Jim Vickaryous

Jim Vickaryous has 30 years of experience as a personal injury lawyer.  He 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 JUDICIAL LAWYER - June 5, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


Court proceedings are not about the presiding judge.  Great judges will focus solely on the issues at hand and not be the star of the show.  There is one notable exception.  Judicial investiture ceremonies are solely focused on the judge about to be vested.  Investiture ceremonies have their differences depending on the jurisdiction.  The common feature of all investitures is that the judge takes an oath.  Investiture ceremonies are official court proceedings.  Often, investitures are the only court proceedings where most of the judges of a circuit are in the same courtroom together at the same time.  In my circuit, the county sheriff takes the place of the courtroom deputy to call the court to order.  It’s a nice touch and I’ve always appreciated the sheriff’s thoughtfulness in doing it.  The chief judge presides over the investiture ceremony.  It starts with an invocation and ends with a benediction.  They are public proceedings and people from all walks of life attend.  They all have their own charm.  I even attended one investiture in which a choir inspired all with their songs.

For good reason, local bar associations are often involved in investitures.  My local bar association presents the robe to the incoming judge, along with a few congratulatory words, during the ceremony.  During the year that I was president of the Seminole County Bar Association, three new judges were to be invested in ceremonies to take place on three consecutive Friday afternoons.  It was my job to order their robes.  I knew the lawyers that were to become judges very well.  Embarrassed to ask, I procrastinated in contacting them about what size robe the bar association should get them.  Being gracious, and indeed, judicial, one of the three called me and said, “Jim, no offense, but none of us want to tell you our dress size.  We’ll order the robes we want and you can give them to us at the ceremony.”  Graciously being let out of this awkwardness, I did not object.  Their first judicial order was a wise one indeed.

Being a judicial lawyer starts on the day a lawyer gets sworn into the Bar, solemnly swearing, “I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers.”  Once you are sworn in, you are an officer of the court.  You are a part of the third branch of government, the branch that is supposed to safeguard our constitutional rights as citizens of the republic.  All judges start somewhere before becoming a judge.  Whether you aspire to the bench or not, you should conduct yourself as a lawyer very judiciously in both your public and private life.  You never know, you might come to a point in your professional life that you are recruited to either run for judge or apply for an appointment.

Lawyers aspiring to be judges need to start early in their career to achieve this goal.  A wide legal experience helps.  Building your network helps even more.  Part of being a judicial lawyer is to be active in both your community and in the legal profession.  It is becoming more common for lawyers to be appointed to the bench at much younger ages than in the past.  As they approach their first election after being appointed, they start reaching out to people they never spoke to before becoming judge.  This can be off-putting to the recipient, as these relationships should have been made over years of being active in local bars, local community organizations, at church, and engaging in charity.  The relationships you build with non-lawyers and lawyers alike will help you immensely in your career.  Start working on these relationships long before you are a judge.

Maintaining the respect due to courts and judges can be hard when things don’t go your way.  But remember, no matter how much you think you were right, be careful what you say as you walk out of the courthouse.  Be even more careful how you describe and talk about our system of justice online and in public.  As an officer of the court, people judge you harshly if you bash the court system that has given you your license to practice law.  You can argue and distinguish both the facts and the law of every case, even after you win or lose.  You can’t criticize the court in its central role in the justice system.

The responsibility of a judicial lawyer transcends personal success.  It involves nurturing the next generation of legal professionals.  Actively engaging in mentoring relationships and collaborating with colleagues creates a supportive and collaborative legal community.  Sharing knowledge and experiences not only aids in the professional development of others but also strengthens the bonds that hold the legal profession together.  Better lawyers make for better judges.  Those who you mentor and befriend may end up on the bench someday.

Being a judicial lawyer is even more important in the state election process for trial judges.  Florida circuit and county court judges run for re-election every six years.  They are justifiably restricted in what they can say and how they can run their campaigns.  Judges running for re-election may not detract from the integrity and independence of the courts.  Non-lawyers often do not understand that judicial candidates have both hands tied behind their back when running for office.  The common question of “What party are you a member of?” gets an answer of “I am not allowed to discuss this in a campaign.”  A judicial candidate can smile and state they will follow the law, and not much more.

Great judges need lawyers to help their campaigns and, importantly, to follow the strict rules of judicial campaigns.  Nothing sullies the reputation of the justice system like a judicial campaign that goes into the gutter.  By supporting and endorsing qualified candidates, judicial lawyers contribute to the election of judges who will uphold the rule of law.  Recognizing the impact of these elections on the legal system, judicial lawyers play a vital role in ensuring the bench is occupied by individuals of high caliber.  It is to our great benefit, our clients, and our communities to have the very best lawyers be judges.  We lawyers have a key role in making that happen.

There can be upsides to seeking judicial office, win or lose.  One upside is that voters get to have several choices as to who gets to be their local judge.  Listening to the retirement speech of one of my all-time favorite judges, I came across another reason for running for judge.  Early in his legal career, Rotary Club friends encouraged him to run for judge.  He demurred, saying he was not yet experienced enough, and surely would not win an election.  They kept encouraging him, insisting that even if he lost, the consolation prize would be a much larger network of friends and clients.  He gave in and put his hat in the race.  To his great surprise, he won the election.  He decided to give judging a try and was re-elected over many decades due to his judicial skill and demeanor.  His fellow Rotarians must have seen something he did not see in himself, and his fellow judges saw the same thing when they later unanimously elected him chief judge.  Humility, like hospitality, is a rare thing.

