Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville Publisher sat down with Jesse Wilkison to discuss his practice and what he hopes to accomplish in the future.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney?
Wilkison: In high school, I volunteered for a juvenile offender diversion program called Teen Court. The idea was to have teenagers fill the roles of attorneys and a jury in sentencing hearings, where defendants would get their records expunged if they complete all the program’s requirements. I would go in to the local courthouse every Tuesday night and volunteer as an attorney. I really enjoyed playing a criminal defense attorney, and decided that one day I wanted to do the real thing.
AALM: How would you describe your practice? What is your main area of the law? What drew you to that practice?
Wilkison: We do about 60 percent criminal defense work and 40 percent civil rights litigation. I always liked the idea of doing criminal defense work, and civil rights law provides a nice complement to it. In both situations, you are using the legal system to keep government abuses in check and help people who are in a vulnerable position.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encourage you?
Wilkison: One of the benefits of working at Sheppard, White, Kachergus, & DeMaggio is getting to learn from some of the most accomplished and intelligent attorneys in the state. Mr. Sheppard makes it a priority to mentor his associates. For every roadblock that I hit in one of my cases, he always seems to have an answer and an entertaining “war story” to go with it. Th e entire legal team here is high caliber, and everyone has their own specialty. It is a phenomenal environment to learn the practice of law.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Wilkison: I haven’t been around long enough to have a career-defining case. However, the evening before I started as a law clerk, Mr. Sheppard and Ms. White invited me to their house and asked if I wanted my first case to be an appeal for a man who was facing a 120-year sentence for aggravated assault or the challenge to Florida’s same-sex marriage ban. The fact that they trusted me – as a law student – with these important cases was a huge honor and set the tone for the type of work I would have the privilege of doing here.
AALM: What do you most enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Wilkison: I am an archetypal nerd. Anything geeky you can imagine, from science fiction to Dungeons and Dragons, I am probably in to.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Wilkison: I am trying to hone my abilities and one day be as skilled as the people I work with. I’d like to one day be the type of attorney who can get results out of cases that most attorneys wrinkle their noses at or think are impossible.