There is a certain responsibility that comes with the practice of law. In my time talking to attorneys over the years, I would say that this is a common aspiration the community shares – to do well with the knowledge and power they wield with a Juris Doctor.
This year, we wanted to highlight an attorney who has not only fulfilled her civic responsibility as an attorney to represent her clients fairly but has taken on the duty of working for a nonprofit toward the betterment of the whole. In the past few years, Pamela Higer-Polani has been recognized as a Woman of Distinction, as a Leader in Law and most recently as a Volunteer of the Year.
She has certainly earned these distinctions. As a young girl, Higer-Polani, accompanied her older brother, Michael Higer, to the University of Miami law stacks. After he became an attorney, his commitment to his clients and colleagues impressed upon her the ethics and dedication necessary to be an attorney. Today, as president-elect of the Florida Bar, Higer continues to inspire and encourage his younger sister.
Following her graduation from the University of Florida, Higer-Polani gained a wide view of the practice of law – from interning at the State Attorney’s Office to working as an operational manager and in house counsel for an Israeli tech company. “These positions required different legal viewpoints,” she said. “They each brought a new perspective to my private practice in Florida.”
It was her time practicing law with Tel Aviv attorney, Dan Offer, that really shaped her approach to the practice of law.
“He patiently taught me not only legal and vernacular Hebrew, but also demonstrated how best to approach opponents and colleagues,” she said. “Dan’s approach to the law encompassed a sense of wit, confidence and composure that I often try to emulate. Dan emphasized that civility and respect needed to be a core of every legal practice.”
Today, Higer-Polani makes good use of Offer’s teachings in her solo practice. She offers clients “concierge” services ranging from estate and trust planning to business formation. “I look at my practice as a way to provide personalized service to my clients with an emphasis on oldfashioned values.”
One of the unique traits of Higer-Polani’s practice is the home visit. “Just like the old-time doctor visits, I will make house calls if needed,” she said. “This dedication has proven beneficial time and again. Firstly, busy professionals didn’t have time during the work week to visit me. That’s when I began building the concierge- end of my practice, visiting clients at home and on weekends to ensure their estate plan reflects their lives.”
This personalized service has not only allowed Higer-Polani to make herself available to clients’ schedules, it has allowed her to see a window into her clients’ lives. “I had an appointment with a man who wanted to establish an estate plan for his mother,” she recalled. “They both met me in the office. After they left, I had a strange feeling, so I arranged a followup appointment with the mother at her home. As I suspected, the condition of her home and behavior indicated she was suffering from dementia. Her son was attempting to take advantage of the situation to benefit his own needs. Had I not visited her home, I wouldn’t have been able to uncover the truth.”
Higer-Polani’s exposure to the elderly has brought a heightened awareness of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to her practice, she seeks to emulate her legal hero, Alan Dershowitz, by making a large impact on the community as a whole.
“Alan strives for justice without compromising his own value system,” she said. “He strongly advocates and supports many causes, including the state of Israel, all while maintaining an incredible career as a law professor and defender of civil liberties.”
Higer-Polani takes her lead from Dershowitz through her involvement in the Alzheimer’s Association. “My community service sets me apart,” she said. “I strive to incorporate my philanthropic expertise into my law practice. I believe my work with the community makes me a more compassionate and understanding advocate for my clients.”
After several years of participation and support for the Alzheimer’s Association, Higer-Polani stepped up to the plate.
“I encouraged the headquarters of the Southeast area to expand its walks and to address the needs of the people living in that area. As a native Floridian, raising two children, I am beyond concerned with the economic and emotional toll this disease has placed on my beloved state. Together, my committee and I work tirelessly to help ensure we save one memory at a time.”
As chairperson of the Boca Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Higer-Polani is pushing the envelope to spread the word. Unlike most diseases, Alzheimer’s is on the rise. It is now one of the leading causes of death in the United States. To help raise awareness about this disease and its affect on the elderly, the Alzheimer’s Association invites all members of the community to join in their walks for free.
“In south Florida, the impact of this disease is higher than its national devastation,” she said. “Thirty-five percent of the people over 65 in south Florida have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That is four times the national average. One in 11 men and one in every six women over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”
While, Higer-Polani spreads awareness about Alzheimer’s, she is also growing her practice. “I plan to expand and take on a partner as well as a larger office soon,” she shared. “With that growth, I hope to reach more clients and ensure they are treated with that dedicated service they require.”