The pinnacle of a judicial lawyer’s career may involve transitioning to the bench.  However, not every lawyer either wants to be, or has the patience needed to be a great judge.  When I graduated law school, my mother bought a robe for me, encouraging me to put it on someday.  To her disappointment, it still hangs in my closet.  I use it every now and again to officiate weddings, when asked to do so by friends.  I am an advocate at heart and do my best work helping others.  I enjoy wearing my heart on my sleeve and having a public opinion.  You can’t be a great judge and be an advocate at the same time.  But it does not prevent judicial lawyers from advocating for the justice system and third branch of government in ways that judges cannot.  As a judge once remarked, a trial is a team sport, and the judge can’t do it alone.

Being a judicial lawyer is a calling that demands a profound commitment to justice, ethical conduct, and the betterment of the legal community.  As officers of the court, judicial lawyers shape the legal system, leaving an indelible mark on the pursuit of fairness and equity for all.  In their collective efforts, these legal professionals contribute to a legal community that stands as a beacon of justice and integrity.  We can’t all be judges, but we can be judicial lawyers.  Let’s all resolve to be judicial lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A REFERRING LAWYER - May 3, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


An old friend invited me to dinner. We originally met on opposite sides of a case and found common cause as lawyers as it worked its way through the court. We had not seen each other for a long while. At dinner, I asked him how his practice was going. He told me very well. He remembered the day years before that he opened his own firm. He shared that he appreciated my words of encouragement to him. But he was most grateful for the case that I referred to him the day he opened his practice. He let me know that it was a complicated case, but the client was worth taking, and that he just recently, many years later, finished the case. He told me that the purpose of our dinner was to let me know how much it meant to him that I had thought to send him work the very day that he had opened his law firm. I told him that I didn’t think much of it at the time. A person called me for help, I could not help them, and I knew he would do a fine job. I also knew that I had no experience in that area of law and would not give the representation that this prospective client needed. I just wanted the person to get to a lawyer that knew how to help him and would fight hard. I told him that his client had a great choice and hired the best lawyer.

The role of a referring lawyer holds immense significance. The ability to connect clients with qualified professionals, acknowledge one’s limitations, and foster a network of trust and collaboration is an art that not only enhances individual legal practices, but contributes to the strength and integrity of the legal community as a whole. Let us review the various facets of being a referring lawyer, exploring the ethical considerations, the importance of specialization, the dynamics of fee arrangements, and the indispensable role of face-to-face relationships in building a successful legal network.

A fundamental responsibility of every lawyer is to serve the best interests of their clients. Recognizing that no single practitioner can master every legal nuance, referring lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring clients receive the most competent and specialized representation available. This duty to clients necessitates a keen understanding of one’s own strengths and limitations, prompting the judicious referral of cases outside the referring lawyer’s expertise.

Ethics lies at the core of the legal profession, and the process of referrals is no exception. Referring lawyers must exercise due diligence in selecting colleagues to whom they entrust their clients. It is imperative to refer cases only to those with proven ethical conduct and a track record of excellence. Transparency with clients regarding the referral process, including the reasons behind the decision, fosters trust and maintains the integrity of the referring lawyer.

In an era dominated by digital connectivity, it is essential to recognize that a lawyer’s network extends beyond the realms of social media. Face-to-face relationships form the bedrock of a successful legal network. While platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and X (formerly Twitter) may reflect a lawyer’s connections, true networks are built through personal interactions, seminars, bar association events, and mentoring programs. These personal connections are the catalysts for effective referrals and collaborations.

The legal landscape is diverse and intricate, with each practice area requiring a unique set of skills and knowledge. A referring lawyer’s ability to identify their own strengths and limitations enables them to make informed referrals, ensuring clients receive the specialized representation they deserve. Specialization not only enhances the quality of legal services but also contributes to the overall competence and reputation of the legal community.

Communication is key in the referral process. Referring lawyers must clearly convey to clients the reasons behind the referral, emphasizing the commitment to securing the best possible representation. Maintaining ongoing communication with clients even after the referral is crucial. This not only ensures client satisfaction, but also strengthens the referring lawyer’s relationship with the client, potentially leading to future referrals.

The issue of fees associated with referrals requires careful consideration. When a referring lawyer is not receiving a fee, they are not responsible for the matter, as they are not the client’s lawyer. However, when a co-counsel fee is involved, a referring lawyer becomes a co-counsel and shares responsibility for the client’s representation. Clear and well-defined written fee arrangements are essential in avoiding misunderstandings and ensuring a smooth collaboration between referring and receiving lawyers. Written agreements are also required by the ethics rules. Trust in the abilities of the lawyer receiving the referral and their commitment to thorough and diligent work is vital. The ethics rules on co-counselling between lawyers are too complicated for a brief discussion. But remember, the co-counselling relationship needs to be fully disclosed to the client and you are on the hook for representing the shared client, even if you are not doing most of the work.

