Interviewee: Martha Barnett
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
Date: December 20, 1996
S: This is an interview with Martha Barnett at the College of Law. Today's
date is December 20, 1996. I wanted to discuss just a little bit about your
ABA [American Bar Association] service and then go into a lot of questions
about your practice. Let's just start by my asking you to state your full
name and your date of birth.
B: Martha Walters Barnett and I was born June 1, 1947.
S: Where were you born?
B: Dade City, Florida.
S: How does serving as chair of the House of Delegates [ABA] differ from the
responsibilities of president of the ABA?
B: It is very different. The president is the spokesperson for the association
generally to the profession both nationally and now more and more
internationally. The president serves as the head of the board of
governors of the American Bar Association which is the administrative body
that is almost like the executive committee of the association. The chair of
the House [ABA] is an officer, serves on the board of governors [ABA], fills
in for the president when he or she cannot because of conflicts or
otherwise fulfill their duties, but the primary responsibility is the running of
the House of Delegates [ABA]. The House of Delegates [ABA] is a
representative body. It is composed of about 550 lawyers from all over the
country who serve in the representative capacity and are elected for
specific terms. The House [ABA] is the policy making body of the
association. Those policies are then implemented by the Board of
Governors [ABA] and the professional staff and the volunteers of the ABA.
So, the role of the chair is to really head the House of Delegates [ABA], to
be the presiding officer, to ensure that the work of the House [ABA] is
conducted in an impartial, open, even-handed matter. There are really
two functions. I am not the spokesperson for the bar in the sense that the
president is although, all of the officers assume that role but the
responsibilities are very different.
S: The House [ABA] makes policy and the board implements it?
B: Exactly. The president implements it as do all of the people that are active
in the ABA. The president has the "bully pulpit" and the good presidents
have the visionary goal and the aspirational goals that they can articulate
on behalf of lawyers as well as implementing in the public arena the
policies of the ABA.
S: What are some of those policies, just a range of the issues covered?
B: They range from the bread and butter issues of the profession, substantive
issues dealing with antitrust and tax and real property, intellectual law,
property law, all of the very substantive fields, to the social civil rights
issues of the day, to international human rights. The mission of the ABA is
really quite broad, and under that umbrella just about any issue that you
would see today that either the court system or sometimes the legislative
branch is dealing with are issues that the ABA has addressed and has a
position on. The policy book probably has two or three thousand policies
the association has adopted. One of the things that I did during my tenure
was to create a process to go in and sunset old ABA policy because it had
never been done. It is very hard to do.
S: It took women to do that, right?
B: Probably. It seems to me that if you have three or four thousand policies,
some of which are fifty years old, it is much harder to define and articulate
what your policies really are and where your priorities are and then to judge
where you are going to spend your money and your volunteer resources
and your staff resources. The hard part about it is that some of the oldest
policies, for example, in the 1930s, with the whole question of legal
education, that might be interesting to a law school, those are still valid
policies today. You cannot just go through and say everything before
1960 we are going to sunset, you really need to do a deliberative review
and only sunset those that really no longer have relevance. You kind of
archive them, not sunset them in the traditional sense but more archive
them so that hopefully we will be left with a body that is much more current
or at least relevant to what the Bar is involved in today. So, we set up a
process and I got the ABA to fund it over a three-year period, to sunset
some of those policies. Most of the policies that get the most press
attention, the ABA policies that seem to get us in trouble with our
constituents; most often are the ones that deal with what many would call
social or moral issues. Some of the positions the association has taken on
gay rights, the choice issues, women's issues and civil rights issues have
been very controversial. First amendment issues on smoking, for
example, and advertising, burning the flag. Those issues normally create
a lot of debate and a lot of concern, but the perception that is all the
association deals with is really not correct. It is just who wants to write
about some archaic tax law provision or anti-trust provision. But to the
practitioners in the field, those are very important positions.
S: How do you view the ABA? Conservative? In general, how would you say
it is viewed among American lawyers? That may be too general to say.
Also, I wonder about your view of its role in the American legal profession,
legal system. That is really two questions.
B: I view the ABA as a very conservative, mainstream organization. The
majority of members, I do not have the statistics I used to, but I think that if
we looked at those statistics we would find that the average age is still
probably above at least forty-five to fifty, if not higher. The average years of
practice are probably in the twenty-five to thirty year range. The average
member is a white male probably from a moderate to large law firm.
Lawyers are no different from anybody else in society and so I think they
reflect the society in general and that is a mainstream conservative vent.
There are a lot of changes taking place and I think ten years from now
that will not be so. Many people think that the Bar [ABA] has moved way
to the left and I think that is because of the issues I just mentioned that
seem to get a lot of attention, or raise a lot of emotion when you talk about
it. I do think that the membership is changing just as the profession is
changing and that our members are younger, more women and more
minorities of all sorts. Perhaps that will bring a change in the philosophy,
but I doubt it. I think lawyers by and large are a very conservative group of
people. I try to be careful using those words because they mean different
things to different people. Liberal and conservative have a political
connotation and they have other kinds of connotations to others. I use
them not in the political sense but more in the conservative [meaning]
thoughtful and deliberative. Many, many lawyers that I would classify as
conservative would lay their bodies down in front of a fast moving train if it
meant some issues of principle, including social issues. Most of them are
very compassionate and have a great deal of empathy for day in and day
out people and the problems day in and day out people have and that is
often a liberal view.
S: I am also sensitive to ways people use "conservative." What I have
heard is some people saying that is such a conservative organization and I
would not have anything to do with it and I want to get your opinion on
some of that.
B: On the other hand, some people say that they are being taken over and
dominated by this liberal wing of the profession and I am not going to have
anything to do with it. So, there are people on both sides of that. My
experience is that there are those kinds of people, I mean there really are
people on each end of the extreme, but that is no different than any other
organization. It has been a wonderful experience for me to be involved in
the ABA, if only because of the people that you meet. It is so easy even in
a large firm in a state like this where I get around the state it is so easy to
get myopic about your practice, your particular firm or your geographic
area. It is like a perspective course or a jurisprudence course just to be
involved and meet the people and see the commonality among different
lawyers in different parts of the country to see how they address problems,
just to get to know people. At a minimum, I respect the profession far
more as a result of having a chance to interact with people like that.
Putting that aside, [personally] it has enhanced my life to know some
people. I think the ABA plays a major role in several areas. One, legal
education, to me, that is the jewel and the crown of the ABA in many ways
is the role that it had, it was one of the first sections of the ABA on legal
education. It was the rallying point for a lot of activity of the association
and to me it continues to this day to be a very significant role for the
association. It is a core function. To me, it is one of the two or three core
functions and so I personally believe in the accreditation system. I know it
is burdensome for law schools when you are undergoing your site
evaluations and your periodic reviews. It is a hassle and it is time
consuming. I think that the uniformity and the standards that can be
applied, [we can assure] the public, which is really where our ultimate
responsibility is, of the quality of the education that the person is getting.
So, I think it plays a major role there. I think it plays an equally significant
role in looking at candidates for judicial office.
