trust. Trust of the courts that the lawyer will be a truthful officer of the court. Trust of clients that a lawyer will put the client’s interests before their own. Trust by society that a lawyer will defend and support our constitution. When others trust you, a great privilege has been conferred on you. A client trusting a lawyer with their family, business, freedom, even their lives, confers the highest privilege. Therefore, the real privilege of being a lawyer is trust.

The great privilege of practicing law provides for deep confidences between clients and their lawyers. After decades of practicing law, I am still amazed at what I hear. Some clients simply need to get a burden off their chest. They need to share their secret with someone, and they know we are duty-bound to keep their confidence. Things a person will not tell their spouse, their confessor, their closest friend, their doctor, they will often tell their lawyer. This high level of trust is given a name, interestingly enough, the attorney-client privilege.

The trust that makes practicing law a privilege is the pinnacle of being a lawyer. Always endeavor to keep and reinforce that trust. This trust can be lost rather quickly and in many ways. There are many ethics rules that outline every conceivable way that a lawyer can breach the trust of the court, a client, or society at large. It should suffice to say the ethics rules are the bare minimum for which the Florida Supreme Court will revoke your privilege to practice law. But for most lawyers, it is not the bare minimum which inspires us. We aspire to the highest levels of trust with our clients. The best guiding principle for keeping another’s trust is to keep their interests before yours. Putting others before yourself can feel unusual, but because it is so rare, you will gain lifelong clients by making this your consistent practice.

The earned privilege of being a lawyer allows a lawyer’s very thoughts and private notes made in furtherance of a client’s representation to be privileged. Indeed, this work-product privilege gives a lawyer a competitive advantage to all other professions.  A lawyer does not have to disclose his strategy to best represent a client.

The privilege of being a lawyer requires constant sharpening of the saw, so to speak. As we age in the practice, so does the law. The law keeps changing, and we must keep learning. To keep earning the trust of our clients, we must maintain our knowledge and skills by regularly attending continuing legal education programs and staying up to date with the latest laws and regulations related to our practice area. Our clients like to look at a battered and well-used briefcase, but not so much a battered and dated legal mind. They want a cutting-edge lawyer that keeps up with the times and the law.

Aspiring to do our best for our clients, the courts, and our communities is what the privilege of being a lawyer is all about. Those around us look to us to be leaders, and we are privileged to have their trust. Let’s keep earning it, day-by-day. I’ve been truly privileged to be a Florida lawyer. Let’s all resolve to be privileged lawyers.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A HEALTHY LAWYER - Jan 17, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


Back at work for the new year, I put on my suit and tie. My shirt collar was too snug, my suit tighter than I would like. I looked into the mirror and knew that this year’s me needs to slim down (or buy a bigger suit). I resolved to buy a new suit after losing some weight. If you are around people that care for you, it does not take long to get a comment about your health and how you look. My mother has always chided me, “Lose some weight, Jimmy.” Your family and friends want the best for you, after all. They want their lawyer loved one to be around for next year and beyond. In a lawyer’s daily work toiling to protect the interests of others, it is easy to forget that your health is elemental in being able to push out that work.

A modicum of health is necessary to be a competent lawyer. Health is a continuum, of course. It can be many things to many people, but it shows. To borrow United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s obscenity definition and apply it to health: “I know it when I see it.” Looking into the mirror you can see much about your health. I know healthy lawyers that get up at 5am and train for their next Ironman. I know healthy lawyers with disabilities that keep themselves mentally sharp and physically fit. The key to being a healthy lawyer, no matter our different physical abilities, is to keep our bodies fit enough that our brains remain sharp and clear for the benefit of our clients. An unclear, unhealthy mind reaps disaster for a lawyer.

Being a healthy lawyer is essential for both personal and professional reasons. As lawyers, we are constantly faced with high-stress demands and fast-paced work environments. This can take a toll on your health – both physical and mental. It is crucial to prioritize your wellness to have a successful and sustainable career in our profession.