It’s no secret that the most successful legal careers are built upon robust professional networks. These networks are not just a collection of online connections, rather they are living, breathing entities formed through personal relationships, trust, and shared professional values. Actively participating in bar associations, engaging in mentoring programs, and attending legal events are avenues through which referring lawyers can expand and strengthen their networks, creating a foundation for successful referrals and collaborations. Inviting a new friend out to lunch works well too.

Being a referring lawyer is an art that requires a delicate balance of ethical considerations, specialization, and effective communication. It is a responsibility born out of a commitment to client welfare, professional integrity, and the collective success of the legal community. As we navigate the complex legal landscape, let us remember that the strength of our profession lies not only in our individual abilities but in our ability to connect, collaborate, and refer with the utmost professionalism and dedication. You never know, but you might just make a lifelong friend by thinking of another lawyer when you come across a client that is not in your wheelhouse. Let’s all resolve to be referring lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A LISTENING LAWYER - April 4, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


Abraham Lincoln once said, “When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.”  These words encapsulate a fundamental truth for lawyers – the power of listening.  In a profession where advocacy and representation are paramount, being an active listener is a transformative force that can elevate one’s practice to new heights.

Listening to something you don’t want to hear is one of the hardest things a human being can do.  It’s even harder for lawyers. It is unnatural to sit and listen to ideas and opinions that we disagree with.  It is easy to tune out and think about all of your priorities or prepare what you want to say next. It is even harder to listen intently to someone who you disdain.  However, you may dislike an idea, a position, a person, it is to your benefit to listen and understand what they are saying.  After all, you can’t fully combat what you don’t like if you don’t fully understand the opposition.   

For lawyers, the challenge lies in the paradox of our training.  We are honed to be zealous advocates, articulate in making arguments, and expectant that our words will be heard and respected.  However, the reality is that most people, including ourselves, are often not truly listening.  This oversight is a missed opportunity, for when others listen to our legal discourse, they grant us a significant privilege.  Active listening, therefore, is a deliberate act, requiring the intentional commitment to create mental space for another person’s words.

To actively listen, we must liberate our minds from the distractions that often cloud our attention.  This means silencing the incessant chatter of the next question we want to ask, the visual scrutiny of the person speaking, and the distraction of incoming texts.  Active listening necessitates putting down the pen, ceasing notetaking, and focusing on the speaker’s tone of voice and facial expressions.  It demands patience and concentration, virtues that are essential in our profession.  John D. Rockefeller, known for being a keen listener and man of few words, was heard often repeating an old poem: “A wise old owl sat on an oak.  The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can’t we be more like that wise old bird?”

When we took the Oath of Attorney, pledging to “maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets” of our clients, we implicitly committed to active listening.  After all, how can you know your client’s secrets if you didn’t listen to them in the first place. To be a listening lawyer is to prioritize the client’s needs above our own, as we cannot truly understand their goals without giving them our full attention.

A listening lawyer is not one who capitulates or remains silent.  Instead, they actively listen to opposing counsel to discern the root of disagreements.  Initiating an argument by addressing the concerns of the other side showcases a profound understanding of opposing viewpoints.  This intellectual discipline not only deflates the opposition’s argument but also fortifies the credibility of our own stance when presenting our client’s case.  By starting with points that resonate with our audience, we cultivate willing listeners who are more receptive when we introduce our compelling arguments.

The true challenge of the art of listening lies in turning that skill inward.  Listening to ourselves, to our instincts, is often the most overlooked aspect of effective communication.  The simplicity of our initial inclinations is frequently talked away, overshadowed by the complexities we introduce.  The gut feeling that often indicates the best course of action is ignored or overridden by a cascade of unnecessary dialogue.  To be a successful listening lawyer, one must actively listen not only to others but also to the inner voice that guides us.

Embracing the ethos of a listening lawyer is not merely a professional strategy; it is a commitment to a higher standard of legal practice.  Beyond the courtroom or negotiation table, the essence of active listening extends to the intricate tapestry of relationships within the legal community.  As lawyers, we operate within a network of diverse professionals – from paralegals and court personnel to fellow attorneys.  The ability to genuinely hear and understand the perspectives of others enriches these relationships, fostering collaboration and a more harmonious professional environment.

In the dynamic landscape of law, where change is constant and precedents evolve, the listening lawyer is better equipped to adapt.  The legal profession demands continual learning, and by actively engaging with the insights and experiences of colleagues, we open ourselves to a wealth of knowledge.  A culture of listening within the legal community not only elevates individual practices but also contributes to the collective growth and advancement of the field.

The concept of a listening lawyer extends beyond the boundaries of legal interactions.  It transcends the courtroom and office, manifesting itself in the community and society at large.  Lawyers, as influential members of their communities, have the power to effect positive change.  By actively listening to the concerns and needs of the community, lawyers can identify opportunities for pro bono work, outreach, and advocacy, thereby fulfilling a broader social responsibility.

Moreover, the art of listening is pivotal in building relationships with everyone around you.  After all, if you don’t listen, why should they listen to you?    By attentively considering the perspectives of individuals from various backgrounds and experiences, lawyers create trust in those that they are communicating with.    This deep understanding of others through intensive listening strengthens the profession and ensures that the legal system serves a multifaceted and evolving society equitably.  When others know we are listening, they will feel acknowledged and will share more with you.