S: Before I move away from legal education with the changes in accreditation
that occurred during this past year. Will the ABA continue to have as
much of a role in legal education?
B: Yes, I think they will. Coincident with the Department of Justice
investigation, the Department of Education recertification, and a lawsuit
which prompted both of those by a law school that failed to get accredited;
the ABA already had ongoing an internal review of the accreditation
standards, the approach to accreditation, just a thorough start to finish
review. That ongoing review got picked up in this other process and
kind-of took on a different function in that it was responding at that point to
some very specific concerns, antitrust concerns, by the Department of
Justice. But, it was like a self-evaluation we were doing anyway that got
lost in a lot of the litigation and the ultimate settlement of all of that.
[However], the result that came out of it I am sure is different because of
the Department of Justice involvement but not materially so. A lot of the
changes to the standards were really things that were ongoing in a process
that we had started anyway. The role of the ABA is just as significant.
There are some oversight responsibilities by the Department of Justice
that [they have] maintained. So you have somebody looking over your
shoulder more than you normally would pursuant to the consent decree.
S: That was not there before?
B: No, not with justice. Well, it was always there. Justice can always come
in and file some type of antitrust action. But basically, they have got a lot
to do, and it took a complaint, it took them getting involved. The
Department of Education, which actually recognizes the ABA as the
accrediting body, there are regular and periodic reviews by DOE and that
kind of supervision and that has remained the same. Now, there are
efforts ongoing around the country, including in Florida, by this one law
school and I suspect others that cannot get accredited to get the Supreme
Court to recognize those law schools regardless of the fact that they have
not received ABA accreditation. One state, I think it was New Hampshire,
did that. If Florida did it, for example and that became a trend, I think it
would destroy the ABA's role in accreditation and probably would destroy
accreditation as we now know it. Who knows what is going to happen. To
me, that is one of the core functions and we discussed that. I was on the
board at the time this all occurred. A lot of people said, let us give it up,
this lawsuit is too expensive, the academy, all those law professors, you
know you cannot control them anyway. A lot of the tension exists
sometimes between the practicing lawyer and the academic setting. It
was costing an enormous amount of money to defend this litigation
because we had antitrust suits, we had Department of Justice, we had a lot
of stuff going. Other people, and this was the majority by [and] in large,
said wait a minute, if we do not do this and a couple other things, what are
we other than a giant fraternity or sorority that gets together and does a few
nice charitable works. The view ultimately, almost unanimously, was that
this is a core function. It is our obligation to the public working with the law
schools and keeping more in tune with law schools to provide some
statement about the quality of the education and the abilities of the lawyers
that graduate from those accredited institutions to practice their craft.
S: Yes, because already there is some differences from school to school and
without that, God only knows what some schools would be doing.
B: Well, it would not be pretty, I believe there has got to be innovations in
legal education and some of these schools are trying to be innovative. If I
were queen, I would be more flexible maybe than the accreditation
standards currently are. Because I think the world is changing. The
practice of law is changing and legal education has got to keep up with that
and I hope it would get ahead of the changes preparing the students to
anticipate, and prepare the students to do it. So, some of the stuff these
law schools talk about is intriguing, but the totality of what they offer is
generally [that] they simply do not want to have the facilities, the full-time
faculty, to have [to] worry about LSATs, and they want to charge an
enormous amount of money. It is not innovation as much as it is
opportunistic because so many people want to be lawyers and they cannot
get into ABA accredited schools. I think the ABA has got to, through its
section on legal education and its House of Delegates [ABA] and whoever
else wants to get involved, be more flexible and innovative in how it
approaches in the parameters of legal education. I just think that they
[House of Delegates] can help law schools do that. Law schools are
about as traditional and conservative in the main that the ABA is. I think
that working together is one of the challenges they ought to spend some
S: By the way, our new dean is great for the school and believes strongly in
traditional education, but in innovation, in that framework. There are some
exciting things going on around here. He will be good for Florida.
B: He gave a great talk in Tallahassee when he was up visiting. It was good.
I could tell that if he gets half the support that he is looking for he will do
three times what anybody is expecting. It was very refreshing.
S: Already to see the faculty working together and coming together in ways
that they have not in years, and they have wanted to, but you get different
ideas and opinions and emotions involved. He is somebody that is
bringing his people together and really the students will be the ones who
benefit, and the profession in the end, through some strong centers of
study where students can explore more deeply certain areas.
B: That is right, that is great.
S: Some good things going on.
B: You had another part of that question.
S: Well, you were talking about the other core functions.
B: Another core function to me is the role the ABA plays in evaluating and
commenting on the qualifications for judges for the Federal District Court,
Circuit Court, and the Supreme Court. Again, I think that is a very
controversial function of the ABA. Generally controversial because, they
will come out with finding somebody not qualified who is some powerful
senator's pet. But never more controversial as when Robert Bork in the
Supreme Court nomination of Judge Bork and what occurred there. But, I
think it is a very important role. I think my experience with the federal
judiciary committee is that you have lawyers who are very seasoned,
usually litigators, lots of trial experience. Any one of whom would be viewed
as a peer and leader in their geographic community, with the highest
ethics. The people who get put on that committee are really the stars and
the leaders. I have never known one of them to not take that job seriously,
with the seriousness to which it demands and make a decision. On any
one appointee, they may call three or four hundred people. It is an
enormously time consuming job and they read everything the person has
ever written. In order to make a statement they [judges] are qualified or
not qualified so people do not come to it from a political perspective; they
come to it based on the merits and whether this person has a judicial
temperament. And, I think over the years, despite all the current criticism
of it, it has proven to be very important to ensuring the integrity of the
federal judiciary, and I think therein ensuring the independence of the
judiciary which is just a cornerstone of our democratic society.
S: Let's stop there again before we go on. On ensuring the independence of
the judiciary and lawyers in general is that something that is dear to your
heart because I was reading something you said about that in the Bar
B: It is. It is hard to articulate, you can say it, lawyers are independent and
we have to have an independent judiciary and that sounds nice. But, what
does that mean? Until you come face to face with a situation where your
independence is being circumscribed or where you see the political
process. For example, putting pressure on the judicial process to interpret
the law or the constitution consistent with a particular political philosophy
as opposed to consistent with the law. You are seeing judges bowing under
that, you realize how serious it is and how critical it is to preserve that
[independent judiciary]. Today, many lawyers, maybe historically, many
lawyers succumb to their clients' demands for them to do certain things
usually in the area of ethics or pushing the envelope. When in fact what
the greatest skill or service we can provide our client is to give them our
best advice, our best judgment based on our understanding of the law and
their facts. [To] not let them force us to mold our opinions based on what
they want to hear. It is very hard, but when the time comes you will, you
know it. And sometimes you lose clients because of that. But some
people do not want that. They want a mouthpiece as opposed to a lawyer
and counselor and it is a very different role. It takes a lot more training, it
takes a lot more courage, self confidence to assert that independence and,
in fact, hold onto it dearly than it does to simply try to become an advocate
without regard to some of the other things I mentioned.