There are numerous ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even as a lawyer. Primarily, it is imperative that you eat well. As a young soldier, I was meeting with my commander for an annual evaluation. He instructed me to lose some weight. As we trained together rigorously each day, I responded that I more than met my calisthenic regimen. He good naturedly smiled and said, “Lieutenant, no amount of exercise can compete with what you put in your mouth each day.” There are many ways to have a healthy diet. I won’t recommend any particular diet (or non-diet – such as fasting), as this changes for each person according to their age, preference, doctor’s orders, and faith.

The healthy lawyer effectively manages stress and understands that the legal profession involves a highly stressful environment with long hours and tight deadlines. It is vital to find healthy techniques to cope with stress. Something as simple as a quick break from the issue at hand will help. Over the long term, a lawyer needs a number of vacations a year to just let their brain rest and be occupied with other thoughts.

There are significant issues that can arise if a lawyer does not maintain good overall health. The most obvious is the risk of burnout. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It’s a common problem in our profession, driven by our often-long work hours, and high levels of pressure. Burnout can lead to a host of unforeseen consequences, including decreased productivity, decreased job satisfaction, and increased risk of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Difficulties can arise if a lawyer does not maintain good health, such as lack of focus and concentration. When you are not feeling well, it is difficult to focus on your work and make decisions. This can lead to mistakes and oversights, which can have serious consequences for clients. In addition, it can also lead to decreased efficiency, as it takes longer to complete tasks when you are not feeling your best.

Unhealthiness can also negatively affect personal relationships. If you are sick, it is difficult to be present and engaged in your personal life. This can lead to strained relationships with friends and family, which can further contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

A lack of good overall health can also have financial consequences. If you are frequently sick or unable to work due to health issues, you may miss out on income and opportunities. This can be especially problematic for self-employed lawyers, who may not have the same protections and benefits as those who work for a firm.

Being a healthy lawyer is essential for both personal and professional reasons. It allows you to perform at your best, handle the demands of the legal profession, and provide the best possible service to your clients. By prioritizing your health and well-being, you can sustain a successful and fulfilling career in the legal field.

The Florida Bar cares about your health, but perhaps not in the way you would desire. Rule 3-7.13, Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, allows for a lawyer that is too unhealthy to practice law to be classified as an inactive member and is prohibited from further practice of law, “…even though no misconduct is alleged or proved.” Like everything else in life, if you don’t take action, someone else eventually will, and not necessarily in the manner you would prefer.
Being a healthy lawyer serves you, the courts, and especially those who depend on you and who would actually miss you if you were gone. Let’s all resolve to be healthy lawyers.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A RESOLUTE LAWYER - Jan 4, 2023 By Jim Vickaryous

The resolute lawyer stands the test of time and has learned the secret of building relationships. Take the time to build relationships and realize it’s one of the most essential skills

Be a resolute lawyer. A new year often brings about resolutions. Unfortunately, resolutions quickly disappear. The way resolutions become reality is by being resolute. Lawyers should embrace the character trait of being resolute. When you first meet with a client, they have their resolutions to guide you and your representation of them. However, it is up to you as their lawyer to be resolute in carrying out their wishes to conclusion.

Groups of people organizing themselves often start with resolutions. However, when they write their organizational goals, they never use the word resolution. They often use the phrase, “we resolve to.” Resolution is the wish; resolve is the action.

“Resultus” is the Latin word for resolute, meaning released to act. Indeed, the word result is also a derivative of the word resolute. Being resolute by its nature will bring results.

Be resolute in your long-term goals but remain flexible. Like a mountain climber focuses on getting to the top of a mountain. Their footsteps may change along the way. They haven’t planned out every single step so they’re flexible in how they arrive at their goal. Sometimes you must go down to go up, sometimes you have to change directions.

To succeed in our profession, it takes a tremendous amount of perseverance and determination. As we begin yet another new year, I think it’s a good time to revisit some of the characteristics of resolute lawyers and why they are important. The resolute lawyer is disciplined, has solid core values, remains strong in adversity, and develops long-standing relationships.

A resolute lawyer is able to minimize distraction and focus on the essential issues needing action. Many things will compete for your time and attention as a lawyer. Discipline is necessary for time management and as a buffer against trivial things that constantly compete for your attention. Discipline is also necessary to set the pace for others in your firm. When discipline is strong best practices generally follow. Being resolute is contagious, as others appreciate working with someone who is consistent pushing forward with action.

