Scott Sarason Reflects on 30 Years of Practicing Law, What it takes to be a Great Lawyer and How RKC is Different from other Firms

05.29.14 | Permalink

In my 30 years of practicing law, I’ve only worked with two firms and I’ve been lucky enough to merge the specialties of both firms into the work I do each day. I worked at the first firm while in law school and then was hired as an associate upon graduation from the University of Miami Law School. It was a small firm specializing in maritime law. I spent four years working there; getting a strong foundation in what would become a large part of my practice. After joining Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in 1987, I crafted my skills in product liability as the firm specializes in that area of law. Thankfully, I could merge these two specialties and work in both areas on boats, engines, personal watercraft, cruise lines and shipping companies to name just a few of the industries I’ve been able to work over the years. My product liability work has evolved and continues to include maritime and personal watercraft, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned and applied it to a variety of other vehicles and products from motor cycles and side by sides to table saws, cranes and trucks. Over the years, my practice has grown to encompass commercial litigation, securities claims, premises liability, construction litigation and professional liability cases. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in lots of different areas of law and that variety is really a big part of why I enjoy what I do.

The cornerstone to what I enjoy most about my work is that I truly enjoy the opportunity to keep learning and growing every day. In product liability, you are constantly learning about new products. To be a successful product liability attorney, you must become an expert and understand everything about the product—how it is designed, manufactured, tested and used by real people in the real world. This keeps my work exciting, challenging and rewarding.

Because I defend clients in state and federal courts in Florida and across the United States, I work with judges, attorneys and people throughout the country. While I am not particularly crazy about the actual traveling, I am intrigued by getting to work with such a wide variety of people and have the chance to understand issues as they relate nationally and see how things are similar and different in other parts of the country.

I enjoy coming work each day to collaborate with a great team of skilled experts. Nothing is better than working with people you like and respect. Our teamwork makes us effective because we are all always learning from one another.

The most remarkable thing I’ve witnessed over the years is the overwhelming changes in technology and its effect on how we practice law. In my third year at law school, we had access to just one computer. I grew up in an era with carbon paper and books. Things have changed so radically. It’s a very exciting part of the practice. We are able to represent information to judges, juries and opposing counsel in ways so much more diverse than showing a poster board. And, we have the ability to carry the entire file on a machine that weighs less than 2 lbs. I absolutely keep up with and continue to learn about and use technology. We do still use ‘old school’ methods every now and then when it makes sense. In one case, we presented several photos on a poster board. We could have projected it one at a time on a large screen, but there was something about seeing it all there and being able to see it and touch it that made it more effective. Sometimes when presenting everything all electronically, that one piece of evidence stands out even more when presented differently.

Passion is the key to what makes one lawyer better than another. In my years of experience, I have come across many smart lawyers—many who are smarter than me—but the real distinction is that the ones who are best able to represent their clients are the ones who have passion for the work that they do. This passion is a strong part of the RKC culture. When I came here, it was the only place for me. I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I had met a couple of lawyers, seen them in action at the courthouse and hearings and saw that they were on the cutting edge of the work they did. It was a culture I didn’t have where I was working at the time and that I hadn’t seen in other law firms. I wanted to become a part of it.

We continue to develop our culture even through the newest members of the team. We believe that there is so much more to a fulfilling career than just being smart and working hard. We want to cultivate each generation of our lawyers to be passionate about being a trial lawyer while maintaining the highest standards of professionalism. The lawyers at RKC share a passion for the work they do, enjoy being challenged and are constantly learning. When people enjoy the work they do, they always do their best work. Would you rather hire the smart lawyer or the smart lawyer who cares and is passionate about the work he or she is doing?

We work hard and it is often stressful. It takes a lot of energy to be successful in this work and I’ve found that those who are passionate and enjoy the work can push through when things get difficult. As a partner, I have served the firm to help cultivate our culture and vision, and find that rewarding, but more than anything, I really enjoy the law work most of all. That is what keeps me motivated and working so hard all these years. 

My wife has been a great partner and her support has made it possible for me to put my time and focus into what I do because she knows how much I enjoy my work. My work can be demanding, taking me away for a trial in another state for as much as 16 weeks at a time. She’s been flexible and supportive, even on those occasions where we’ve had to cancel vacation. That support has meant the world to me. We met three years after law school and  she had a long and successful career as a court reporter before turning her focus full time to our children and her volunteer work. She volunteers at Miami Children’s hospital where our miniature dachshund works as a service dog and visits the children once a week. One time she jokingly told me that she hated lawyers during the day and not to make her hate them at night, too. It’s been a goal of mine to keep that promise.

Our oldest son graduated from Tufts University and is now at University of Miami School of Law.   I guess my passion for law has rubbed off on him, but he’s not following directly in my footsteps, as litigation is only one area he is considering. He focuses on business issues and negotiations and has worked in a variety of settings from university athletic departments to a firm representing musicians. Our second oldest son graduated from University of Florida and has a master’s degree in business administration. He works in finance for an accounting firm, and our daughter studies at Florida State University and just finished her first year. At Thanksgiving, you’ll see all three school’s flags flying at our house.

When the boys were growing up, I was very involved in their sports teams and leagues, helped coach and became president of the booster club for the baseball team. Our efforts have enabled us to build a ball park, pay for uniforms, insurance, equipment, and maintenance with the field. I still serve as president and enjoy being able to help these kids have somewhere to play.

My wife and I have raised our family in our home and truly enjoy spending time relaxing in our backyard and enjoying the beautiful Miami weather. Early in our marriage and when our boys were just one and two years old, we had the unfortunate experience of arriving home from a summer vacation in Aspen on the night before Hurricane Andrew hit Miami. As a New Yorker, I knew little about hurricanes and basically threw our lawn chairs in the pool and waited out the storm in a closet, huddled together. After the storm, we went outside and witnessed a heartbreaking amount of devastation and destruction. Because cell phones were not commonplace, yet, we had to go house to house to check on our neighbors. Our next door neighbor’s second story blew off their house and we lost our roof, windows, and front door. Luckily, we were able to repair and rebuild what was destroyed over the next year and have continued to live in our home to this day. Many of our neighbors have stayed in the community, as well and we have all become great friends over the years as we’ve watched our kids mature into adults. So, while we do vacation and spend time away from home, home is where I like to be most when I’m not working.

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