S: That is something that students need to hear over and over again. How
do you instill that in students without having every class focus on that
aspect and probably every course in law school should incorporate those
B: I do not think I ever heard it in law school. If I did, I do not remember it. It
was something that came to me watching people practice law, listening to
how they reacted to certain experiences or situations and realizing that
really, probably, that independent judgment is the best thing we give a
client. It is up to them whether they would accept it or not but that is really
one of our great assets. My sister is a doctor as is her husband and our
father was a doctor and there was an enormous pride in our family with the
medical profession and the role a physician played. My dad was an old
country doctor, and he was in his patients' lives. He was their physician,
healer, friend, counselor, confessor in all manner of things, and he loved it.
Today, I have talked to my sister and her husband and while they love
their profession, I mean they went into it for the reasons that they should
have, but they, my sisters' husband may even get out of it now. The
biggest concern they have is that their independence, as a professional, in
their relationships with their patients have been taken away from them by
managed care and contract. They are being treated as employees and one
of the great gifts they have and really good doctors have, is not only,
certainly medicine like laws of business, but that independent professional
judgment that the person on the other side can have confidence in and rely
upon. They know you are telling them the truth as you know it and see it
and that you view that as your ethical obligation to do that. They have lost
that ability and in large in great measure. It is that controversy about a
managed care saying you cannot tell your patient about all these options.
Well, if the profession of law ever got there I think, to me, it would have the
same detrimental impact. If someone told me, Martha, you cannot go
beyond these parameters, I would say, ethically I have to. That is the oath
I took. I have to do that and so you have to take my license away or you
are going to have to do something but I have to. I do not know how you
address it in law school or practice except, when I look back on it know, it
ought to permeate everything that you are taught. It ought to be kind of
that unspoken that this is what it means to be a lawyer.
S: Which probably needs to be more spoken. Now we have professional
responsibility courses that are required. I do not think that was required
when you were in law school.
B: Actually, I am going to talk about that a minute tomorrow.
S: Do you see that exercising that independent judgment, do you see less of a
prevalence of that today from when you got into the practice or do you still
see that exercised strongly?
B: I still see that being a strong tenant.
S: You are also with a top notch firm.
B: That is true. I may live in a different environment because of the kind of
practice I have and the kind of clients I have, but I am not so sure that is
any different now it was. We had marginal lawyers twenty-five years ago
and fifty years ago. Generally, I see lawyers exercising their role as an
S: And that is the way it needs to be.
B: But I do think the ethics courses, professional responsibility and ethics
courses, which I want to say tomorrow, when I was here it was a snooze.
Now, there is a lot of academic attention to it. There is a lot of lawyer
attention to it. The public is paying attention to it and I think that is good
because it helps us in two ways. One, [we] continuously focus on what
our responsibilities are and it educates the public about the responsibilities
of a lawyer and the unique role that lawyers play in our society. One of
the shortcomings the ABA, the Florida Bar, me, lawyers in general [have],
is we have not done a good job of educating the public on the role of law
and the legal profession and the justice system in our society. Some
people know about it but not very much. I think that bars [ABA and state
bars] and others are the best entities to do that. It is hard to do that. It is
just hard to do. It is almost like I think about it sometimes in terms of this
anti-tax movement. Nobody wants to raise taxes, they do not want to pay
anymore taxes, in fact they want to cut taxes because they have this vision
of a bloated government, corrupt politicians. Yet when you ask them do
you want garbage pick up, do you want lights, do you want water, do you
want roads, do you want schools, you start looking at the core functions of
government, they go of course I want all those things. But they do not
relate those to the tax dollars in as intimate a way as I think that the
average citizen should. I just think there is a disconnect there and I think
the same thing happens with the way the public views judges, lawyers,
maybe this whole branch of government.
S: That is so true with the schools where you really see it and with my children
in public schools and they are in what is considered the best public school
in Gainesville and you still see there is no money and here in a public
university it is ridiculous.
B: It is so cheap to go to school in Florida. It is the best bargain maybe in
the country. I do not have any sympathy, I should not say it quite that
strongly, but I feel it about that strongly, for the students who are
complaining about these tuition increases. I understand it is going to cost
them more money, but the rewards are dramatic.
S: And they want all the things that come with that. They want the computer
support. We did not have classrooms that could support lap top
computers. Students would get to class an hour early to get the one plug.
That is where Dean Matasar [Richard A. Matasar, dean, College of Law,
1996-present] is really trying to build some support so that we can bring our
facilities up to the technological age.
B: We have got to do that.
S: Yes, we do. Yes, that is where we really see that we need this.
B: My daughter has been looking at going to boarding school. She is really
interested in going to an all girls school so we spent some time last spring
looking at different schools. Half of them, now these schools are
outrageously expensive, to me they are just off the charts. These are high
schools, fully wired for all of the students to have lap tops, several of them
provide lap tops, their dorm rooms are wired, they have been retrofitted,
they are on the Internet. That is a major thing which I loved. I thought, this
is wonderful. But, it is because the tuition.
S: Right, they have the money to do that.
B: They give lots of scholarships but they have the money to do that. I want
that, parents want that, students want that, students have to have that.
They have to have that, it is not free.
S: That is where the strong leadership comes in. Florida really needed
Lombardi [John V. Lombardi, president, University of Florida, 1990-present]
and we needed Matasar here and to say there is no way around it in order
to mirror what is happening in the world. As you were saying, to be
leaders on the cutting edge of what is happening.
B: Listen, I love this university. I did not go to undergraduate here, but I just
love this university and what it is doing. I believe it can be one of the great
publicly funded institutions in the country. I think that Lombardi might be
able to do that. He has the vision, he has just got stubborn courage, and
the little bit I have seen about the dean, we are in good hands. It makes
alumni like me much more interested in being actively involved in what is
going on. It has a building effect. It is catching.
S: Well, Rick was able to achieve a lot of that at Chicago-Kent [College of
Law] and already, in what has happened in six months, we are all
exhausted. But, it is wonderful and things that everybody wanted to
happen. Before we move on, how do you develop that independent
judgment in students? Now, in practice when students may not have the
mentoring opportunities that you had, how do you develop that and should
they be really keenly aware of the actions?
B: I think it ought to be articulated more. I have not been in a classroom in a
long time, so I do not know how it is. I think it ought to be like one of
those just basic things that you need to learn, this is what it means to be a
lawyer. This is your unique role in society. That whole concept of
lawyers in the role we have in society came to me kind of happenstance,
piecemeal. Ultimately, if I had been smarter, or read more, or maybe I
would have, there is plenty written on it out there, but as a law student I do
not ever remember focusing on that. Once I was part of the profession
and maybe part of just the business political community of the state, I
became much more aware of the role. I think that there is an enormous
pride that comes when you know what lawyers do and have done for
centuries, and what your responsibility is, to carry on those traditional
values and principles. So maybe there is a way to simply talk about that
more in the law school context. But, I think it is like ethics, everybody
absorbs it differently, and reacts to it differently as with independence.
S: And you cannot hear it until you hear it. Some of that is just through
S: Dean Matasar is hoping that by involving more alumni, getting students,
faculty, alumni interacting more that students will have a chance to pick up
on that more.