The challenge for lawyers, then, is to not only be adept listeners within the confines of legal proceedings, but to embody the spirit of listening in all facets of their professional and personal lives.  It requires a commitment to continuous improvement, an openness to diverse viewpoints, and a recognition that every interaction is an opportunity to learn.

In essence, being a listening lawyer is a lifelong journey—a commitment to growth, understanding, and positive impact.  As we navigate the intricacies of the legal profession, let us not only resolve to be listening lawyers within the courtroom but champions of active listening in every aspect of our professional and community engagements.  By doing so, we contribute to a legal landscape that thrives on collaboration, empathy, and continuous improvement, thereby shaping a legacy of excellence in the noble pursuit of justice.  As with the wise old owl, the less we talk, the more we hear.  Let’s all resolve to be listening lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A DILIGENT LAWYER - March 12, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


Diligence comes in many different packages, depending on the circumstances.  I once met a new client who quickly outlined their problem.  It was a simple matter, but important enough to this client that it needed the attention of a lawyer.  I knew the opposing party.  Indeed, I had just gotten off the telephone with the opposing party resolving another matter.  I let my new client know this, and asked, “Do you mind if I call the opposing party right now and see if we can figure this all out?”  In a moment, we were on the telephone, agreed to a solution, and had finalized the case.  My client was very pleased, thinking that I must resolve every client’s problem as fast as hers.  I laughed at myself a little bit and shared with her that this was the one and only time in my career that I had resolved a matter within an hour of meeting my client.  Years later, this is still the case. 

Everyone expects quick results in today’s marketplace.  In the legal world, being quick can be detrimental.  Diligence is not a timestamp.  Diligence itself can take some time, just to get all of the facts to come to a legal opinion to render to a client or court.  Frustratingly, sometimes after much research there is no good answer, and the best advice is an educated guess.  Indeed, the motto on the Florida Supreme Court’s seal states: Sat Cito Si Recte, or “Soon enough if correct.”  Diligence is both doing the work and taking the time to be both correct and prompt.

The virtue of diligence stands as a cornerstone in the foundation of a successful legal practice.  Diligence, in the context of legal representation, goes beyond mere hard work.  It encompasses a spectrum of qualities that distinguish an exceptional lawyer.  Let’s review the multifaceted aspects of being a diligent lawyer and explore the key components that contribute to professional excellence.  From research and client communication to courtroom advocacy and ethical considerations, the diligent lawyer navigates a complex landscape with unwavering commitment.

Only one sentence, The Rules Regulating the Florida Bar, 4.1-3, states, “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”  Florida takes this wording from the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct.  It is a simple rule and makes a lot of sense.  However, as with everything in the law, the “reasonable” part allows for much discretion.  Sometimes being diligent in our representation of a client requires us to wait to act.  Other times reasonableness requires immediate action.  You are the lawyer, and your client expects you to figure out what is reasonable diligence.  

Diligence requires an intimate understanding of the “drudgery” of the law and getting into the heart of the matter.  There is no substitute.  A diligent lawyer is an avid researcher, continuously seeking to deepen their understanding of the law and its nuances.  Diligence in legal research involves more than a perfunctory examination of statutes and precedents.  It requires a comprehensive exploration of legal landscapes.  The meticulous examination of case law, statutes, and legal commentaries allows lawyers to build a solid foundation for their arguments, ensuring that they are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of each case.

 A key hallmark of diligence lies in the rigorous review of documents.  Legal representation often hinges on the accuracy and completeness of documents, making this aspect indispensable.  Diligent lawyers invest time and effort in ensuring that every legal document, contract, or filing is meticulously reviewed, leaving no room for oversight or error.  This commitment to detail not only instills confidence in clients but also fortifies the lawyer’s position in negotiations and court proceedings.

 Diligent lawyers understand the vital importance of time management in the legal profession.  Meeting deadlines for filing motions, responses, and other legal documents is not just a procedural requirement, rather it’s a demonstration of respect for the legal process and an acknowledgment of its impact on the client’s interests.  A diligent lawyer organizes their workload efficiently, balancing multiple cases and tasks without compromising the quality of their work.  Making sure your calendar is up to date is probably the best habit to keep yourself diligent.  If it is on your calendar, you are much more apt to do what must be done on time and well before the prospective deadline.

 Communication is the lifeblood of legal practice, and a diligent lawyer excels in maintaining clear and timely interactions with clients, opposing counsel, and the court.  Regular updates on case developments, prompt responses to inquiries, and transparent communication on legal strategies are the hallmarks of a lawyer committed to diligence.  By fostering open lines of communication, the diligent lawyer ensures that clients are well-informed, empowering them to actively participate in their legal journey.

 Diligence extends beyond the realm of legal tasks.  It encompasses ethical considerations and professionalism.  Upholding the principles of the legal profession, a diligent lawyer navigates ethical dilemmas with integrity. Professionalism in interactions with clients, opposing counsel, and the court is non-negotiable.  The diligent lawyer operates with a commitment to the highest standards of conduct, earning the trust and respect of both colleagues and clients.

