Scott Kirk Talks About His Love For Litigation and Trial Work
Scott Kirk Talks About His Love For Litigation and Trial Work
For more than 30 years, Scott Kirk, a partner in RK’s Orlando office, has represented a wide variety of clients in the areas of commercial trucking litigation and casualty defense. Scott talks about litigating, his mentors, career highlights, and some of his favorite places to travel and relax.
While his older brother, Bud Kirk, is one of the firm’s founding partners, Scott gives Thom Rumberger the credit for convincing him to join the firm in 1982. In the early years, Scott says he worked mostly with Thom Rumberger and Dick Caldwell, the other founding partners of the firm who he says were a big influence on him. “Although we’ve worked for the same firm all these years, Bud’s focus has been primarily automotive and product liability whereas I’ve worked more in civil litigation,” said Scott.
Scott said his first mentor was defense counsel John Bussey, who hired Scott after he graduated from Stetson Law School. “We represented one of the major insurance companies at the time and were in court a lot, which was an excellent training ground,” remembered Scott. “Bussey was a great mentor because he did not micromanage the associates. He gave you a caseload and allowed you to make your own decisions and evaluations,” said Scott. “He gave me a lot of responsibility and I’ve made it a point to do the same with the associates that have worked with me over the years.”
“RK has been a great place to work,” said Scott. “There are a lot of really good people who enjoy working together and that has made it a unique place to be. From the beginning, Thom insisted on everyone being respectful of each other and over the years that has largely held true,” Scott noted.
Currently, there is just one other set of family lawyers working at RK. Jesse Evans, a partner in Birmingham, and his son Martin, an associate in Birmingham, work together in that office. More frequently family members have worked in various staff positions. “Both my son and daughter spent time working for RK,” said Scott. Despite the fact that the firm has more than tripled in size since Scott was in an administrative role many years ago, it has maintained a family atmosphere.
When asked about his career highlights, Scott said being recognized by his peers for the quality of his work was very gratifying. Last November, he was recognized by the American Board of Trial Advocates, Central Florida Chapter as the Defense Trial Lawyer of the Year. In March, Scott was inducted into the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.
While it’s not the first time Scott’s been recognized by his peers and the community for his advocacy and trial skills, these organizations represent the very best of the trial bar. For instance, Fellowship in the College requires careful investigation ensuring those experienced trial lawyers inducted have mastered the art of advocacy and have demonstrated the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality in their careers.
Scott notes that despite all of the changes over the years, he still prepares pretty much the same. “You need to tell a story to the jury and be quick on your feet when things don’t go as planned,” said Scott. “You cannot go to trial and expect it to go the way you think. For instance, I prepared for a case last year and we had thought about the kind of jurors we wanted and not one existed on the 30-person panel, so you have to be ready to think on the fly and go in another direction. There are so many variables that come into play and can affect the initial plan,” he continued. “From considering every question for every witness and anticipating every potential argument, preparation is key.”
“And, of course, both sides are competitive and things get intense, but it’s best if you can be collegial with the opponent and keep things civil and professional,” he added.
The use of technology has had the biggest impact on the way work is accomplished over the years. “When I first began working in 1976, I would be given a few minutes before the jury was selected. I had a questionnaire with just a few basic questions such as, ‘Have you been convicted of a crime?’ or ‘Where do you work?’” remembered Scott. “Today we’re able to spend much more time choosing the jury and technology, especially social media, has played a major role in learning about the jurors.”
Scott admits that he truly enjoys every aspect of litigating and always knew he wanted to do trial work. “There is a certain routine to the work, but the clients and their situations vary. I enjoy hearings and depositions, interviewing people and getting to understand the intricacies of a case,” said Scott. “That’s always what’s interested me.”
In addition to litigating, Scott says he enjoys addressing students about the practical aspects of practicing law. “My advice to students is that they must demonstrate professionalism, integrity and courtesy and maintain these standards. Judges will learn quickly about your level of professionalism, your integrity, and how courteous you are,” said Scott. “I also advise them that as lawyers, they are paid to advise clients and not to allow clients to make legal decisions.”
Scott admits the practice of law has changed over the years with more of an emphasis on business, but he says there must be an emphasis by older lawyers on professionalism.
Like many Floridians, Scott finds spending time on the ocean to be therapeutic and relaxing. “I enjoy the beach. I kayak a bit and try to fish as much as possible. When you’re out in the boat, it’s easy to leave the problems on land behind and be in the moment,” he said.
And, while Scott has spent his entire life in Central Florida, he notes he’s had many opportunities to travel both for work and for pleasure. It’s no surprise that Scott finds beach locations among his favorite places to travel. He has visited Belize three times where he enjoyed fishing each time, but he also enjoys attending the theater making San Francisco, New York and London some of his favorite cities to visit.
“One of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen was “The Breath of Life” starring Maggie Smith and Judy Dench. To see them live on stage was quite memorable,” said Scott.
At the heart of it all, Scott says he is grateful for the time he has with his son and daughter. His son is working and attending school while his daughter and her husband have three sons under the age of four.