B: I was extremely fortunate, in the law firm that I joined, because there were
a lot of people there who, not just for me, but who then and today take very
seriously the responsibility we have to integrating our new lawyers into our
firm and into what it means to be a lawyer. Not everybody gets mentored
as well as I did. I had the best and it made an enormous difference in my
life, positive difference. We try to, we invest a lot of time and energy and
money in new lawyers, and we want to keep them. We want to inculcate
in them our institutional values and the professional obligations that we
believe comes with being a lawyer. So we do spend some time at it, and I
think a lot of law firms do. But, you are right, many people do not get that
opportunity. If you could find a way, as you just mentioned, to have law
students come in contact in a mentoring relationship with practicing lawyers
it could be very valuable--if only to go spend two or three days. Everybody
cannot hire clerks and they do not have the money or the time or energy,
but if only they have two or three days in a private office, where you
shadow somebody or where you are just there. A lot of this comes by
watching and seeing and saying, oh, that is what it is. I will never forget
taking civil procedure, I never understood it. It is not that hard, it is just I
studied and I studied and I studied, I do not think I did well in it and then on
the Bar [ABA] exam I remember saying you have got to memorize these
rules. It never clicked and I literally think I memorized the rules of civil
procedure. I figured if I can memorize them I can pass it on the bar exam
and about six months later I was practicing law in Bartow, Florida, and we
used to rotate people and so I was in the litigation for a while and this guy
said you need to do this complaint, it was [a] minor manner. All of a
sudden, when I started doing a complaint, doing a lawsuit, I said, ah, I got
stuff that is so easy it makes so much sense. Why was it such a mystery
to me and I realized because I had nothing concrete to relate it to. I had
not been in a courthouse since I got my marriage license. So, there was
nothing there for me to say this is why you have these time periods and
these processes. None of that, it did not make sense to me. But, once I
did it, I said golly, that ought to have been the easiest course in law school.
I think a lot of practicing laws like that, a lot of the theory and a lot of the
things that now are second nature to us when you first hear about them
you just do not have any pegs to hang on them. So maybe some way to
make it real, sooner, could be very helpful. I believe in your clinical
programs, the clerking programs. A lot of that is very valuable.
S: Well, Dean Matasar hopes to start an evening supplemental curriculum, not
for credit, but just where students and practitioners and even clients would
gather in the evenings to just talk about some of the cases or the issues.
Really to start letting students see how it all comes together. Some real
B: Good. Particularly, if you could attract people from outside of Gainesville
to come spend an evening doing that so you get a much larger diversity
and you probably could.
S: Yes, alumni all over the state want to come up here and get involved.
B: That would be great.
S: Okay. Did you want to finish your thought about the core responsibility to
the ABA before we go more into practice?
B: The only other thing that I think, not the only, but one of the things I think is
important is [that] much of the work of the association is done through its
actions and divisions, substantive work. Now, in many, many areas, and
I think that it is an important function to provide that forum for lawyers who
have either just the personal interest in a particular area or that is their area
of practice, to come together to get to know each other to work on projects
that might advance that area of the law or change that area of the law. A
lot of it is educational. A lot of it is grant related, CLE type, publications
and I think is a real important function for a professional association is to
provide that forum and that arena for people to grow, to keep up with what
is going on.
S: Okay, all right. Let me see if I have anything else on the ABA before I get
away from that. I guess the only other issue about lawyer independence
is what problems do you see posed by the possibility of external
regulation? A regulatory board? I was reading something else in the Bar
News on that, but if we do not stop being more of a business we face
B: The people in the legislature in Florida want to regulate the Bar [ABA] and
the lawyers just as they do the doctors. The Supreme Court licenses
lawyers and it's off and on a big issue depending on who happens to be
mad at their local lawyer that day and it is a threat. Now, [in] some states,
[lawyers] are regulated by their legislatures, and they seem to function fine
and maintain their professional independence. My reaction may be knee
jerk more than anything but I think it would be a disaster. I think it
potentially could greatly impact the independence of the lawyer and the
judiciary. Some people say, well, judges are paid by the state anyway so
we got the purse strings and if you have got control of someone's purse
strings you have got control of them. That is not true. There is enough of
the money in the courts and that system is much more independent. To
me, it poses a big threat and is certainly something that I am adamantly
opposed to happening in this state. And do not see happening in this
state in the near future.
S: And for those reasons, because to preserve that independence. That is
why you feel that way?
B: I think that it is because of the separation of powers. I think that it is very
important to have the checks and balances that come from the executive,
legislative and judicial branch. I view lawyers as part and parcel of the
judicial branch, we are officers of the court and responsible to the court. I
think for the legislature to regulate us, violates the separation of powers. I
think doctors for example, which is the example people always give us, is
that they are not officers of the court.
S: Did you join Holland & Knight right out of law school?
B: Right out of law school.
S: You did, okay. You said Bartow, was that where you first practiced?
B: I actually started in our Lakeland office. But when I started we had
Bartow, Lakeland, and Tampa offices and it was kind of the unspoken rule
that everybody had to spend a year in Bartow which is where the firm
started. Spessard Holland [Spessard L. Holland, graduate, University of
Florida College of Law, 1916; governor of Florida, 1941-1945; U.S.
Senator, 1946-1971] was from Bartow; Chesterfield Smith [graduate,
University of Florida College of Law, 1948, President of American Bar
Association] lived in Bartow; Bill Henry [William O. E. Henry, graduate,
University of Florida College of Law, 1952] lived in Bartow; Henry Kittleson
[Henry M. Kittleson, graduate, University of Florida College of Law, 1953],
most everybody lived in Bartow. [The] phosphate industry was a major
firm client and so it is kind of like everybody went to Bartow, worked in
mines, not literally, for the phosphate industry and it was just part of what
you did. So, I spent a year in Bartow. I always meant to work in Tampa.
My husband worked in Tampa and so that is where I planned to go. I went
to Tampa for a year but in the meantime Chesterfield Smith finished his
term as president of the ABA and came back to the Lakeland office and
asked me if I would be his assistant. I never had a title, but to work with
him meant that I had to move back to Lakeland. So, I went back to
Lakeland and stayed there for about six years. I worked with him for about
four years. Then I moved to Tallahassee which is where I have been
S: So he was ABA president soon after or when you came on board?
B: He was ABA president during my last year of law school. I think he had
been back several months before. I do not remember the time frame. I
think he came back in 1974. He was president from 1973 to 1974. Soon
after that I started working for him.
S: As his assistant, what did that involve? What kinds of things were you
B: Wonderful things. A lot of substantive work. He did a lot of work for the
phosphate industry. He was their general counsel so I "stripped mined."
That is what I told people I did for a long time. I learned how to strip mine.