Resolute lawyers stick to their core values. When your values are clear to everyone in your firm, the decision-making process is simplified. If a policy or action doesn’t align with your core values, the decision is clear. Knowing your core values is essential to your practice. Defining and accurately communicating core values is essential. The resolute lawyer makes this a priority. Values keep the resolute lawyer grounded and provide direction.

A resolute lawyer is able to seamlessly work with others that do not share their core values. A lawyer’s given tasks are often limited in scope. This limitation of scope gives a resolute lawyer the ability to work with those who disagree on many other things. A resolute lawyer builds consensus on the small things that often matter most to the success of a client’s case.

Most lawyers face adversity. The test is not whether you will face challenges but in how you will respond to them and how quickly you can put them behind you. The resolute lawyer’s strength is not developed in adversity but rather it is revealed in adversity. The strength that gets you through adversity is grown over time and is a maturity factor. A resolute lawyer will not back down in adversity but will see it as just another milestone in their growth.

A resolute lawyer is a relationship builder. The primary reason is because practicing law in a vacuum is highly limiting. The success of the resolute lawyer is tied to the success of those around them. The resolute lawyer stands the test of time and has learned the secret of building relationships. Take the time to build relationships and realize it’s one of the most essential skills. In sum, resolute lawyers are leaders.

We have much to be thankful from the resolute lawyers that came before us. Resolute lawyers such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both created our country and drafted a constitution that has kept our country intact for hundreds of years. A resolute lawyer named Abraham Lincoln by sheer force of will maintained our union. There are many resolute lawyers today. Indeed, we all know a number of them.

Resolute lawyers have learned how to navigate through adversity, have the discipline to lead themselves and others, have built relationships, and are passionate about the future. Come what may, resolute lawyers are optimistic. After all, why choose to be resolute if you don’t think the future is worth fighting for. Through hard work and perseverance, the future is bright for those who choose to be resolute. When your values are aligned with your vision you can proceed with confidence in knowing that today can be good and tomorrow can be even better. Let’s all resolve to be resolute lawyers.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A JOYFUL LAWYER - Dec 9, 2022 by Jim Vickaryous

Ode To Joy!  Have joy in your heart, have joy for life, make joy for others.  Joyfulness is a feeling of purpose that is carried throughout daily activities, it could be reading a statute, writing a legal note, or meeting with a new client.  I often think of it as an emotional defense that protects us from life’s disappointments. But what is the practice of being a joyful lawyer?

To be a joyful lawyer is to focus on the positives of our profession and uphold a sense of happiness.  I know when I see a joyful lawyer.  They have wide smiles and glowing energy.  It’s an aura that is as much internal as it is external.

To have joy in your heart, joy for life, and joy for others, you must be able to identify a successful approach for yourself.  A first step is to live with the intent and aim to be joyous.  In my experience, it is the lawyers who consistently reflect on their actions and maintain their target toward joy that are naturally more inclined to feel joyful.  The practice of being joyful is the only way to encounter happiness.

In the practice of law, it can often appear as if others are constant obstacles, preventing us from succeeding and making considerable progress, but the joyful lawyer knows the power to succeed and make progress resides within themselves.  Even if others are continually working against them, the joyful lawyer still gives honor and respect.  To be a joyful lawyer, you must willingly accept others, even if their path is different from yours.

Always be open to joy offered by others.  I remember walking to the courthouse for a morning hearing.  My heart was not joyful, as I was worried about what argument I should make, what the opposing lawyer would argue, how the judge would rule, and what my client would say after the ruling.  I walked the entire way from my office to the courthouse looking at the sidewalk, caught up in worry. Stopping at an intersection, a joyful female voice said to me, “What a beautiful morning.  Look at that gorgeous sky.”  Startled by a stranger’s voice on a streetcorner, I looked up to see her smiling and pointing up with her finger.  I looked up and had to agree with her.  It was a gorgeous morning.  In my bundle of legal worries, I had not looked up to the sky once on my courthouse walk.  I thanked her and appreciated the joy she had passed on to me as I walked into the courthouse with a smile on my face.