 Diligence also requires leaving your office and going to legal conferences.  You will be surprised at how much cross-pollination there is still in the law. The legal landscape is dynamic, with laws and regulations evolving continuously.  The diligent lawyer recognizes the imperative of staying updated through continuing legal education.  By actively pursuing additional certifications, attending relevant seminars, and engaging in continuous learning, a diligent lawyer remains well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing legal terrain.  Adaptability becomes a strength, allowing the lawyer to offer informed counsel in the face of emerging legal challenges.

The legal profession thrives on collaboration and teamwork.  Diligent lawyers actively seek input and feedback from colleagues, recognizing the value of diverse perspectives in enhancing case preparation.  Collaboration extends beyond legal professionals to include experts and support staff.  The diligent lawyer, through effective collaboration, creates a robust legal strategy that leaves no stone unturned.  Organizational skills complement this collaborative approach, ensuring that case files are meticulously maintained, deadlines are met, and all necessary documents and evidence are readily accessible.  After all, asking another lawyer “What do you think of this?” is not a weakness, but takes courage and shows diligence of thought.

 It’s not a state bar or the ABA Model Rules that came up with the requirement that lawyers be diligent.  It’s what our clients want and what justice requires.  Perhaps diligence is the most important of all attributes that a lawyer must strive to be.  Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln agreed, saying, “The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence.” 

 Being a diligent lawyer encompasses a rich tapestry of qualities that extend far beyond the confines of traditional hard work.  From meticulous research and document review to effective communication, ethical considerations, and client advocacy, the diligent lawyer is a paragon of professional excellence.  By embodying these principles, lawyers not only uphold the integrity of the legal profession but also fortify their position as stalwart advocates for justice.  In the dynamic and evolving landscape of law, diligence remains the linchpin that sustains the pillars of legal practice, ensuring that lawyers navigate challenges with poise, competence, and an unwavering commitment to their clients’ best interests.  Let’s all resolve to be diligent lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A PERCEPTIVE LAWYER - February 9, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


Perspective matters.  Skiing out West with my family, a heavy snowfall ended a bluebird day.  I stopped on the slope to get my bearings and wait for my family.  In the mountain silence I could hear the snowflakes fall on the snowpack.  In the solitude, I heard the scurrying of a small animal.  At the tips of my skis, an ermine was looking up at me.  It had a large vole in its mouth.  Just as surprised as me with our chance mountain encounter, the ermine dropped the freshly killed vole, and scurried across the snowy slope to the shelter of an ancient ponderosa pine.  Next to the ponderosa, the snow-white ermine stared at the lifeless vole in front of me.  The ermine charged across the slope towards me, stood on its hind legs, looked straight into my eyes, and let out a fierce growl.  It grabbed the vole in its mouth and ran back into the ponderosa forest with dinner for its family.

My perspective that wintery day was to have some mountain fun with my family.  I was not worried about survival or from where dinner was coming.  The ermine’s sole perspective was survival.  Listening to its high-pitched growl, I could tell it was enraged that I had momentarily taken its prey.  We both went on with our day.  Me to a warm fire and a stiff drink, the ermine to its warren to feast on the vole.  I surmise it was a win-win for both of us.  Our paths had crossed with extremely different perspectives, and somehow, we both figured out how to peacefully get on with our plans.

In the legal world, where disputes emerge and the pursuit of justice takes center stage, perspective is an essential skill.  Lawyers must recognize that their success not only hinges on legal acumen but also on their ability to perceive their own and other’s differing perspectives.    Let’s shed some light on the importance of being a perceptive lawyer and the symbiotic relationship between perception and perspective.  Perceiving each person’s perspective greatly increases a lawyer’s skill and value.  After all, by comprehending the differing perspectives that all people have when dealing with an issue, a lawyer might just get everyone what they want – a true win-win solution. 

Perspective, in the legal realm, extends beyond merely acknowledging that everyone has a different way of seeing things.  It shows a deep understanding of how friends and foes actually see an issue from their point of view.   A perceptive lawyer appreciates that every case involves an interplay of different perspectives – those of clients, opposing parties, witnesses, judges, and the court itself.  These perspectives, collectively, form the backdrop against which legal battles unfold.

Perspective is even more important in relationships that are not adversarial.  As lawyers, we must be attuned to perspective.  Knowing where you stand and the perspective of your colleagues and loved ones can give you the understanding that not only helps to predict outcomes, but comprehending others’ underlying reasons, motivations, and values.  Deep perception of everyone’s perspectives creates win-win situations often without anyone knowing other than you.  Creating harmony without anyone realizing that you drafted the music is the best harmony there is.    However, most people recognize that you are trying to see things their way, even though you really don’t.  They appreciate the thoughtfulness.  I know I do, even if it does not go my way.

Perception, the ability to interpret and make sense of information, is the foundation upon which effective legal representation is built.  However, perception is not isolated, rather it is intimately intertwined with the theme of perspective.  A lawyer’s perception is shaped not only by their own understanding but also by their acknowledgment and appreciation of the perspectives that surround a case.  After all, most solutions are not entirely what we initially envisioned.  The best solutions have more than one cook.  To have a more realistic vision of a legal solution, it is good to anticipate the differing perspectives and incorporate them from the beginning. 

For lawyers, perspective is not a one-size-fits-all concept.  We must strive to be open-minded in our ability to see how others see an issue from where they are standing, adapting our understanding to the unique circumstances of each case.  This adaptability is especially crucial when dealing with an array of different clients, each with their own backgrounds, values, and expectations.

