Barry Newman is a partner in the firm Spohrer and Dodd, and has been a member for more than 19 years. His primary focus is on aviation law, maritime and transportation accidents, premises liability and products liability claims. He has represented plaintiff s and defendants in aviation-related claims arising across the United States, as well as in West Africa, Afghanistan, Kenya, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney?
Newman: I always considered law school but never intended to be an attorney. I was too busy with my career and family here in Jacksonville to attend UF or FSU. Once upon a time, about 21 years ago, I met my friend, Ann Zonderman, who was retiring from the nursing profession and was starting her first semester in Florida Coastal School of Law’s inaugural class. The next morning, I applied. One sunny Spring day about three years later, the admin told me I was done. I took the Bar, passed and the rest is history.
AALM: What drew you into litigation?
Newman: I was with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and felt like the background lent itself to the career. I was getting too fat, old and slow to catch suspects.
AALM: Who is your current mentor? What is the best lesson they’ve taught you so far?
Newman: Easy call, my law partners and my Paralegal, Shanna Laurin, and prior Paralegal turned Attorney, BJ Taylor, who taught me humility, patience and perseverance and how to practice law.
AALM: Who are some of your legal heroes? Why?
Newman: In addition to my partners, Attorneys Barry Zisser and Bernie Nachman are the two amazing people who urged me to go to law school. I erased both of them from my will for that.
AALM: How did you envision your career unfolding while an undergraduate or law student? How has your career path differed from those ambitions?
Newman: I presumed I would be wildly famous, rich and retired by now. Apparently, I need to play the lottery more often.
AALM: What drew you to your current firm? How would you describe the culture there?
Newman: Our firm focuses on Aviation Law. My background as an airplane and helicopter pilot gave me an advantage. The firm’s culture can be best explained through a story. Last year, we were referred a case involving a U.S. Marine who was severely injured in a night parachute jump accident due to the negligence of a cohort. Though it was immediately evident that any claim would be barred by the Feres doctrine, which immunizes the military from claims by its active duty members, our senior partner, Robert Spohrer, dispatched two of our partners to meet with the family and ensure that all of their questions were answered.
AALM: Of the cases you’ve worked on, what has stood out most in your mind?
Newman: We handle extremely complex matters. Two stand out. The first involved two small children fatally injured by a defective Chinese toy. It was Steve Browning’s case, but I was involved in the litigation. Both of us being fathers, the tragedy weighed heavily on us and neither of us will ever forget the tragedy.
On my very first day as a law clerk, I was asked to analyze subject matter, personal jurisdiction, foreign sovereign immunity, venue, forum and choice of law after our Florida client, who was hired in Seattle for a company jointly owned by Boeing and the King of Saudi Arabia and trained in South Carolina, insured in New York, and was injured in an aviation-related accident in Saudi Arabia. Let’s see if Siri can answer that one.
AALM: Working with senior partners, what is a trait they have that you would like to carry through to the next generation of lawyers?
Newman: I am always amazed at their ability to be fearless; to see the big picture; to overlook challenging facts; bad law, empty pockets and, at times, our own client’s comparative fault, to obtain a good result.
AALM: What experience in the courtroom has taught you the most about being a good litigator? Newman: Very simply, every experience in the courtroom; win, lose or draw, teaches us to be good litigators. There is no substitute.
AALM: Tell us about your ambitions for the future of your career?
Newman: I love my job. But, I would ultimately like to become a County Court judge so that I could help people in an area of law that is “people-based,” and not super-saturated with lawyers against lawyers.
AALM: What are you most proud to have accomplished thus far?
Newman: I have enjoyed many cases where I have added significant value over the offers made prior to my retention through diligence, creativity and/or strategic advocacy. Even more rewarding were the times I obtained favorable results in aviation, maritime or trucking claims that were rejected by other lawyers in those practice areas.