I learned all about drag lines and chemical plants. It is a large agricultural
chemical industry. I learned a lot about things I never, ever dreamed I
would learn about, including a lot of environmental law, land views law, tax
law. It also was the first time that I had ever, ever heard of lobbying or the
governmental side of a practice and so I did some lobbying with
Chesterfield, went to Tallahassee with him on occasion to represent the
phosphate industry. I did a lot of pro bono stuff. Chesterfield constantly
has different things going. The most fun one I ever did was he and I
represented former Governor Claude Kirk [Claude Kirk, Jr., Governor of
Florida, 1967-1971], who wanted to be admitted to the Florida Bar but he
did not want to take the bar exam and so Chesterfield gave the assignment
to me to try and find a way to get the Florida Supreme Court to admit
Governor Kirk and it was interesting. I got to know one of Florida's most
flamboyant characters very well. He is a lawyer and is admitted in
Alabama so the fun of concocting a theory to try to get him in without taking
the bar was real education for me. I got a 7-0 opinion out of the Supreme
Court against it. A lot of things like that, I will tell you the story more at
dinner tonight, it is a funny story. He [Chesterfield Smith] got me involved
in the American Bar Association. I wrote a lot of speeches for him, no one
writes speeches for Chesterfield, I worked on speeches for him. So, it was
a combination of a substantive hands-on practicing law with the public
community service aspects of it which was new to me. I was not involved
in those activities in law school, knew very little about it. Virtually had no
appreciation for the Florida Bar as an organization other than the one that
licensed me. And probably had only fleetingly heard of the American Bar
Association. So, it opened up a new chapter for me and what it meant to
be a lawyer. I did a lot of things with Chesterfield, all of which I think
prepared me to be a lawyer. I think I was a good lawyer. I think he
taught me what it meant to be a great lawyer. A lot of what I did, and do
today, I do not charge anybody for, you cannot bill for. But he had and
has a strong commitment that I think the firm is now part of our institutional
culture in that you have an obligation to the community you live in. You
can define that community any way you want to. Nationally, or it can be
your local neighborhood association, but we have obligations to the
communities we live in to be part of them and to participate in them, to give
to those communities. That was a new concept for me, and it is one that
is not only personally rewarding. If you just learn how, it is one of those
ways you learn what it means to really be a lawyer. The unique role, I think,
that the lawyers play in society. So, I had a chance to do a lot of things,
meet a lot of people. I remember one of my ABA meetings, the first one I
went to, was in Atlanta and he knew everybody. He had just been
president and waters kind-of parted when he walked through. I knew
nobody, and I was kind-of wandering around the hotel lobby I think one
day. He said what are you doing Martha? I said, I do not know, I am not
doing anything much. He said, come on, I got somebody I want you to
meet. I said okay and we headed off to the elevators. He did not tell me
who, we got in the elevator, we go to the penthouse of this hotel and I am
thinking, this is going to be good, and we go down the hall and it is clear, it
is one of the big suites and he knocks on the door and you hear somebody
coming to the door and the door opens and there in black stocking feet
without a coat or tie on but with a white crisp shirt is the Chief Justice of the
United States Supreme Court [Warren Burger]. Which, in and of itself for
me was like, when you are a second year lawyer meeting the chief justice
is a really big deal. When you are a twenty three year lawyer meeting the
chief justice is a big deal. But, it was the way Chesterfield did it, it was
clear that [he wanted me to meet him]. He said, Chesterfield come on in.
It was real friendly. Chesterfield says, I want you to meet my lawyer. It
was the way he introduced me. He instantly transferred some of his
credibility to me in the eyes of the chief justice. That was the first time he
did it, but it has not been the last. So, not only did I get to do a lot of
interesting things and meet interesting people, it really benefitted me in a
pretty significant way.
S: Wonderful, wonderful. Who was that chief justice?
B: Warren Burger.
S: What a great opportunity.
B: It was, it was wonderful. He never forgot that, he never, ever forgot that.
He could not remember my name, he would say oh, you are Chesterfield's
S: Is not that something.
S: Well, you must have had qualities that they picked up on, taking you on
with the firm. I know that you were a good student here but that must
have already been showing or your commitment.
B: I think it was coincidence. I really think a lot of it was just...
S: But, you obviously have the commitment, the dedication to the profession
or you would not have come this far.
B: I have loved it. I have loved every minute of it. I never planned to be a
lawyer, it was not a long-term career goal. I certainly never planned to in
my wildest dreams. I would never have described where I thought I would
be twenty-five years after I got out of high school, or thirty years after I got
out of college. I probably would have wanted to do that but it never even
entered my mind. I cannot remember a time that I have not loved
practicing law and being part of the profession. Rather than becoming
discouraged with it, over the years, I have grown to respect and like
lawyers more all the time. It is because I see so much of what they do, it
is fun. I do not know if everybody does, but I have had an opportunity to be
involved in some of the major public policy issues facing the state and
indeed on occasion, the country. I have had a chance to meet some of
the great people in this country, both important and unimportant in terms of
public perception. I am in a very comfortable lifestyle. It has been a
wonderful experience for me. It has been good to me. The law has
been good to me. A lot of it for me was, I got out of law school at a time
where law firms were looking for women. I did not know that. I was very
naive about those issues. It never dawned on me that being a woman
was something unique in law school. I just grew up in a family where that
was never an issue. It was do whatever you want to do. It was only
when I got out of law school, or maybe the last year or so of law school, I
began to have a sense of [it], from some of my classmates. Then when I
started practicing law, it was a real shock. But, a lot of law firms were
looking for woman. I had okay grades. I was married. I was fairly
traditional in that sense, and I think that I was not threatening maybe in the
sense that I had not been involved in a lot of the radical organizations not
for publication. I figured I shaved my legs and wore a bra, to the guys,
and I had a nice husband so I could not be all bad. I did not know this for
a long time, one of the guys I went to law school with, Dan Stevens, who
we funded a room for because he died a couple years later. Dan Stevens
was one of my great friends. He went to Holland & Knight. When I
applied he was working for the recruiting partner and I saw the room, it may
still be there for all I know. A couple years later I saw they had my resume
and there is an article out of the Wall Street Journal about Dwight and
Case, there had been a lawsuit against Dwight and Case, for sex, not
gender, sex discrimination because of the way they treated women and
they did not have women. It was a whole thing about women coming into
the profession and there is a note clipped to that to Burke Kibbler and it
said: Burke, if we have to hire a woman, let us hire this one. So, it really
was a lot of timing and coincidence and it was hard for them and it was
hard for me. The first year or two were real hard. I did not know what it
meant to be a lawyer. I did not know what I was supposed to do. They did
not know what to do and I happened to be pregnant. I got pregnant right
after I got out of law school. So, that was their worst nightmare coming
through. We got this woman and now she is going to have a baby and
what are we going to do so, we kind of grew up together and learned a lot
together. The first couple years though were a real challenge. I think as I
say for the firm as well as me, because I did not know what I was supposed
to be doing.
S: That is true of different times. I know, we had a reunion of the lawyers
who came to school right after World War II and they talked about that.
That was a time of opportunity and they did not realize it then but the state
needed lawyers. So there is just different times when there are
opportunities but you still had something to make it. I wonder, when did
that love of the law or of the law practice strike? Did you really start to feel
that in law school or did that come once you got into practice and really
decided, I love what I am doing?