To bring joy to others and the world around you, you must first be happy with yourself.  That means you’re as accepting with yourself as you are with others.  Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, rather take them as learning experiences.  Accepting that you are human, and imperfect will help you feel joyful and enable you to share joy with others.

At the heart of being a joyful lawyer is the sincere desire to feel positive.  It’s a choice, you choose to make joy, to purposefully get joy out of your practice.  Being a joyful lawyer is living your life driven by the pursuit of happiness. Practice joyful intent with each action, with each thought, and with each word.  Let’s all resolve to be joyful lawyers.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A HOSPITABLE LAWYER - Nov 10, 2022 by Jim Vickaryous

‘Hospitality makes a guest feel comfortable, enriches the host, and often produces unpredictably beneficial social and legal results’

Offering a cup of coffee is often the first act of hospitality shown by one lawyer to another. It not only identifies one as a good host, but also sets the stage for the expectation of civil behavior and provides an introductory icebreaker before beginning to work together. In a rare in-person deposition recently, I was pleasantly surprised by the opposing law firm’s hospitality. I was in the belly-of-the-beast, so to speak, but they made my client and me feel very welcome. My opposing counsel’s assistant not only offered coffee but offered to brew a fresh pot. Also noticing that I had forgotten to bring a yellow legal pad, she grabbed one for me without me even asking. How hospitable, I thought to myself.

As a new lawyer, I remember showing up to an empty country courtroom, except for a lone courtroom deputy. I was worried that I had driven all that way and somehow the hearing had been cancelled. The deputy eased my worries, letting me know that all the lawyers were in the judge’s chambers, as the judge served morning coffee before calling the first case. I walked into chambers and the judge himself poured me a cup of Joe. You could see the contagious effects of his hospitality when court was in session. The lawyers felt welcome, and the argument was civil and well-reasoned. You may or may not have been pleased with his rulings, but you couldn’t be upset with the judge after his show of such gracious hospitality.

The tradition of hospitality stems from prehistory. In Roman times, laws were enacted to secure what in Latin is called hospitium, the Roman law of hospitality. Hospitality was expected and required. The great lawyer of the late Roman Republic, Marcus Tullius Cicero, wrote often of how hospitality should be the generous habit of both citizen and lawyer. The Levantine ancients required hospitality to strangers, as it was their belief that you never know when you are entertaining angels.

True hospitality is always a wonderful thing to experience, as it shows the heart of the host. My California co-counsel insisted that I stay at his home while I was attending court with him. He picked me up from the airport and his wife even cooked a wonderful dinner. He even offered to let me use his car. His hospitality skills were not just those of a seasoned host. At the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse, he could not walk 15 feet without a handshake and a smile from every passing lawyer. Over a career of dedicated lawyering and generous hospitality, the level of respect and trust his colleagues treated him with was impressive. Hospitality was the bedrock of his wildly successful legal career.

Hospitality is contagious. As Hurricane Ian has hurt so much of Florida, hospitality is needed so much more now. After the hurricane, my wife received a call from an old friend from Estero, Florida. She had sheltered the storm at her mother-in-law’s home in Central Florida, but the power had gone out and needed a working refrigerator for the supplies for her six-month-old daughter. She, her husband, her two-year-old daughter, and infant daughter came to our home. As we had lunch, we learned that they were now homeless. Their Estero home had flooded from Ian’s storm surge. In the days that they stayed with us, we heard countless chilling stories as her neighbors called and told her how her community had been destroyed. Life can be strange, as the same week that she lost her home, her article was published “above the fold” on the front page of The New York Times, a career achievement for any journalist. Seeing her young family coming back from this disaster gave me great encouragement. Nothing was going to slow down her six-month-old daughter either, a true bundle of joy, always smiling and a calming influence on all around her.