The perceptive lawyer has developed the skill of empathetic understanding.  This is especially true when dealing with another party whose perspective is survival.  As lawyers, we do our best to look at our craft dispassionately to render the best advice and service to our clients.  We don’t often practice law from the perspective of pure survival.  However, our clients or adversaries often think only of their survival.  It’s not right or wrong, it’s simply their perspective.  It can be difficult dealing with a client or opposing party that has the perspective that they either win or they are damned.  Like my run-in with the hungry ermine, recognizing this chasm of perspectives creates the distance needed to be a dispassionate and most effective counselor. It is a reminder that the pursuit of justice is not a solitary endeavor, rather it requires collaboration, compromise, and the ability to bridge gaps between opposing perspectives.

Being perceptive of others’ perspectives is essential, however it is equally important for a lawyer to engage in introspection – to understand and evaluate their own perspective.  This self-awareness allows lawyers to navigate potential biases, ethical dilemmas, and personal beliefs that may impact their ability to objectively represent their clients.  It’s acceptable to have a different perspective than everyone around you.  After all, that is the essence of your being.  Just don’t get into the habit of thinking that everyone’s perspective should be just like yours.  That creates a bore of a lawyer and stunted advocate.

Introspection is not a sign of weakness but a testament to a lawyer’s commitment to moral values and ethical principles.  It enables lawyers to question their own assumptions, continually refine their understanding of justice, and ensure that their actions align with the highest standards of professional conduct.

A perceptive lawyer understands that prospective is not a rigid roadmap but a flexible tool that can be adjusted and refined as the case unfolds.  Each case is unique and dynamic, therefore prospective serves as a guiding light for lawyers.  It helps them anticipate challenges, identify opportunities for resolution, and craft strategies that align with the overarching principles of justice.

Being perceptive about other people’s perspective, and especially our own perspective, is critical to understanding others.  Being a perceptive lawyer is not a mere choice but a moral imperative.  Recognizing your own perspective and that of others is a kind of wisdom.  Understanding the symbiotic relationship between perception and prospective is essential for effective legal representation that is grounded in ethical values and principles.  As lawyers, let us commit to embracing diverse perspectives, cultivating introspection, and navigating the intricate legal landscape with a keen eye for justice and a heart for empathy.  By doing so, we contribute not only to the success of our clients but to the overarching goal of a just and equitable society.  Figure out a way to let the hungry ermines in your life go their way so you can enjoy your warm fire on a cold night.  Let’s all resolve to be perceptive lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE AN INTENTIONAL LAWYER - January 22, 2024 by Jim Vickaryous


How many days end with the gut feeling that you didn’t accomplish what truly needed to be done? It happens to all of us. Being intentional is hard and takes discipline. To truly excel in your practice, build strong relationships, and uphold the ethical responsibilities of the profession, you must adopt an intentional mindset.  Being intentional means more than just going through the motions or reacting to external stimuli.  It involves actively setting goals, making deliberate decisions, and taking thoughtful actions.  For a lawyer, this approach can be the difference between a mediocre practice and a highly successful one.

An intentional lawyer does not merely look at the facts of a case; they analyze those facts to fully understand the situation and develop a clear strategy.  They don’t merely check their emails each morning; instead, they start their day with a clear sense of purpose and prioritize tasks accordingly.  This purposefulness extends to all aspects of their practice, from their interactions with clients and colleagues to their courtroom demeanor.

Elevating ethical practices is at the core of being an intentional lawyer.  When lawyers approach their ethical responsibilities with intentionality, they ensure that they are not only meeting the minimum standards required by the legal profession but striving for the highest level of ethical conduct.

An intentional lawyer recognizes their duty to provide competent representation to their clients.  This means not only having the necessary legal knowledge and skills but also the intention to continually improve and stay up to date with legal developments.  They take a proactive approach to enhance their competencies, making them better equipped to serve their clients.

A lawyer’s duty to maintain client confidentiality is a fundamental ethical obligation.  Intentional lawyers go beyond the minimum requirements by implementing strong data security practices, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected from cyber threats and unauthorized access.  They are intentional in safeguarding their clients’ trust.

Identifying and addressing conflicts of interest requires a deliberate and vigilant approach.  An intentional lawyer maintains a comprehensive system for conflict checks and maintains a high level of transparency with clients when potential conflicts arise.  This proactive approach minimizes the risk of ethical violations.

Being intentional in the client-lawyer relationship means always putting the client’s best interests first.  This goes beyond mere compliance with the rules of professional conduct; it involves a deep commitment to understanding the client’s needs, goals, and priorities.

Intentionality also plays a crucial role in the day-to-day operations of a law practice.  An intentional lawyer approaches each case with a clear plan of attack, considers multiple strategies, and chooses the one that aligns best with their client’s objectives.  They do not waste time on distractions or procrastination; instead, they focus on what needs to be accomplished in the day.

As General George Patton famously said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  An intentional lawyer embraces this reality by having a robust plan but remaining adaptable in the face of unexpected developments.  They understand that, sometimes, a good plan violently executed now is better than a great plan executed next week.

