Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville Publishers Tom Brady sat down with Michael Orr to discuss his current law firm and mentors that inspired him.
AALM: What first drew you to the practice of law?
Orr: I have always found great joy helping people solve problems. I have an older sister who taught me a great deal. She was born with a heart condition that resulted in an emergency surgery immediately after birth. Doctors told my parents she would likely not live very long. My sister is still alive today and has faced many challenges in her life. She gives me confidence that I can overcome challenges by helping others face difficult or seemingly impossible odds. My parents instilled a relentless work ethic in me from a young age. With the inspiration I gained from my sister and the work ethic I gained from my parents, I have been equipped with the tools to do something very special.
AALM: Tell us about some of your mentors.
Orr: I have several mentors and could never name them all. In college, it was my close friend and the attorney I worked for, Michael Fox. In law school, it was Gerald Moran and Alexander Moody. In my career, it’s been Michael Obringer, Michael Decandio and my law partner, Carl Dawson. Also, Hank Coxe and Judge Gary Flower have been great mentors. The list could go on forever. Everyone has some experience I haven’t had, so I see them all as mentors. If I can draw from everyone’s experiences, there is no doubt I can accomplish anything.
AALM: What are some of your fondest memories while attending Florida Coastal School of Law? How does that apply to your career today?
Orr: I served as president of the Student Bar Association for two years and received a full scholarship for that service. The president position challenged me to see others viewpoints and then advocate for them. I do that now within the profession in leadership roles, and on a daily basis while representing clients. My participation in moot court also produced fond memories. Competing against other schools was a welcomed challenge. Coming from the No. 1 ranked moot court program in the country has also been a great tool for me. I have participated in many appellate arguments and the training I received served my clients and me very well.
AALM: What drew you to found your firm?
Orr: I worked for the Jacksonville office of a large firm based out of Philadelphia. After receiving a great deal of experience, I knew I wanted to venture out and start my own firm. I received critical advice from a good friend and client who recommended I meet with Carl Dawson. I had met Carl in passing once or twice, so I took the advice and made the call. In our first conversation, I was enthralled. At the end of our talk, he mentioned he had an open office right beside his office. I set up shop beside him. We soon realized that partnering up was worth a try. Seven years later, Dawson Orr is going strong. I have never regretted my decision. I’m lucky to learn from one of the greatest trial lawyers in Florida.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
Orr: We value each other and our work. Our firm has grown exponentially from three to 18 in seven short years. Everyone is passionate about the work and the effort it takes to resolve matters in our clients’ favor. We have an environment in which everyone can speak their mind freely. One of our paralegals recently recommended we get standup desks to be healthier, we went out and bought them. One of our managers believed everyone seemed stressed during a spike of new work, we scheduled a firm spa day. We react to suggestions and are vested in this firm. It has been incredible to watch it evolve.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Orr: When I accepted the nomination to become one of only five lawyers from Jacksonville since 1950 to serve as president of The Florida Bar young lawyers division, I was humbled. It was a very rewarding experience that caused me to interact with some of the most talented and exciting people throughout Florida.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Orr: This is an impossible question to answer. There are many things I want to accomplish “most.” One example is I want to do everything I can for our profession. I believe that the legal profession does more for people and the community than any other profession. I want to continue to highlight the good that lawyers do and change the perception of the public one person at a time.
I have been blessed in life and in my career. I want to thank my amazing wife and three children for continuing to make sacrifices so that I can continue to purse my vocation. I tell myself every day that I am lucky. I enjoy spending time with them. I suspect that in the very near future I will be spending most of my time attending sporting events for my kids.