B: In different ways, both places. I do not know that I would classify what
happened in law school that I loved law, per se, in the sense that I came to
respect and love it once I started practicing and actually became aware of
really what lawyers do and the good things, important public policy, all the
things that lawyers do. But, in law school I remember somewhere in my
first year I had two thoughts, is this all there is because I was so intimidated
by the thought of coming to law school. My husband was in Vietnam, and
I came probably because I wanted to go to graduate school and I thought it
might be a good thing to do. But, I was scared to death of it, literally, I was
scared to death of law school. What I realized once I got involved was it
was not as hard as what I thought it was going to be. It was challenging
but it was like, is this all there is? I can do this, school. There was this
kind of mystery and magic about lawyers and law school education. Then
the other reaction I remember having was that I had a liberal arts
education, American studies, I had a ball getting it but it was like, finally, I
am learning something that I can use to make a living. I was struck by,
now this is something that relates to everyday life. It may not be as much
fun, anthropology or music or something like that, but this is real stuff and I
liked it for that. I did not like all of the courses, I really did not like the
Socratic method of teaching. I did not understand it, no one had ever
done that to me before so it took me a while to get into the case method
and how to study and how to think like a lawyer. But, those were my
reactions in law school. But, my deep respect for it came really knowing
lawyers afterwards, after I started practicing.
S: Let's talk a little bit about your practice now. I was interested to see, from
the Florida Bar News, how much of your practice seems to involve
lobbying. So is that largely what governmental lawyers do?
B: It is one of those emerging areas of the law that certainly they did not teach
that in law school when I was here. In fact, most of what I do today, the
actual hands on practice of what I do today, I did not take courses in law
school nor did I know much about in law school. I evolved into
representing people before government. It just kind of happened.
Ultimately, it was the reason I moved to Tallahassee. Because, you can
do better representing your clients when you live and work in the forum that
you appear before. Governmental law is, my practice is, I represent the
firm and I do the work and others, generally businesses sometimes other
governmental entities before government. I do lobbying, the legislature,
although that is about a third of my time. It is probably what gets the most
visibility because sometimes the issues that we work on there are the
cutting edge or the controversial issues of the day. It also involves
representing clients before government [agencies] on contracts.
Government is a huge employer, they hire a lot of people, they buy a lot of
goods and commodities and services so they represent a lot of private
businesses that do business with government. We represent people that
get involved, and they need permits. I used to do a lot of environmental
land use type, I do not do much of that anymore. Our Tallahassee office
and actually my practice reflects the firm's vision, which I think has proven
to be true, that government impacts our client's in a very significant way
and that in order to provide full services to them we had to be proficient in
that aspect of our clients' life. It is just that we view it in another forum. It
is another courtroom, different rules of procedure, different judges or juries
but it is a forum that has a tremendous impact on our clients day in and day
out life and that we believed we needed to be as lawyers in that forum
advocating their interest or protecting their interest or being their
spokesperson and it has proven to be true. Florida now has many law
firms who have a government related practice. In fact, businesses now
often hire law firms just because they have realized what a significant
impact government has. The earlier you can get involved in the
formulation of rules or policies or laws the better off you will be, not
because you somehow have some undue or special influence, but because
you have educated government about the realities of the business situation
or the particular needs of that industry at any given time. [That way] they
can then formulate policy that is consistent with that. It is often just an
educational process. I guess my expertise is in government. I know the
process, I know how it works, I know that part of how it works is knowing
the people, although they change fairly regularly. I have several
substantive areas that I primarily focus on. We do not bring to the table
just contacts and access, but really the substantive knowledge about the
clients' interest, about the way that they do business, and about the law as
it affects them in that particular area. I have personally been involved in
writing a half dozen or more of the laws maybe even more than that. I
have been involved in amending and rewriting and changing dozens and
dozens of them. Several laws I have been very intimately involved in the
actual drafting of it and ultimately the implementation through the
administrative agencies. Sometimes that is a two, three, five year
process. It is very interesting, particularly when you are dealing with the
public policy issues of the day, the environmental issues, the concern
about water quality, the concern about land use. I represented strip
miners, and concern about reclamation and requirements to recreate and
reclaim the land that you have destroyed. Computer companies who
out-sourced, know about the company, and know enough about
government to help them formulate the contract, so that they can
out-source their entire data systems. Just a whole series of things that are
just real interesting issues to be involved in and what we bring to the table
is the knowledge, as I said, of the process, the people and really the law.
Either what it is or what it might be if we are able to mold it and shape it.
S: So, it is interesting that you actually get involved in drafting legislation.
How does that work? You know your clients' needs, or you know needs of
the law, and then actually add to the introduction of that to the legislature.
How does that work?
B: Well, you either do it in a reactive mode because the legislature is looking
at an issue. You want to get your language in, or you know they have got
a major project that they are undertaking, so you work on the language
because language in the law is very critical. Every word is important and
every comma literally is important. People joke about that but the truth is,
they are. I have won a lawsuit because of commas, major lawsuits. So,
you know that and you know we are wordsmiths and we are craftsman and
we also understand law in the bigger picture. So sometimes you are
reacting, more often than not you are reacting. The client wants this, and
there is legislation there, and it would hurt them. They would not be able
to work under the law or administer it, it would put them in a competitive
disadvantage or it would put them out of business, cost them money,
whatever and you try to shape it by the language. Also what we do is you
have a client who wants to implement a program or change a program and
so you will write the whole thing. We will sit down and draft the entire
piece of legislation. Recently, the client was the law firm, I take it, this is
an easy one. We want to start doing business and will January 1, as a
limited liability partnership. We currently are a partnership. It is a
growing trend around the country to allow law firms to practice law as a
limited liability partnership. What that does is, particularly for a firm of 500,
it limits my professional liability and potential malpractice to those who I
have some supervisory responsibility over or who are working on the
issues I am and not to the 500 lawyers in the firm. So, it allows you to
manage your potential exposure. We could not do that without passing a
law that allowed it. So, we wrote the law and spent two years passing it.
Now it is in place and a lot of people are taking advantage of it. I have
written tax laws, emissions laws. Right now, we have got a client who
wants to revise an environmental program. It is currently on the books,
but we want a major rewrite of it and we have already written it. What you
do is you go find sponsors. You go find people that for whatever reason
might be interested in that. They obviously have to move it through the
system but the real work and responsibility of doing that generally falls on
people who represent people before the legislature. It is hard work. The
hardest work I do. Lawyers, as I said, we are wordsmiths and we are
advocates, it requires a lot of people skills because you have to deal with
people sometimes who are not interested in the merit of the proposal they
are interested in what is in it for me. Most people generally want to be
good public servants and want to do the right thing and it is hard when they
do not. You still have to talk to them and you have to find some common
ground. You have to find some way to get them to listen and pay attention
and to focus on it. You are not always successful, part of the skill of it is
being able to do that and make this something they care about and
understand why it is good public policy. That is always the watchword that
we use in our legislation. Is this good public policy? Not, is this good for
our client, but is this something that we in good conscience can advocate
even though it is good for our client.
S: And, if it is not?
B: We have turned people down. There are entities that we will not
represent. There are things we would not do. For example, we would not
represent the tobacco industry. We have had a number of entities like that
over the years we just would not do.
