Commemorating a decade of successful representation of hundreds of families and contributions made to the community, the nationally prominent trial law firm Spohrer Dodd has much to celebrate. With an impressive 250 years of combined legal experience, they have been described as an “elite law firm with a deep bench of talent and experts.” However, according to founding partners Robert Spohrer and Roger Dodd, their success can be attributed not only to an exemplary group of accomplished, board certified attorneys, but a team that includes highly professional paralegals and a stellar support staff.
“Over the past 10 years, the firm has been successful in attracting the very best and brightest in the profession,” says Spohrer. “The firm is proud to be known as ‘the lawyer’s lawyers’ and we are often called on to represent attorneys or their families in complex injury or wrongful death matters.”
Building on their philosophy of “uncompromising responsiveness, accountability and trust,” Spohrer Dodd’s deep bench includes highly experienced advocates specializing in cases involving professional negligence, product defect, aircraft accidents, insurance and business disputes.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Spohrer Dodd is celebrating 10 years of growth and accomplishments, but the origins of this remarkable team go back much further; the roots firmly planted in mutual respect and friendship. It was more than 30 years ago that Spohrer Dodd first crossed paths, an auspicious encounter eventually culminating with their decision to join forces.
“Bob and I met at an advanced CLE in Gainesville, Florida,” says Dodd. “We enjoyed one another’s company and respected each other’s skills. Over the course of the next 18 to 20 years, we sent cases back and forth and shared advice. Then it got to the point where I wanted to open a second office. Bob and I were working on a case together providing the perfect opportunity to discuss my plans. One thing led to another, and we ended up partnering up in Jacksonville.”
“We all strive to provide excellent results for our client, while supporting our community and promoting professionalism and legal education,” says COO Steve Browning.
“We encourage our attorneys, paralegals, and other support staff that share our energy and tenacity in seeking the best possible outcome for each client,” adds Browning. “But beyond that, we want individuals whose interest in community and giving back are as enthusiastic as ours.”
The nine-lawyer firm opened its doors, and immediately received referrals from attorneys throughout the southeast. It was the foundation of what was to become a thriving and highly regarded law firm.
“The foundation of our practice from the beginning, has been co-counseling with other attorneys,” says Spohrer. “We take pride in that because it’s a very important responsibility. When a client goes to a general practice lawyer, or someone who might have another specialty, and they have a need for someone to develop, investigate and try their lawsuit, that attorney has a choice of hundreds of lawyers in Florida or in the southeast to send their clients to.
“So, from the beginning we’ve worked to develop a reputation that we’re the firm people can come to with their cases that may be too complicated or expensive for them to handle. We put a team together to develop that case, aggressively prosecute and represent the clients professionally.”
FIRM’S CURRENT WORK
Barry Newman is trying a helicopter crash case for tourists injured in Kenya. Keith Maynard represents families of the crew of an Army Apache helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan due to a defective Boeing component. Jay Howanitz represents residents of an assisted living facility who contracted Legionnaires’ disease due to defective plumbing systems. Gretchen Van Liere represents a woman who contracted a flesh eating bacterial infection that went undiagnosed or treated. Galen Bauer just completed a wrongful death medical negligence federal tort claim against Navy physicians. Matt Spohrer represents the family of a veteran killed when his powered wheelchair tipped over on him, crushing him to death. Steve Browning is representing a group of Midwest banks defrauded in a complex government loan scheme.
VISION BEYOND THE LAW
Success for this progressive firm has been significant in other ways as well, allowing them to become involved with many nonpro flot organizations and projects. As Dodd explains, “I’m very proud that the firm’s prosperity has allowed us to support our community and organizations within our community, not just financially but with services as well.”
“Our lawyers and their families make their homes in this community and we have an obligation to support it,” adds Spohrer. “I’m originally from New York, Roger is from Pennsylvania, so this is our adopted home and we’re very grateful for what it has given us and our families. We firmly believe it’s incumbent on all of us to give back and pay it forward.”
