Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with E. Holland Howanitz to discuss her life and career as well as her aspirations for the future.
AALM: What drew you to a career in the law?
Howanitz: I first knew that I wanted to be an attorney when I was about 5 years old. I remember watching the show “Matlock” and claiming that I wanted to be a trial lawyer when I grew up.
AALM: Tell us a little about your philosophy when it comes to your practice. Do you have a personal motto?
Howanitz: My personal philosophy is to never stop learning and getting better. I have the opportunity to litigate some very interesting cases and I love learning something new every day.
AALM: Tell us about one of the most important lessons you learned from a personal or professional mentor.
Howanitz: Over the years, I have learned a lot from the older partners at Wicker Smith. I’ve learned that it is very important to carry yourself well at all times as you never know who is watching. I have also learned not to get too upset over disagreements with opposing counsel and not to take disputes personally. We work in an adversarial practice and conflicts here and there are just part of the job.
AALM: What is the most important lesson your parents (or parental figures) taught you?
Howanitz: Growing up, I was always encouraged to set goals. I think setting goals and laying out a plan as to how to achieve those goals is important in the practice of law, and in life.
AALM: How is your practice today different from how you envisioned it in law school?
Howanitz: When I went to law school I initially thought I wanted to do criminal work. After doing an internship at the Public Defender’s office I learned that criminal work was not for me. I am much better suited for Civil Litigation.
AALM: What drew you to your current firm? OR What compelled you to start your own practice?
Howanitz: Our firm has a wide variety of practice areas and we are known as trial attorneys. I enjoy having the opportunity to work on a few different types of cases and I enjoy the courtroom.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of your firm?
Howanitz: I would call us efficient and energetic.
AALM: Tell us about a single case that has significantly impacted you personally or professionally?
Howanitz: Several years ago I tried a breach of warranty and product defect case in Federal Court in Maryland. In order to prepare for trial I had to learn about the manufacturing and design process for some large complex machinery that I had no previous knowledge of. We ended up getting a very good result. That trial was a great experience for me as it was my first trial as lead counsel rather than second chair and I developed confidence in my ability to pick a jury, open and close as opposed to just handling witnesses during trial.
AALM: As technology changes the practice of law, how are you adapting? Do you believe these changes are good or detrimental?
Howanitz: Our firm is constantly adapting to technological changes by upgrading different aspects of our system and also making necessary changes for cyber security. We are also adapting to expectations of jurors in terms of our presentation of demonstrative material at trial. I believe the changes are positive overall.
AALM: What are some of the challenges you see negatively impacting the judicial system?
Howanitz: Our judges are very busy with large case counts and I think this presents challenges for the judges as well as the practitioners with cases before them.
AALM: Tell us about a book, movie or event that changed your perspective on the practice of law or your approach to life.
Howanitz: The recent documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsberg sparked my interests in learning more about the history of women in the work place and, in particular, in the legal profession. Although there has been a lot in the news recently about gender bias in the legal profession (which is still very real) it was very interesting to me to step back and research all of the progress made for women in the workplace throughout the past 50+ years.
AALM: Tell us about your ambitions for your career. Do you plan to stay with your firm? Certain goals in mind? Are you looking to jump to the corporate track or move to the bench?
Howanitz: My firm has always rewarded my hard work and I love the work that I do here. I plan to continue doing what I’m doing.
AALM: What are you most proud of professionally and personally?
Howanitz: From a professional standpoint, I would say I’m most proud when I see the attorneys who I hired as law clerks or associates progress and turn into great lawyers. They do most of the work themselves but I will take partial credit for mentoring. Personally, I would say I am most proud of my 6 year old son.
AALM: Tell us about your life outside the law.
Howanitz: My husband, son and I love exercising, visiting the local shops and restaurants in San Marco and going to Amelia Island on weekends. We really enjoy travel (when we have the time).
AALM: Tell us about your community involvement.
Howanitz: My husband and I participate in events to support our son’s school. We also love attending charity events for some of Jacksonville’s wonderful local non-profits such as Rethreaded, Girls, Inc., and the Malivai Washington Kids Foundation. Both my husband and I spent a lot of time serving on boards for various nonprofits before we had our son.
AALM: At the end of the day, what makes you happiest professionally and personally?
Howanitz: Personally, I enjoy spending time with my family the most, preferably at the beach. Professionally, I really love seeing a happy client at the end of a case.