S: Interesting. One of my questions, and this leads nicely into it, is how do
you personally make some of those toughest ethical decisions or really
tough questions that you deal with. Do you have people you consult with,
I am sure you do, how do you deal with some of those?
B: Well, it depends on the issues or what is going on. I have this rule, one of
my rules, I call it the front page of the Wall Street Journal rule. I ask myself
is this something that you would mind reading about on the front page of
the Wall Street Journal and if I have any hesitancy about it at all I really
revisit what I am doing or thinking about or what the issues are. If it
cannot stand the scrutiny of public exposure in the light of day then you
need to think about it. That is one kind of a short hand way. Everybody
has their own definition of these. They have their own interpretation and
definition of the canons of professional responsibility and the ethics and the
issues related to it. There comes a time to where things just get to be
instinctive with you. They do not feel right. You cannot answer the hard
questions of a good public policy. Is this something that I believe will
advance the cause of justice someway or is this something that is just
purely a special interest issue. There are a lot of those by the way, and I
guess there is nothing wrong with those. One of the roles lobbyists' play,
because there are a lot of non-lawyers who lobby, is that they are
educators. Legislators simply do not have enough time to understand all
of the complex issues that come before them. I do not have enough time
to understand all the complex issues, and I am a lawyer and am trained in
that area. They only have a short period of time to do it. So the best role
you play is to make sure that the people who are interested, and generally
they hear from everybody on every side, they also want you to know every
side and it would not be unusual for a legislator to say to me, now Martha
tell me what the opponents say about this and what has this agency said
about it, and what about these public interest groups. They will ask
everybody else those same questions, so you really have to be conversant
in not only what you are advocating but you need to be able to tell them
pretty candidly well, these people are going to hate this and this is why they
are going to hate this. And they are going to ask you do this and this is
why we do not like it. So, you provide a lot of information hopefully so that
people when they have to make decisions will make informed decisions.
As I said, most people try to be good public servants. Some people try
and some are better at it than others.
S: So you really have a teaching role too?
B: You do. It is a misunderstood role because there is a sense that there is
something wrong with it that it is influence peddling when in fact and
certainly more and more now it is not. The process is so open and people
are so conscious of that, that there is less and less of the good ole boy
network and the good ole boy clubs where deals are cut in smoke filled
back rooms. That certainly occurs but, there is less and less of that.
S: Well, what you said, there are issues today, there are so many and they
are so complex that you cannot possibly be aware of all the things you
need to be aware of to make informed decisions so it is an important role._
Florida Trend had mentioned some of your clients, IBM, Pepsi, Browning
Ferris, phosphate producers.
B: Those still are all my clients.
S: Any other major ones?
B: Lots of them.
S: Any that you would want maybe mentioned in an article? I am thinking so
students and other fellow alumni have an idea of some of the clients you
B: We do insurance companies, we do medical companies, I do not know, I
am trying to think of the ones I do the most work for. That is a good list. I
have tons of them and if you need more I will give them to you but that is a
S: And, these are ones that you personally are representing.
B: Not much for the phosphate industry anymore, but I used to do a lot of
those. I have got a number of clients who I do a lot of work for that most
people would have never heard of and they are huge companies. They
are not the IBMs of the world but I do a lot of work for all of those people
you just mentioned. I am always awkward listing my clients, I do not know
S: Let's talk a little bit about skills. You have already talked about some
people skills that you use in practice and just your thoughts on which of
those can and should be developed in law school and which you develop
later in practice. I am glad you have said something about the theory, and
how that eventually you get to see the bigger picture. But with skills too,
some students are very concerned that it is all theory and that I do not have
the skills to go out and practice. There are so many different schools of
thought on skills training, I just wonder about the skills that you use in
practice. Sometimes students take our legal writing courses and they
think that it is a two hour course and it is not important. Legal writing is
one of the most important skills of a lawyer. I think it is just helpful for
students to hear from someone in practice on skills that are important, skills
that you use, and what [skills] to really work to hone in law school and
which ones you developed later in practice.
B: Probably the thing I learned in law school that has helped me the most is to
think like a lawyer, the analytical approach to issues. I do not know when
it happens, but somewhere in the three years it does and you start to look
at issues differently. You evaluate situations from a little bit different
perspective. It begins here, it is developed throughout your entire career
and you certainly get better at it and you hone it and your instincts get
better the more you work, but it is, I think, one of the things that sets us
apart. There is a way of thinking and approaching problem solving and
issue identification and bottom line, what is the real meat or the guts, or
point of this that you get in law school. Almost without realizing you are
getting it. It is a skill that I use everyday. Clearly, writing skills. It has
always been amazing to me that people think we spend very little time on
research and writing. There is not a day that goes by that I do not
research something. I have people research for me all the time but there
is not a day that goes by that I do not do something myself. I wish that I
had gotten the technical skills but they did not offer them then. So, I am in
the position of learning how to do legal research on computers efficiently.
When we had West Law, it used to scare me because the clock was
ticking, it is like, oh my God that just cost me $35 to make that mistake. I
had a hard time letting myself go and really get involved in it. So, I
continue to learn those research skills but how to access information, how
to extract from that information relevant information for the problem or
issue that you are working on, how to get through a lot of clutter and go to
the heart of the matter. Those things I know I learned in law school. After
I had gotten out, I do not know if this was cultural where you learn it or it is
just natural, that is to be able to look at a problem from the perspective of
the person who has the problem, to empathize, and to put myself in their
position to try and figure out what they want to accomplish and how can I
help them get there. You know to realize that these are not my cases, my
issues, this is theirs and to fully represent them and to adequately
represent them I have to understand them and their business. A lot of
lawyers never do this, by the way, I think. I think successful lawyers do.
They learn how to figure out what it is the client really wants you to do for
them. Because people want different things when they come to a lawyer.
Then to try and act on that consistent with the degree as we talked earlier
with your professional ethics and your obligations. I think that is a skill you
learn as a lawyer but it may just be something that comes naturally. I think
women, by the way, are better at that than men. I think that is one of the
things that women do better than men in practicing law. I think that is one
reason that clients by and large love women lawyers. There is an
empathy that develops. There is something about the relationship that
generally is very positive.
S: I am glad that you brought that up because another of my questions was
on the problem solving role of lawyers versus the litigious [lawyers]. I
have also heard of a friend of mine graduated here not long ago while she
was taking clinic, the woman she was teamed up with, it was a divorce
matter. My friend was approaching it more of let us look at what is good
for everybody here, including the client. The other [person] was saying,
no, we have to fight and get this and relentless and she was very upset
with that whole interaction and the partner of hers was not out to reach an
agreement. She was out to get what the client wanted, or her thoughts on
what she wanted or needed at all costs. So that too, I think is helpful for
students to hear that there is that balance between getting in touch with
what your client needs, but also with those other considerations you said of
what is the larger good here.
B: I read this somewhere recently in something I was reading about an
argument before the Supreme Court, I was reading something that Ruth
Bader Ginsberg [U.S. Supreme Court Justice, appointed by President Bill
Clinton, 1993] wrote. She was talking about lawyers being litigious, she
said that they had oral arguments and the lawyers appearing before the
court said, in referring to lawyers on the other side of the case, my
adversaries at which point Justice Antonin Scalia [U.S. Supreme Court
Justice, appointed by president Ronald Reagan, 1985] interrupted the
lawyer and said, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones is not your adversary, he is your
colleague, your clients are adversaries, you all are their representatives.
