Attorney at Law Magazine Miami Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with 2019 Superstar Kansas Gooden of Boyd & Jenerette to discuss her career, her inspiration, and her plans for the future.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Gooden: After playing nationally competitive junior, collegiate, and amateur golf, I was preparing for LPGA Qualifying School. It had always been my dream to play on the LPGA. Right before I was to turn professional, I decided to go to law school. I had never considered the career before that day. My family was shocked. A legal career seemed more stable than living out of my suitcase and playing for my paycheck. It was the right move and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Gooden: I have been very fortunate throughout my career to have several mentors and sponsors. I could write for hours about their impact on my career. I will focus only on one – Amy Ronner. She was an accomplished appellate attorney before becoming a professor. I took four of her classes in law school. She taught me the importance of the dissent (especially Scalia’s) and understanding different viewpoints and arguments. She encouraged me to become an appellate attorney and guided me through the process. She has remained a trusted career adviser and friend.
She taught me the importance of the dissent (especially Scalia’s) and understanding different viewpoints and arguments.”
AALM: What do you find most rewarding about your practice?
Gooden: I love the challenge of a case of first impression. I am fortunate that clients trust me to handle these matters on their behalf.
AALM: Thus far in your career, what are you most proud of accomplishing.
Gooden: I am most proud of earning board certification in appellate practice after only six and a half years of practice. The certification requirements for this area are strenuous and being able to meet them in such a short time period is a feat. I now serve on the committee that writes the test and evaluates candidates. It is an honor to serve.
AALM: Tell us about an unusual incident from your career.
Gooden: I argued the first oral argument held in the main courtroom of the First District Court of Appeal’s new courthouse. The room was filled with press and onlookers. My case involved interpretation of an insurance statute and was a case of first impression. It is unusual for a young appellate attorney to be thrust into the spotlight – especially for his or her first oral argument.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
Gooden: Even though it is over 65 years old, Boyd & Jenerette is a modern firm. The firm employs a team approach to deliver superior client service. It focuses on technology to decrease fixed overhead costs and encourages remote and flex working. My entire team of appellate attorneys, including myself, work remotely. This encourages a diverse, as well as a happy, workforce. Over 60 percent of our attorneys are female and there are many women in leadership positions.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Gooden: My first appeal – Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Lewis, 14 So. 3d 1230 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). Before this case, I only handled insurance coverage and bad faith litigation. Our team successfully convinced the court to overturn the trial court’s order granting a new trial and to reinstate the defense verdict. The court held that a compulsory medical examiner may explain his or her opinions and is not confined to the exact wording of the expert report. While there have been many appeals since and some more important in the overall scope of the law, this case established my love for appellate practice.
AALM: What is the one piece of advice you would give to a student or young attorney who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Gooden: Learn to make yourself indispensable to your partners, law firm, and clients. This will help establish your role within your firm, provide job security, and help build your book of business.
AALM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Gooden: Two and a half years ago, I moved back to Miami after living in Jacksonville for many years. The Miami legal community welcomed me back with open arms. For this, I am grateful!