Attorney at Law Magazine asked criminal appellate attorney Rick Sichta of Sichta Firm to share some insight into his career and the unique approach he has taken to the practice of law.
AALM: What drew you to a career in the law?
Sichta: My mom. She always wanted to be a lawyer and then a judge, but sacrificed these aspirations to care for my brother and I. Later in life she became an emergency government director for a county in the state we lived, and excelled to the point she was invited to meet the acting President of the United States. She is and always will be my hero.
AALM: Tell us a little about your philosophy when it comes to your practice. Do you have a personal motto?
Sichta: Never, Never, Never Give up. This quote from Winston Churchill is equally applicable in Appellate law. Sometimes, it can take years to get relief in this field and having the mindset that you will succeed eventually keeps the desire to keep fighting always at the forefront.
AALM: Tell us about one of the most important lessons you learned from a personal or professional mentor.
Sichta: My first boss taught me that if you are nothing else in the courtroom, be courteous and professional in all situations. Let opposing counsel make themselves the fool with antics that usually mean their case is not as strong as yours, or that they are substituting competence for emotion.
AALM: What is the most important lesson your parents taught you?
Sichta: If you want something, visualize it before acting on it. My dad taught me this valuable lesson when I was boy, learning how to play baseball and pitch. This lesson transcended into everything I do in life, and two high school no-hitters and a college baseball career later, it obviously helped me with the game of baseball as well.
AALM: How is your practice today different from how you envisioned it in law school?
Sichta: It is completely different. There is so much strategy involved in the actual practice of law that is not covered in law school. From writing motions, appeals, negotiating, arguing in front of judges and justices, it is something that is difficult to learn and even more difficult to apply in real life.
AALM: What compelled you to start your own practice?
Sichta: In specializing in appellate law, I wanted to have the flexibility to travel and work wherever. I love my job and read case law for fun everyday, weekends included. I carry my computer everywhere and each case that comes out in Florida goes directly to my email on my phone, so I figured to try working remotely. I remember having to participate in a telephonic hearing for a case in Florida while I was caught in a sandstorm in the middle of Iceland. The vehicle I was in was violently shaking and all I remember was trying to act like nothing was wrong. After that I realized I could be competent at my profession anywhere that had cell phone service.
I remember having to participate in a telephonic hearing for a case in Florida while I was caught in a sandstorm in the middle of Iceland. The vehicle I was in was violently shaking and all I remember was trying to act like nothing was wrong.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of your firm?
Sichta: Family-based. My wife is my law partner and our firm’s of-counsel is a friend I have known for years. I suppose being so close has its pluses and minuses, for instance, we frequently talk about our cases at the dining table, working out, or virtually in any situation we find ourselves together.
AALM: Tell us about a single case that has significantly impacted you personally or professionally?
Sichta: That is hard question, but I will pick an exoneration of a man serving 45 years for a crime he was legally innocent of. I was asked by an attorney I respect to look into the case, and years later after accepting it and working a long time for free, we finally obtained relief. I also was teaching a course at the local law school and presented this case to my students, and they contributed greatly and were instrumental in the outcome as well. It takes a village sometimes.
AALM: As technology changes the practice of law, how are you adapting? Do you believe these changes are good or detrimental?
Sichta: For me, change in technology is great. I remember using a typewriter for letters and books for certain areas of case law research. Now everything is done electronically. In our earlier cases, we would have anywhere from 30-60 bankers boxes of material, which would literally fill up a whole room. Now, everything is stored on the cloud. It is a dream come true for an appellate attorney.
AALM: Tell us about your life outside the law.
Sichta: Life outside the law is as intense as it is practicing law. I love adventure and pushing myself to the limits. I have been to the first basecamp of Mt. Everest with a man my brother and I found in Tibet that did not speak English. I’ve rented a car and traveled around Turkey, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Iceland. My adventures have put me in some prickly situations, like being stopped by the Chinese Military Officers with machine guns because we were apparently not supposed to travel to a certain area, but what does not kill you makes you stronger, right?