Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville Publisher Tom Brady sat down with Matthew W. Spohrer to discuss his legal heroes and the culture of his firm.
AALM: How would you describe your practice?
Spohrer: We focus on complex personal injury cases. We have a reputation for success in products liability, aviation cases, medical malpractice and insurance disputes.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encourage you?
Spohrer: Yes, our firm has a gruff old guy in the corner office who’s helped show me the ropes. Outside of the firm, Hugh Cotney always has interesting stories, and he’s got to be the friendliest attorney in Jacksonville.
AALM: Who are some of your legal heroes? Why?
Spohrer: I’m really impressed by my mom graduating law school the same year I graduated high school. She went on to help a lot of kids in foster care, group homes and the guardian ad litem process.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Spohrer: Tough cases have taught me the importance of not getting too stressed about things that are outside of my control.
AALM: What drew you to your current firm? How would you describe the culture there?
Spohrer: I like the variety in our cases. We tend to get involved in litigation that’s more technical, time consuming, or expensive than the average injury case. For example, we had a case involving a hyperbaric chamber for thoroughbred race horses that exploded due to a defect. We’ve had cases arising out of Kenya, The Bahamas, Spain, and two Afghanistan cases. As far as the culture at our firm, I think everyone at Spohrer Dodd understands that we have high standards for our work.
AALM: Are there any flaws in the legal profession that you see? If so, how would you fix them?
Spohrer: Well, Scott Turow might be onto something in his ABA Journal article, “The Billable Hour Must Die.”
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Spohrer: The TSA confliscated a deaf client’s cochlear implant hearing aid from her checked bag. TSA even left a notice of inspection with a handwritten note: “1 metal device removed.” The case came from JALA, and we were only ever asking for the replacement cost of the hearing aid. TSA refused to pay and claimed that they had been framed. We litigated against TSA in federal court for over a year, and I had to go through an FBI background check to participate in discovery. I’m happy to report that we won at trial. I have the TSA inspection note hanging in my office.
AALM: Tell us a funny story from your practice.
Spohrer: I’ve helped friends by going to traffic court a couple of times, but it’s pretty clear that I am out of my element. One time the judge misheard my request for a withhold of adjudication and said in front of the packed gallery “Ok, so when do you want this trial?” My alarmed response: “No, no, no! No trial!” Not surprisingly, no one in the gallery hired me to handle their speeding tickets.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Spohrer: My colleague Steve Browning got me into cycling. I’ve run into some other lawyers out there on the road, like Paul Shorstein and Judge Haag. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10. It’s a great diversion and there is always more to learn. I encourage anyone thinking about picking up an instrument to go take some lessons.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Spohrer: I like continuing to learn about areas of the law that I’m not familiar with. For example, I took a criminal case for the Public Defender’s Office and managed to win a motion to suppress an improper search. It’s fun to keep trying to be a little more well rounded in this profession.
AALM: What events are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Spohrer: Monster Jam