The list of just some of the community organizations and nonprofits the firm actively supports includes the Clara White Mission, Daniel Kids Foundation, Falcon Chapter Air Force Association, Southern Legal Counsel, N. Florida Foster Care Teenagers, Florida Supreme Court Historical Society, Heal Foundation, GRASP Academy, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and sponsoring events for local and state wide bar associations.
A source of particular pride for Spohrer Dodd is their ongoing support with professional education, specifically enhancing the skills of young lawyers.
“Roger Dodd is nationally acknowledged and respected as an expert on trial skills and cross-examination,” says Spohrer. “He’s renowned for his lectures and writings on the subject. On the day of our 10th anniversary he presented a CLE for 50 local attorneys on cross-examination skills. Each week, he’s speaking or lecturing somewhere around the country.”
Spohrer Dodd attorneys are also very involved in the education of younger attorneys through the firm’s continuing legal education events. For the past nine years, they have also sponsored a closing argument competition at Florida Coastal School of Law and have provided scholarships to the top three law students
“We encourage all of lawyers to be involved,” says Spohrer, “Jay Howanitz, Barry Newman and Galen Bauer have all taught at the local law school. Others teach paralegals at FCCJ. Barry just presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Association for Justice. Keith and Galen have spoken at Embry Riddle and SMU aviation programs.
“One of the things that I think is unique about this law firm,” says Dodd, “is that the lawyers are very committed to community service. Not only do they provide advice and representation to so many, via pro bono work, but they are also honing their trial skills in the process. I think that is rare. As I travel around the country, I’ve had the opportunity to observe hundreds of law firms and it seems to be very unusual for a firm to have young people so actively involved in those types of activities.
“It seems that pro bono work is on the decline,” adds Dodd. “Certainly, that kind of involvement has decreased from one generation to the next. Maybe the people in our firm are old-fashioned, but we wholeheartedly believe that pro bono is an essential aspect of every successful practice. It’s a concept that was definitely at the forefront of my mind when I decided I wanted to go into the profession. One of my mentors said, ‘If you don’t have at least five pro bono cases on your desk at any given time, then you’re not a good trial lawyer. Bob and I subscribe to that same philosophy.”
One of my mentors said, ‘If you don’t have at least five pro bono cases on your desk at any given time, then you’re not a good trial lawyer. Bob and I subscribe to that same philosophy.
The firm’s attorneys could not accomplish what they do without the support of highly trained and experienced paralegals, According to Browning: “Each attorney works side-by-side with a paralegal. They learn the case, bond with the clients and are engaged from the first client meeting through trial and appeal. They are a force multiplier and our attorneys rely on them every day. Additionally, we encourage them to take on leadership roles. Jennifer Heape and Sarah Shedlarski are officers in the local board and state board of the Paralegal Association of Florida Inc. We are proud of their accomplishments.’
“In addition to highly trained attorneys and paralegals, our legal team includes a full-time physician to review medical records and consult on our personal injury and wrongful death cases,” says Dodd. “Dr. Weinstein is a retired surgeon and emergency room doctor,” adds Spohrer, “and because virtually every case involves some aspect of medicine, his contributions are invaluable. He helps our lawyers interpret medical charts, helps our clients comprehend exactly what they’ve been through after an ordeal at a hospital, and helps us prepare for trial. He is a valuable asset to the firm.”
There is much more to the firm’s success than the handling of cases. Administrative staff frees up the attorneys to practice law and sees that the organization runs smoothly. Firm administration has been led for the entire 10 years by CFO and Administrator Louise Robbins. Spohrer notes that, “Louise has a long and distinguished career in law firm management and is tirelessly working for us. The first one here in the morning and last to leave, she takes care of everything from personnel matters and finance to technology. She and her staff – Lisa Parker, Stephanie Cobb and Kobe Layher – are crucial to not only our overall success, but the day-to-day functions of this busy office.”
Spohrer says that the firm culture promotes excellence in performing legal work, professionalism toward counsel, and unwavering dedication to clients. “We never lose sight of the fact that for each client, the matter we are handling is probably the most significant event in their life at that time.”