Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville Publisher Tom Brady sat down with Holly Howanitz to discuss her career and mentors that inspired her.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Howanitz: I knew that I wanted to be an attorney since I was about 5 years old. I used to watch every episode of the show, “Matlock,” and tell people that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. I think I was drawn to litigation because I am competitive by nature and there are not many professional jobs out there where you get to compete and win.
AALM: How would you describe your practice? What is your main area of law? What drew you to that practice?
Howanitz: I practice civil litigation defense. A substantial portion of my practice is professional liability including medical malpractice, legal malpractice defense, and insurance agent errors and omissions. I also handle products liability and construction defect cases as well as some automotive and trucking matters. I like having some variety in my practice, and I think the most important thing to know is the mechanics of trying a good case. For my professional liability practice, I really enjoy working with the clients and trying to get the best outcome for them. As we all know, professionals have worked hard to build their careers and when they get sued it is very stressful for them. Helping them through the situation is very rewarding.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encourage you?
Howanitz: I have a lot of mentors within the firm and there are truly too many to name in this article. I just had my 10-year anniversary at Wicker Smith, so I started here as a very young lawyer. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from Rick Ramsey, who is one of the best trial lawyers in town. He has given me a lot of style pointers over the years and taught me a lot about working a case up for trial. I also really look up to Dick Ford, one of our managing partners from the Orlando office and Leslie McCormick, a partner in our Miami office.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Howanitz: I learn something new with just about every case I handle and definitely with every trial. Now that we have several young associates and junior partners in our office, I have learned and continue to learn a lot from mentoring and working with them. Interestingly, I think becoming a mom has helped me to become a better attorney as well. My husband, Jay, and I have a 4-year-old named Dutch. I have learned how to be more patient and also, by necessity, more efficient since he was born.
AALM: Tell us one of your funniest stories from your practice.
Howanitz: While it’s not necessarily a funny story, it’s an interesting story. I got the job at Wicker Smith 10 years ago after I met Rick Ramsey on a flight to Tampa. I was going to argue a motion to dismiss and he was sitting next to me on the plane. He asked me to pretend he was the judge and make my argument to him. He said he thought I would win – and I did end up winning. A few months later, I called him and said I would like a job. Fortunately, he remembered me and brought me in for an interview the next week. I always tell this story as an example that it’s important to carry yourself well at all times as you never know what opportunities you will run into.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Howanitz: I enjoy spending time with my husband, Jay, and our son, Dutch. We are annual pass holders at Disney World and really enjoy going to the parks. We also enjoy traveling as a family. Dutch is young, but he already has a couple of stamps on his passport.