Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Tammy Saltzman to discuss her law firm and the mentor who helped her along the way.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Saltzman: When I was a little girl and we played house, I was always the daddy and I wanted to be a lawyer or the president of the United States. When I graduated high school, I went straight to Manhattan to work in the garment center until I was 25. Then I moved to Florida went back to college which took eight years part time while I worked full time. Then in 1996, I applied and was accepted to Nova Southeastern University – Shepard Broad Law Center. I graduated in 1999. I was drawn to this career because I wanted to be in an industry where women got more respect the older they got not less and I wanted to help people.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Saltzman: My favorite mentor is attorney Denise Parotta. I worked for her in law school and she taught me the importance of being well-prepared and always having integrity. The most valuable lesson I learned from her was by watching how she handled her clients. She was always in control. I have found in practice that there is a big difference in the lawyer who is in control versus the client who is in control of the lawyer.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?
Saltzman: The greatest lesson I learned in law school was how to think quick on my feet. I was part of the moot court team and was able to go to Virginia to represent my school. I loved the experience and it taught me to think quick. Today in my career, you never know what will happen in court, what mood the judge will be in when you get there and quite often things are thrown at you that requires quick thinking.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Saltzman: My own life experiences have taught me the most. My parents were divorced when I was 9 years old. I grew up with stepparents and step siblings. I married a man with three children from a prior marriage. I raised those children in my home and co-parented with their biological mother. I am now divorced and still am close with my stepchildren and their father and his new girlfriend. As a family law attorney, I have been there and done that. I come from complete understanding, compassion and empathy. I have walked a mile in their shoes and they appreciate my experiences.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Saltzman: Integrity, civility and respect is what makes an attorney exceptional. The difference between a good attorney and an outstanding attorney is one that wants to settle cases to save the clients’ money and not just push litigation.
AALM: What compelled you to start your own practice?
Saltzman: My first job after graduating, I learned the valuable lesson of trusting my instincts. After consulting with a potential client of the firm I worked for, I went in to the managing partner and told them I did not feel comfortable with the client. I felt he was very angry toward women and my intuition told me he was bad news. The managing partner told me I had just graduated law school and was not in a position to decline representation. I was told I had to work on this file regardless of my intuition. Several weeks later, that same client, put on a ski mask, took a baseball bat and almost killed his wife. He is still in jail to this day. The next day, I tendered my resignation to the managing partner and never again did I represent a client I did not care for.
I have been a sole practitioner since, and have no regrets. I love being my own boss, working the hours I want to work and treat my staff the way I wished my employers always treated me.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Saltzman: My proudest accomplishment is being a parent, but work related – at graduation I received the 1999 Outstanding Woman of the Year Award from the National Association for Women Lawyers. I am currently the president of the South Palm Beach County Chapter of Florida Association for Women Lawyers an organization I am proud to say I helped to found in 2003. This year, I was awarded the Leadership in the Law Award from FAWL after being nominated by my chapter for all of my hard work getting an outreach program started to help the juveniles in the 15th Judicial Circuit.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Saltzman: Outside of work I am busy with four kids, four pets and a brand new grandbaby. I love to garden both orchids, herbs and vegetables.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Saltzman: In the future, I hope to mentor young attorneys to have integrity and keep honor in our profession. I hope to be remembered by my work with the juveniles. I also hope to set a good example as a human being and business woman for my children and grandchildren to be proud of.