A partner in the Miami office of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, Michael (Mike) Holt focuses his practice on product liability and commercial litigation. Here, Mike shares thoughts about his practice, his role as a mentor, and how he spends his free time.
Mike, tell us a little about why you chose to practice law and what led you to Florida.
I’ve always been interested in dispute resolution, especially while in high school and college. Although one of my majors at the time was journalism, I found myself more drawn to the legal process itself as opposed to writing about it. Eventually, I realized that I could become a lawyer and still write.
I went to law school in Minnesota, where I grew up. As I finished a judicial clerkship, I thought about where I wanted to be. At the time, my parents had just retired and were living in Ft. Pierce for half of each year. So I just decided to try something a little different and came to Florida, where I joined Rumberger 13 years ago. I never really knew whether I would stay here, but now I’m pretty settled in. The firm has a lot of great people, I get to work on some really interesting and challenging cases, and of course, I don’t have to scrape ice off my windshield in the winter or worry about frostbite.
You have developed a rather diverse legal practice. Can you tell us a little about your work and what aspects you most enjoy?
It sounds cheesy, but I’ve worn a lot of “hats” during my time here. I’ve been a commercial lawyer, a product liability lawyer, a dealer termination lawyer and even a “termite” lawyer. While most liability cases can be contentious, nasty and unpleasant at times, I really enjoy strategizing about the best way to attack a case and get the best possible result.
One pretty interesting and consistent aspect of my work in product liability is asbestos. Asbestos litigation certainly has changed over the years, but is still going strong. Today, we’re seeing more cases involving malignancies and secondary exposure claims. There has also been a transition toward identifying smaller industries as being at fault for exposure resulting in harm.
Ultimately, I find enormous satisfaction every time we bring in a big win for a client. But, I will have to say, I had the most “fun” with a case that was related to my passion for long-distance running. The case involved a tennis player who was also an attorney. He sued Reebok and the Sports Authority after breaking his ankle while wearing a pair of classic Reebok shoes. While defending the case, we hired a former science editor for Runners World as an expert witness. That was pretty cool. He was a no-nonsense guy and a great expert. The plaintiff’s expert owns a local running shoe store, so deposing him was also a lot of fun. The case was really interesting – and satisfying, the jury reached a defense verdict in just 14 minutes.
What is the secret to maintaining successful client relationships?
Good client relationships take a lot of work. The key is to build mutual respect. One of my mentors told me that making every client feel as if you are only working on their case is key, and I believe that. I also find that having something in common goes a long way – for instance, a lot of people run and being a long-distance runner provides a connection. Finding something of mutual interest to talk about really helps when nurturing relationships.
To what do you attribute your success?
I work hard and place a lot of focus on client success. But, I’ll also have to say that having had so many good, seasoned attorneys around who are willing to help younger lawyers learn and succeed has been special. Now I find myself paying it forward as I mentor our summer and new associates. I tell them to hang out with the lawyers who have been around a while and soak up everything they can.
Tell us a little about life outside the office.
As I’ve already mentioned, I like to run which is good because I have a five year old to keep up with and that’s a lot of fun.
An old buddy of mine got me into marathon running years ago. I’ve ran in some great races in places like Big Sur, Florence, Italy and even Duluth, Minnesota. Recently, a friend introduced me to “ultra running” – going on 50 to 100 mile runs. I have tagged along with him for some runs, recently completing 50 miles in the Keys 100 Ultra marathon. My friend actually ran the full 100 miles (and came in second overall) and I joined him for the last 50. The experience is totally different from a marathon. It is all about running slow as fast as you can. In the Florida Keys this year, there were no clouds – so no shade and 90-degree temperatures. I completed the 50 miles in nine and a half hours.