A Closer Look at Jack Weiss
09.24.18 | Permalink
Jack Weiss has dedicated his career of more than four decades to professional responsibility. When he’s not representing bar applicants, lawyers or judges in bar disciplinary proceedings, Board of Bar Examiner admission cases and JQC proceedings, you’ll likely find him enjoying the tranquility and peace of nature. He talks about a few of the most fulfilling aspects of his career and how he spends his time unwinding.
Jack came to professional responsibility at the very beginning of his career working for The Florida Bar. “I prosecuted lawyers for unethical conduct, gave ethics opinions, and served as counsel and staff liaison for numerous bar committees. When I left the bar after nine years, I was chief trial counsel for the grievance department and set my sites on devoting my private practice to professional responsibility. In the mid-80s, I was the only lawyer in the state whose practice was dedicated solely to professional responsibility,” noted Jack.
“Over the years, I’ve seen a huge variety of cases. If you can imagine a situation where a lawyer got into trouble, I’ve probably represented that lawyer,” he said.
“Lawyers today aren’t any less professional than they were 40 years ago,” said Jack. He remembers when he was first admitted in 1974 hearing senior lawyers complaining about the professionalism of new attorneys as opposed to when the senior lawyers were admitted. “But, young lawyers today do not get the guidance they got in earlier years. There was a lot more peer pressure and mentoring, even if informal, than there is today. He points to the number of lawyers in practice today, over 100,000 as opposed to less than 19,000 in 1974, as the primary reason for the lack of guidance.
“When I came to Tallahassee, most lawyers in practice more than 10 years knew each other, and the judges knew most of the lawyers in town who had been practicing any length of time. It’s just not that way anymore,” he explained.
The highlight of Jack’s career came when he was recognized by his peers in 2014 with the Charles W. Kettlewell Legal Advisor Award from the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL). “This award was particularly meaningful, not only because I was recognized by my peers, but because I was recognized for my legal ethics,” he said.
One of the most rewarding experiences of Jack’s career was his service on the board of directors, including a term as chairman of Legal Services of North Florida, a federally funded legal aid provider. “We were able to provide access to the courts to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” he said.
As one of the founders, Jack has been active with APRL since its first meeting in February 1990, He has watched APRL grow from about 25 members to almost 500; including lawyers representing lawyers, law school professionalism professors and malpractice defense lawyers.
Jack speaks frequently at seminars about ethics, lawyer discipline, bar admissions and professional responsibility. One seminar he participated in, jointly sponsored by APRL and the State Department of the United States in June 2000, took Jack all the way to Fudan University School of Law in Shanghai, China.
“It was an extraordinary experience. I was surprised at the openness with which faculty discussed the shortcomings of the legal system, even with communist party members present,” remembered Jack. “In addition, there was a philosophical difference between China and the United States. In foreign corporate disputes, the importance of national interest would impact the outcome of the case in China,” he said. After the seminar, I took a 5-day vacation to Beijing and was very impressed with the vibrancy of the people.”
Jack worked for most of his career as a sole practitioner and joined Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell two years ago. “Richard Greenberg, a partner in the Tallahassee office, and I have been friends a long time. He does a lot of professional responsibility work and it felt like the right fit for me,” explained Jack. “Everyone welcomed me into this incredibly wonderful family known as Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell,” said Jack.
“It’s great to be able to talk with my fellow lawyers about my issues and theirs and I’ve also developed some good friendships,” he continued. One of the legal assistants at the Tallahassee office and Jack formed an informal book club. Jack reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy, as well as history and noted that one of his favorites is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. “I really enjoy reading about imaginary worlds created by the authors.”
Jack and his wife have been calling Tallahassee their home for more than 40 years. “We met when we were working at the University of Florida law school library. She wasn’t a law student, but I always said that if we hadn’t met there, we’d have met at a game,” laughed Jack. “We agreed that we’d stay in North Florida after we were married. I took my first job here in Tallahassee and we are still here 44 years later.”
A die-hard Gators fan, Jack notes that UF is the only school in Florida, and maybe in the U.S., that’s won national championships in football, baseball, basketball and track.
Jack enjoys spending time outside and Tallahassee is the perfect place to do so with its rolling hills and canopied roads of moss-draped oak trees.
“We love the seasons here and there is just so much to do,” said Jack. He likes to spend his free time taking care of his yard, gardening and fishing. “When I’m fishing, it’s very relaxing for me. There’s absolutely no stress.”
Jack served on the Board of Directors for Bird Song Nature Center in Thomasville, Georgia for five years. The center sits on 565 acres of wildflower meadows, forests, ponds and swamps and offers a home to a myriad of birds and other wildlife. “It’s a wonderful, peaceful place where you can see a huge variety of birds and other critters that you don’t see in suburbia,” noted Jack.
Jack also spends time fly fishing in North Carolina and says he and his wife travel there about once every other month to visit with two of their three children who live there. “In addition to our daughter and son-in-law in Asheville, we also have a daughter and son-in-law and new grandchild living in Winston-Salem and a son in Orlando,” explained Jack.
Over the years the Weiss family has spent a lot of time kayaking and canoeing as well as whitewater rafting. “I’ve kayaked the Nantahala, canoed the Chattooga and rafted the Ocoee and the French Broad,” said Jack.
He and his wife enjoy traveling together and have been to Europe on five occasions, to South Africa and have traveled extensively throughout the U.S, Canada and Mexico. “Really, though, the ideal vacation for us is one where at least one of our kids is with us,” said Jack.
You can tell Jack is very proud of his kids and their accomplishments, but he’s most excited about his new role as grandfather. His first grandchild was born on July 3, 2018. “Kathy and I are completely besotted with the newest member of our family. There is no doubt in our minds that she is the most beautiful baby born in the history of mankind,” he said.
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