Consider Neil Armstrong’s intentional action while piloting the lunar module during the Apollo 11 mission.  When he noticed the module was headed for a crater during the moon landing, he took control and intentionally maneuvered it to a safer landing site.  His quick thinking and purposeful action averted a potential disaster.  This level of intentionality is precisely what is needed in legal practice – the ability to adapt and make informed decisions when unforeseen challenges arise.

Intentionality extends to the relationships lawyers build with their clients, colleagues, and the courts.  An intentional lawyer fosters strong, trust-based relationships through active listening, clear communication, and collaboration.  They genuinely listen to their clients, understanding their concerns, and addressing their needs with empathy and attention.  They communicate clearly, avoiding jargon and ensuring that their clients understand the legal process and their options.  This not only fulfills an ethical duty but also builds trust.  Intentional lawyers actively seek collaboration with colleagues and the courts.  They work to resolve conflicts efficiently and promote civility within the legal profession.

An intentional lawyer not only focuses on their external responsibilities but also on their personal development.  They intentionally inspire themselves to be the best they can be by setting goals, seeking continuous education, and maintaining a work-life balance.

This approach involves acknowledging and managing distractions effectively.  The intentional lawyer does not let distractions overrun their day.  They balance moments of distraction with a sense of accomplishment, ensuring that they stay on track and make the most of their time.

Being an intentional lawyer is about purposefully and deliberately approaching every aspect of the legal profession.  This intentionality elevates good ethical practices, ensuring that lawyers fulfill their obligations to the highest standards.  It leads to more successful legal practices, stronger client relationships, and a personal commitment to growth and excellence.

As Neil Armstrong exemplified during the Apollo 11 mission, being intentional can be the difference between success and failure.  Just as he took control of the lunar module to ensure a safe landing, lawyers can take control of their legal practices to ensure the best outcomes for their clients and maintain the integrity of the legal profession.  Being an intentional lawyer is not only a choice but a responsibility to uphold the highest ethical standards and serve clients to the best of one’s abilities.  Let’s all resolve to be intentional lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A GIVING LAWYER - December 27, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


New to town, I showed up for a local bar association lunch meeting.  The five lawyers in the room told me that they just learned that the meeting had been cancelled.  The bar had not told the caterer, so we had our own bar meeting.  The manager gave us 95 packed meals, letting us know that the bar had paid for them.  We all agreed to give the meals to charity.  My new friends had very important things to get done that Friday afternoon, and I was left with 95 meals.

I had a new practice and needed that afternoon to get work done.  Perhaps I could quickly drop off the food to a local charity.  Three hours later, I still had the food.  Five different charities said no, as they did not know whether the food had been prepared in a licensed kitchen.  One kind church lady recommended that I visit her friend at a local homeless shelter.  Frustrated, I drove to the homeless shelter and met Sylvia. 

Sylvia grilled me on where the food was prepared, as she took great care in what she served.  She made a deal with me:  she would take the food, but only if I took a tour of the shelter and met the residents.  It was past four, and with the workday gone, I agreed.  This providential meeting changed my life for the better.  As I was leaving, Sylvia asked me to be on the shelter’s board.  I told her I would think about it, not really intending on joining.  That evening, I told my wife about my day.  She asked me, “Well, are you going to join the board and help Sylvia?”  My wife is the most generous person I know.  She encouraged me to become a giving lawyer.  I served over a decade on the shelter’s board, making many lifelong friends.  While I gave much time and money, I received much more back.    

In the legal world, where time is often measured in billable hours and outcomes hinge on precision and strategy, the concept of giving might seem like an anomaly.  However, being a giving lawyer is not only possible but also vital for the growth and well-being of our legal community.  Let’s explore the multifaceted dimensions of being a giving lawyer, emphasizing the importance of generosity towards fellow lawyers, clients, communities, families, and the legal profession as a whole.

One of the cornerstones of being a giving lawyer lies in extending a helping hand to fellow legal professionals.  Sharing knowledge, experience, and insights with peers fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning.  The simplest way to do this is just showing up to a local bar association meeting and becoming a member.  Every local bar needs giving lawyers to help.  There are many mentorship programs, such as The Florida Bar’s Counsel to Counsel program.  By nurturing a supportive environment within the legal community, we not only strengthen our collective knowledge base but also create a more robust and proficient legal system.

While it’s true that legal services come with a price tag, being a giving lawyer involves recognizing the needy in our community.  It means showing empathy, understanding, and compassion.  Organized pro bono service programs have a great need for giving lawyers.  Most local bar associations have affiliate pro bono legal aid societies that provide the infrastructure for giving lawyers to meet clients that need a lawyer.  There are also many regional pro bono legal service providers across Florida and the country that provide a great platform for giving lawyers to help those who have nothing and are truly in need.

A giving lawyer is not confined to the walls of a law office or courtroom.  They are an active participant in the community at large.  This can take various forms, from participating in local events to offering legal workshops for community members.  Engaging with the community not only strengthens our connection with society but also helps dispel the notion of lawyers as distant or unapproachable figures.  Additionally, community involvement can shed light on legal issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Being a giving lawyer extends beyond professional boundaries.  It encompasses the personal sphere as well.  Balancing the demands of a legal career with family commitments requires deliberate effort and a commitment to giving time and attention to loved ones.  This balance not only contributes to personal fulfillment but also enhances our effectiveness as legal practitioners.  A contented and supported lawyer is better equipped to serve their clients and contribute meaningfully to the legal community.