We live in a world of diminishing hospitality. We see it in our everyday lives and can become disheartened because of its conspicuous absence. While the world around us may be less hospitable than it was in the past, we should not succumb to this trend as lawyers. In fact, we should become even more hospitable. Hospitality makes a guest feel comfortable, enriches the host, and often produces unpredictably beneficial social and legal results. As the hospitality of those around you recedes, your hospitality is that much more important, memorable, and impactful. Despite everything that’s going on around us, let us all resolve to be the most hospitable lawyers.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A RELATED LAWYER - Oct. 11, 2022 by Jim Vickaryous

Serendipity caused my path to come across an old friend. We shared some news and a couple of legal stories. I learned something new about the law, and also remembered what a sharp lawyer my friend is. I even felt smarter after the conversation. I got to thinking afterwards, how much all of us have missed from the common social interactions that we have taken for granted over our lifetimes. A lunch, a dinner, a friendly person-to-person talk, being able to see someone smile at your bad jokes. Even waiting for a cattle-call hearing, you would get to chat with other lawyers giving advice and accepting advice. Human beings can’t help but learn something from each social interaction we have. I have gained a great deal from serendipitous social interactions over the decades. Many of my friendships have started from chance meetings. The knowledge gained from these years of relationships can be formidable in a lawyer’s skill set.  When these random interactions stop, we lose a great deal of skill as lawyers.

One of the greatest skills a lawyer can have is being profoundly related to others. It’s a force multiplier. Being related to others means being in communication with them. It means seeking to understand the needs of others by listening to them. Related also means being able to communicate your needs and the needs of your clients to others. It’s a form of empathy. Being related takes a commitment of time and requires focus. It used to mean getting out of your home and office and being involved in the community. Zoom and other virtual meeting tools have expanded this definition. Law practices, courts, and the law itself, must live somewhere. If you’re a lawyer that doesn’t have any connection to the “somewhere” where the people that the law applies to live, you are not able to give the best advice to your clients.

One of a lawyer’s jobs is to be engaged in the community to understand how people live, act, and what they believe. You must be related in order to know what is happening in the marketplace of commerce and ideas. Your clients are expecting you to have this knowledge when you give them advice. It is difficult to have knowledge of those around you if you have a bunker mentality.

I love learning new things. Being related is a building block of learning. We most often learn from others, sometimes without even realizing it. Left to our own devices, we become set in our ways. Alone, we learn less than we otherwise would be.

While not as effortless, we lawyers can still be profoundly related to those around us. We just need to be purposeful about building relationships. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back from those around you. It takes effort to start a conversation with another. Be bold and start the conversation. You will be surprised at how many people are hoping that you will be the leader and break the ice. With so few opportunities to speak to others in person, we must be committed to reaching out in other ways. Pick up the phone each day and call a colleague and just say hello. You will be surprised by what you learn. Send a short email of encouragement. Take up the old-fashioned habit of sending handwritten notes. Your friends will appreciate knowing that you’re thinking of them. Most importantly, call your clients and say hello. They will appreciate your attention the most!

Don’t let habits of the recent past keep you from being related to others. It’s your job as a lawyer to be part of the community. Your clients need a related lawyer. The courts need related lawyers. Our country needs related lawyers. Let us all resolve to be profoundly related to others.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A KIND LAWYER - Sep 12, 2022 by Jim Vickaryous

My grandmother used to say: “Kill ‘em with Kindness, Jimmy!” As a child, my grandmother’s wise advice often went in one ear and out the other, but this stuck with me. Being kind is also the best advice for lawyers. Kindness extended by a lawyer is often a surprise to a non-lawyer. They often think of us as professional killjoys. As a veteran lawyer, seeing lawyers exchange even the smallest of kind acts greatly encourages me. The kindness I most appreciate is the kindness shown that will not necessarily gain the giver anything.

In recent years, I had the great honor to be admitted into the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. One of the perks of being a new member is getting a front row seat to that day’s oral arguments. The case being argued that day had to do with whether the Veterans Administration had given due process to a particular veteran. I was seated immediately behind the young lawyer representing the veteran. As we waited for the Supreme Court justices to come in, I watched the wide-eyed lawyer reading through his materials. Hidden just below the counsel table was his trembling hand. He had a terrified look on his face. Perhaps I would be trembling too if I was about to argue before the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court and your opposing party is the United States of America.

