“Never give up,” three words that describe not only the philosophy of The Sichta Firm, but the advice they share with their clients. Founded by husband and wife attorneys, Rick and Susanne Sichta, this Jacksonville firm is consistently recognized for their representation in criminal defense, post-conviction and criminal and civil appellate law.
Based on the Sichta’s respect and interminable belief in the process of our judicial system, their practice concentrates on a highly specialized area of the law.
“Our firm is focused on just one area of the law, which is appeals and post-conviction cases,” says Rick. “That makes us unique. We rarely take cases outside of that niche. However, within that scope is a wide and varied area that includes civil matters, sentences that were perhaps too harsh, or people facing charges they shouldn’t have.”
“It’s essentially like working a case in reverse,” adds Susanne. “If you’re a trial attorney you investigate everything and put on the best defense you can for your client. In our work we basically unpackage the case, review everything that happened and then revisit the investigation to determine whether it could have unfolded differently. It’s certainly a different kind of discipline.
“We work closely with experts,” she continues, “investigators and other attorneys. Having our own firm allows us to choose who the team players are going to be and who is going to be working with us. That’s been pretty rewarding and of course, proven beneficial to our clients.”
Because The Sichta Firm has handled a wide range of appellate and postconviction issues from the county court level to the United States Supreme Court, their client base is also representative of their experience, ranging from attorneys, to civil litigants, to defendants throughout the State of Florida.
“We get dozens of letters a month from people requesting our help, and while we cannot assist all of them, we do take the time to respond to all of them,” says Rick.
Ironically, the phrase “never give up” might just as easily apply to the seemingly preordained partnership between these two dedicated attorneys.
Growing up in a rural Wisconsin community of less than 2,500 people, Rick and Susanne attended the same high school, but after graduation they took divergent paths to pursue their education.
Rick left for Duluth to begin his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. A three-year letter winner on the University’s varsity baseball team, Rick was also first-team Academic All-Conference his junior year. After graduating cum laude, double majoring in criminology and sociology, he headed for warmer weather attending the Florida Coastal School of Law. There, Rick served as vice president of the Student Bar Association as well as serving on the organization’s Legislative Committee. He also consistently made the honor roll and was a Dean’s scholar.
Further expanding his law school experience, Rick spent time in Ireland and Belgium studying international criminal law and intellectual property law as part of the Tulsa University’s law school summer program. This experience lead to his desire to see the world, and among the many places he has traveled is the first base camp of Mt. Everest. Upon receiving his Juris Doctor, Rick joined a boutique law firm here in Jacksonville, where, at just 27 years old he made partner. He is board certified in criminal appellate law, and was the first private attorney in Jacksonville to obtain this certification.
Susanne first attended Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin where she graduated summa cum laude with a dual degree is writing and environmental studies. She then moved to Idaho and attended the University of Idaho College of Law for her Juris Doctor.
“My greatest ‘takeaway’ from law school was a respect for the law and the process,” she says.
Although Susanne’s father was a criminal defense attorney, she originally planned to focus her career on environmental law. However, a serendipitous social media experience changed not just her legal focus but the trajectory of her whole life.
“I was just finishing up my law degree when Rick reached out through social media,” she says. It was the beginning of not just a rekindled friendship but a romantic spark.
“Once we connected on Facebook everything moved pretty fast,” says Rick. “We were engaged a month later and Susanne moved to Jacksonville after graduating from law school.”
Her move to Florida also marked a new and growing interest in a different area of law, and yet one that was quite familiar.
“I found myself inextricably drawn to the world of criminal defense,” she says, “and began working with a defense firm in downtown Jacksonville.”
It didn’t take long for the couple to recognize that their interests meshed nearly as perfectly in the professional arena as in their personal connection.
OPEN DOOR POLICY
Making the decision to open their own law firm, while it came after significant consideration and planning, was in fact a very easy decision.
“We work well together,” says Rick. “We have different skillsets that complement one another. We wanted to do things our way and the way we think works best. Also, on another level, we did it for our children, our family. We knew we wanted to travel and have the flexibility and freedom to both be with our twin daughters.”
As it turns out, “freedom” is not as easy to come by as the couple envisioned, they both work very long hours, frequently losing track of time when immersed in a case. However, long before the pandemic made it the norm, the couple had essentially perfected their ability to work remotely.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve and an adventure,” says Susanne. “Having our own practice allows us the autonomy and the opportunity to design our own business model that not only best serves our particular clientele but also our lifestyle.”
“One of the primary reasons we wanted to be independent, is to have the ability to choose what cases we want to work on,” Rick adds. “We realized we’re not going to make as much money as we did when we handled a larger caseload, but we wanted to focus on those cases we really believed in.”
Both of these dedicated attorneys also have very strong feelings, almost a driving sense of obligation, to offer support and representation to those who otherwise might not be able to afford it. Despite the demand for their services, The Sichta Firm always seems to find time to carry a substantial number of pro bono cases.
“Our door is always open, regardless of whether people have money or not. It’s something that I believe is important to us and to our firm,” says Rick. “We are completely open to anybody, including other attorneys. Everybody has our cell phone numbers. Several times a week I’m trying to give good advice to attorneys by providing them case law or advice on trial strategies and hope I am offering something beneficial to them. People trust us to provide answers to their appellate questions, and it’s a great source of pride that we’re in a position to do that.”
Rick also started a Facebook page over a decade ago dedicated to providing pro bono services across the country. “We have over 2,000 members from all over the world with dozens of attorneys who are willing to lend a hand to people who cannot afford an attorney,” Rick says. “I never thought it would go anywhere, but thanks to a lot of professionals who like to give back to the community, the page has really taken off.”
“For me, the greatest reward is helping people navigate a difficult legal situation and getting a good result,” says Susanne. “Whether that means negotiating a lesser sentence, succeeding in a civil case, or vacating a conviction, ultimately my greatest joy in this profession is helping people who are in need.”
The greatest satisfaction for Rick is when all the parties in a case agree on an outcome for a deserving client. “It is a feeling that is difficult to put into words when everyone in a case comes together and ensures justice is done,” he says. “It is a humbling experience to be a part of because the parties know that person’s life is going to change forever.”