Our legal profession thrives when its members actively contribute to its growth and development.  This can involve engaging in bar association activities, participating in legal education initiatives, or even writing articles and sharing insights with the wider legal community.  By being actively involved in our profession, we not only stay updated with the latest legal trends but also help shape the future of our field.

There are rewards for being a giving lawyer.  The first reward is the feeling of accomplishment for helping others.  The Florida Bar also asks lawyers to commit to an aspirational minimum number of hours of pro bono service, which is reported by every lawyer each year.  The most prestigious recognition of a giving lawyer is the annual Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Award.  Each January, one giving lawyer from each of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits is recognized and praised at the Florida Supreme Court.

Embracing generosity is the essence of being a giving lawyer.  Let us remember that in giving, we receive so much more in return.  The gratitude of a client, the camaraderie of fellow lawyers, and the satisfaction of knowing we have made a positive impact in our communities – these are the true rewards of being a giving lawyer.  Let us be generous with our time, our expertise, and our hearts, and in doing so, let us collectively elevate the legal profession to greater heights of integrity and excellence.  Let’s all resolve to be giving lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A THANKFUL LAWYER - November 16, 2023 by Jim Vickaryous


Thanksgiving gives us all an opportunity to take time to think about what we appreciate.  Recently, I welcomed my 30th year of being a lawyer.  It got me thinking, what was going through the minds of my clients in my early years when they hired a young and unexperienced lawyer?  I was still finding my footing and learning the ropes in the initial years of my career as a lawyer.  I am grateful and deeply thankful for each and every client that hired the young and inexperienced me.  What they didn’t get with regard to experience, I tried to make up for in enthusiasm and hard work.  Without all of those wonderful people that gave me their problems to deal with, I would not be the experienced lawyer I am today.  With over three decades in the legal profession, my journey has been adorned with invaluable lessons, meaningful relationships, and a deep sense of gratitude.  I find myself drawn to the elements that have shaped my thankfulness:  the trust of clients, the enduring professionalism within our field, the benevolence of the judiciary, and the indispensable contributions of non-lawyers.

I remember an early client very clearly, like it was yesterday.  She was a very nice woman who had a matter that was on the trial docket in Broward County.  She didn’t think she had much of a chance of winning.  I thought I could pull it off and told her, no guarantees, but I would try to win.  I remember walking out the door of the courthouse after losing the trial.  I was uncharacteristically silent (losing a trial has a horrible way of shutting you up).  I felt someone gently grab my hand.  I looked up and it was my client, smiling.  She told me not to take it badly, “I just needed someone like you representing me today – Thank you.”  Many clients will surprise you with their own gratitude. 

Amidst the complexities and challenges of the legal world, I am deeply grateful for the enduring professionalism that permeates our field.  It is a testament to the commitment of lawyers to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity.  This professionalism fosters an environment of mutual respect, trust, and collaboration among legal practitioners.  It reminds us that, at its core, the practice of law is about upholding justice and serving the greater good.  This foundation of professionalism is what sets the legal profession apart and instills a sense of pride in being a part of it.

The judiciary plays a pivotal role in ensuring that justice is served, and I am immensely thankful for the kindness and fairness that I have encountered in my interactions with judges.  Their dedication to upholding the rule of law and ensuring a fair and impartial legal process is commendable.  This benevolence not only makes the pursuit of justice more effective but also reinforces the belief in the integrity of the legal system.  It is a reminder that, despite the adversarial nature of legal proceedings, there is a shared commitment to uphold the principles of justice.  The system that judges face each day to move their docket is daunting.  They justifiably need to move cases.  But the kindness extended by most judges when issues come up that need more time is always appreciated.

In the demanding realm of law, the support of non-legal individuals cannot be overstated.  From family members who provide a foundation of emotional support to dedicated staff members who help navigate the intricacies of legal practice, their contributions are indispensable.  They alleviate stress, offer perspective, and enable the smooth functioning of our professional lives.  Recognizing their importance reinforces the understanding that legal practice is not a solitary endeavor, but a collective effort that encompasses a network of support.

Even in the midst of gratitude, it is important to acknowledge the less favorable experiences that have shaped my journey.  I am thankful for the difficult clients who have taught me invaluable lessons about discernment and professional boundaries.  They have illuminated the importance of aligning with individuals whose values and expectations align with ethical and professional standards.  These experiences serve as a reminder that, in our pursuit of justice, it is imperative to exercise discretion in choosing whom we represent.

Being a thankful lawyer goes beyond the surface of professional achievements, it reflects the profound impact that the legal profession has on our lives.  It is a recognition of the trust bestowed upon us, the enduring professionalism that characterizes our field, the kindness of the judiciary, and the indispensable contributions of non-legal individuals.  Embracing gratitude in our practice leads to a deeper appreciation for the privilege of serving justice and a heightened sense of fulfillment in our roles as legal advocates.  In cultivating gratitude, we move beyond entitlement and find true contentment in the meaningful work that we do.  Let’s all resolve to be thankful lawyers. 

Published by The Florida Bar.

BE A CHOOSY LAWYER - October 10, 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 motto 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

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.

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.