In the latest Florida Board Certified Lawyer of the Month feature, we sat down with Elaine D. Walter, chair of the appellate practice group at Boyd Richards Parker & Colonnelli in Miami, to talk about her practice.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney?
EDW: When I was working for the state of Pennsylvania as a university administrator, I knew I wanted to get an additional degree. The logical path was to get a doctorate in education. So what do I do? Quit work altogether and head to Miami for law school. When things needed to be taken care of at the university, they always called the lawyers …. I wanted to be the person they called.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way?
EDW: I’ve had so many amazing people help me along the way, from professors to mentors to colleagues. Terrance Anderson from the University of Miami taught me to get the best experience out of law school by taking a variety of classes and pushing my comfort level. Former Supreme Court Justices Kenneth Bell and Raoul Cantero showed me how to look at a case from all sides to get the best result. Fellow colleagues and appellate practitioners like Elliot Kula and Kansas Gooden act as an additional source of knowledge and support that I can tap into when analyzing a complex issue. I’m truly blessed to have encountered so many wonderful people along the way in my legal career.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
EDW: Honestly? My failures. I don’t mean losing a case or an appeal. Failure to me is an inability to see the bigger picture and realize what is important. My brother got married during my first year of private practice. I didn’t think I could attend his wedding 1200 miles away, because I was too busy with my career. Learning to balance work, family, and friends was the best lesson, ever.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about being an attorney?
EDW: I’d have to say getting some satisfaction for my clients. Whether I’m doing plaintiff or defense work, my clients deserve the best representation I can give them.
AALM: What do you find particularly challenging about your practice?
EDW: As an appellate attorney, I’m a specialist that people come to for help on a whole lot of subjects. Some I know, some I don’t. So I have to educate myself quickly.
AALM: How do you get up to speed quickly on a new subject matter?
EDW: By using the resources I’ve developed, and the ones my firm provides, wisely. If I don’t know something I need to know today, you can bet I will by tomorrow.
AALM: What first drew you to your firm?
EDW: My law school best friend was in house counsel for an insurance company. He was coming to Florida for mediations, and we planned to have dinner. He forgot that he also planned to have dinner with his counsel, Todd Boyd. After a dinner that started with crickets as an appetizer, I knew I wanted to work with Todd at some point. When my friend joined the firm as the executive director and they needed an appellate attorney, it was like writing on the wall.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
EDW: Much like the appetizer of crickets I had the first time I met my managing shareholder, the culture here is unpredictable and exciting.
AALM: Tell us about your fellow attorneys at the firm.
EDW: I have the privilege of working with some incredible people. Our named partners at Boyd Richards Parker Colonnelli, P.A. are dedicated and hardworking, but they still know how to have a good time. Our appellate practice group, which includes my partner Yvette Lavelle, are a great group of people professionally and personally.
AALM: How do you work together?
EDW: The thing about heading up the appellate group at a mid-size firm is that you work with everyone. Each attorney has their own way of doing things, and I’m there to do their appeals and support them at trial. That means things can get a little hectic sometimes, but we all come together to get things done and done well.
AALM: Are there any changes coming in the future that you’re excited about?
EDW: Retirement? Just kidding … that’s a long way down the road. I’m excited about a trend I am seeing. Lawyers seem to be collaborating more, whether that’s on joint amicus briefs, in co-sponsored continuing legal education, or within the defense and plaintiff bar. That collaboration is lending itself to familiarity between the folks on each side and better professional communications. I’d like to see that trend continue and grow.
AALM: What drew you to becoming board certified?
EDW: I’m a lifelong learner. Once I found out that there was this thing called board certification, I knew it was only a matter of time before I applied. The preparation for the exam and the knowledge gained were invaluable. Now, I have this great network of top notch experts that I call friends and whom I can call on to speak at a continuing legal education program, act as fees experts, and just reach out to for just about anything. I really can’t say enough about the board certification process, its results, and the enduring benefits.