A moment later, the United States Solicitor General and his team of lawyers walked into the courtroom. The Solicitor General looked the picture of confidence. He was trim, smiling, and wearing a morning coat, the traditional uniform of the Solicitor General. Many people were shaking his hand as he walked into the courtroom. He came across as a rockstar in the legal world. After arranging his briefing notes at his counsel table, the Solicitor General walked the five steps past the podium and greeted the nervous young lawyer. The Solicitor General shook his hand, welcomed him to the court, and wished him well. The Solicitor General showed kindness and respect to the young lawyer in a manner that made him feel welcome. The young lawyer sat down again to wait for the moment that the Supreme Court would be called into session, and he would be invited to begin arguing for his client. I looked at his hand as the justices filed in. It had stopped shaking. He looked confident. He did a great job advocating for his client. Based upon the commentary in the courtroom after the arguments had finished, he had clearly won over the audience and, perhaps, maybe even five justices to his client’s prayer. The Solicitor General’s small act of kindness calmed his opposing counsel in his moment of anxiety.

After arguments were over the court went into recess. Since I was in the front row, I stayed for a few moments to take in the atmosphere of the courtroom. I looked up and watched Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg slowly moving out of her chair and taking her first step down the staircase. She started to fall. A robed arm reached up gracefully to steady her. The robed arm quickly and gentlemanly helped her down the steps. I looked over and saw that the kind robed arm belonged to Justice Clarence Thomas.

You don’t have to go to the United States Supreme Court to see everyday acts of lawyers being kind. I’ve observed it taking place often among lawyers across Florida. There’s a big upside to being kind. The mantra of “Kill ’em with Kindness” helps greatly when you have the urge to tell someone what you really think in a moment of irritation. Being kind is fundamental to civility. In fact, the Oath of Admission for The Florida Bar makes it a requirement of every lawyer: “To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications.” Be purposeful in representing your clients, but always be a kind lawyer.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors.

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A 50-YEAR LAWYER - Aug 11, 2022 by Jim Vickaryous

When you reach 50 years as a Bar member, The Florida Bar gives you a free lunch at the Annual Convention. I was at this year’s annual convention, wanted to get some lunch, and wandered into the event honoring the 300 recent 50-year members of the Bar. They in good nature outed me as not being a 50-year member of the Bar and charged me for lunch.

I picked the right place to make some new friends, and learned a thing or two from that room full of 50-year lawyers. I was impressed with how many had taken the Bar up on the offer of a free lunch. Every one of the lawyers that I spoke to were proud to be lawyers. Many had generations of their family eating lunch with them in honor of their longtime service and commitment to the practice of law.

There was a common theme about which they were happy. Each 50-year lawyer I spoke to was most proud of helping people for half a century. I was struck by this, as all the lawyers present practiced in many different areas of the law. Over and over, they told me they simply enjoyed helping others. Perhaps the secret to making it to the 50-year watermark (and getting a free lunch from The Florida Bar), is keeping a place in your heart for helping people.

Whether you are closing in on 50-years of practicing law, or you just got sworn in and took the Oath of Attorney (or at the midway mark like me), helping people should be our goal as lawyers. Being of service to others makes us all feel significant and adds purpose to our lives. It also keeps us gainfully employed. Clients want a lawyer that truly cares and wants to help them. Clients also want lawyers that take pride in what they do, work hard at keeping their competitive edge, and don’t lose sight of why they became lawyers.

It was nice to eat lunch with 50-year lawyers that have the same heart to help people as when they started five decades ago. In addition to lunch, the Bar gives a 50-year lapel pin to mark the occasion. I saw each pin being worn proudly on many lapels. After a lifetime of service, these lawyers were very proud of what they had achieved throughout their careers. Many spoke to me about the people that they had helped and whose lives they made better.

We should all be so fortunate to have such rewarding careers helping people. I thanked them all for setting a great example of how to be a lawyer. Remember, we can all be 50-year lawyers. Practicing law is not a sprint, but a marathon. It is not the age, not the years of experience, it’s what’s in your heart. Let us all resolve to be 50-year lawyers in our heart, no matter our years.

Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors. 

Published by The Florida Bar.