That is not a quote exactly but that was the thought. It struck me when I
read it as something that lawyers, particularly law students, but lawyers
should hear that and should understand what that means because that is a
very important message. We are not adversaries. We are people who
represent people who are adversaries often, but a lot of lawyers lose sight
of that and they become involved in the case. I think they lose track of
what their role really is. In doing so, they probably lose track of what their
client really wants them to accomplish. Like I said, I do not know how you
get it, but I think it is important. I think if more people, particularly in a
litigation situation, adopted that philosophy the image of the lawyer, as a
shark or just a purely paid mouthpiece would be very different. For years
people would say, what do you mean, you do not try jury trials, what kind of
lawyer are you? I would say, well, there are a lot of lawyers who do not do
jury trials. In fact, very few lawyers do jury trials but most people think
about lawyers being litigators. That is clearly an important part of the
system and there is access to justice and the court system and all of that.
But, in truth, I bet that is less than 25 or 30 percent of what the profession
does as a whole. Lawyers really are counselors, we are business
advisors, particularly a law firm like ours, our clients best use of us is if not
only can we be their lawyers but we can have enough information about
how they do their business and what their business goals are to help them
be business advisors. Not to take their place but to bring the legal
perspective to that. We get permits, we negotiate contracts, we do
transactions, we do deals. Lawyers play a lot of different roles outside
litigation and there are different skills in both of them. Although I think
there are core skills or core principles that you ought to have in each of
them. I love the book years ago Getting to Yes [by Roger Fisher] that is
alternative disputes and mediations but there is a lot to be said for that
even in a trial situation that you are trying to get somewhere. The same
for the other areas lawyers work in. There is one skill that law schools did
not teach when I was in law school but I ultimately think they should and
that is negotiation and you may do that now.
S: Now we do a lot of it.
B: I just think that is real important. Just negotiating, mediating, the concept
of bringing people together to find a common ground that goes along with
problem solving. That is something that I would, even today, love to take
courses in. Because, while you do a lot of on the job training I think there
are just basics that would have made me a better lawyer.
S: You would encourage students today to take advantage of those courses?
B: It is listening skills too. I would think that part of a course like that has got
to be one component is listening skills. I mean really listening to
S: Listening to what is under the words is a skill. Some of that comes with
maturity so, like you are saying, how much of it you can learn or be taught
and how much of it you have to learn.
B: I ultimately would come down because I worry about this and talk about it
and debate it and sometimes the more wine I have the more articulate I am
on it. But, I think about the role of law schools in teaching the substantive
core courses and then providing the practical experience and the practice
opportunities, the clinics and the writing skills. Some of the things that
only clinical programs teach. Some days I think you just need to have a
whole year of law school where you do that kind of thing. You are going to
learn that. What you really need is as much exposure to the law and to
the courses and to the framework of it as you can possibly get in that
setting because you are never going to get that again. It is going to be
much harder to learn securities laws trying to do it or even trying to
understand a corporate transaction if you have not had securities law.
There is so much you need to know and they give so little time to it. Three
years is not very much time that maybe you ought to concentrate on that.
But, that is one my own personal internal struggles that I debate with
myself and others a lot. I am not totally sure I am right that I come down a
more traditional approach with some of the modifications, enhancements
you just talked about. Like mediation or negotiation. That is something
we all ought to think about all the time because our obligation to the public
is really to produce competent lawyers who are able to practice law. I
think we practice on the public sometimes. So anyway, I was lucky.
People in law firms have a cushion and framework to continue their
education. Solo small office practitioners do not and I worry more about
them not because they are not smarter or more ethical it is just that they
have not had the experience, the skills that come from experience that they
should have. They do not have anything to fall back on. So, when you
look at skills is what that raises in my mind.
S: Couple things I wanted to cover, and maybe if we do not have a chance is,
one is how lawyers can keep their work enjoyable, another is how you
balance time commitments, family that kind of thing, which I know is a
juggling act from personal experience. Also what you touched on,
women' contributions to the legal profession. So, if one of those jumps
out at you we will see what we have time for.
B: What I will do is, I will do the balance. Some people ask me sometimes
how do you do everything you do. How do you do it all? Or they say,
there is just no way I could have children or there is no way I could have a
meaningful relationship and be a good lawyer or committed to the
profession. Those questions and comments always strike me as funny
because I do not see anything inconsistent with being a good lawyer, a
committed professional and a good mother and a good wife and maybe
having it all. You do not have to make those kinds of choices. You do
not have to give up, particularly for women, this is not men, although more
and more it is, but women do not have to give up the things that define us
as who we really are. That is, we are women and most of us want very
much to be parents, to be in a long-term relationship, and to have family
however we define family. I have always thought it was unfortunate that
society made us feel like sometimes we had to make a choice or somehow
we were something that was inconsistent or the two things were
inconsistent. For me, I would tell you that it is hard. It is very hard. It is
not impossible. But, you give up a lot of things. You truly cannot do it all.
S: You give up sleep.
B: I do not give up sleep. I cannot function. I am one of those people who
has to have my six or seven hours a night or I would not, I will start
speaking gibberish. You may miss a soccer game, you may miss a school
play. I have found that where for me the area that is affected the most is
that you do not have time for your friends. To invest in just friends.
Because being friends takes time and it takes a lot of involvement. That is
the area that there just does not seem to be enough time for. To maintain
that community of couples or men or women or just friends that seemed to
come so easily when you were younger and did not have these
responsibilities. Today, the profession is much more family friendly than it
was say twenty-five years ago. Simply and solely because there are more
women in the profession. They are valuable members of law firms and
valuable members of the legal community, and people are finding ways to
make sure they can keep those lawyers part of the institution and part of
the family and they are being flexible. It has been hard, but there have
been very significant changes in how those family obligations and
professional obligations have been viewed. I think it is only going to get
better in the next couple of years. That is going to make it a lot easier for
men and women. A lot easier to balance because some of the pressure
gets taken away. The pressure to be a lawyer and do all those other
things. So, I think there is going to be a lot of changes. That and good
child care is the key.
S: And other interests or involvements, if you are able to work in time for other
things that you enjoy doing, hobbies or church or I do not know what else
you are involved in.
B: I do that. I exercise regularly, that is a hobby in some ways.
S: So you can work in regular exercise a couple times a week.
B: I exercise regularly, five or six days a week. I get a lot of sleep, and I try
and eat relatively normal. You try and manage the healthy side, the
physical, the things you can control. I love to snow ski. We take time. I
take vacations, our family does. We eat dinner every night together as a
family, and when that became too difficult for me to come home and do, I
hired somebody to do it. That was a big step for me to let somebody else
come into my home because I thought they are going to criticize me for
doing this. [For hiring somebody to come in], if I were not out there working
all the times. The kind of pressures I was under people today would not
even think about. But, it made all the difference in the world to have
somebody cook dinner for me every night, four nights a week, not every
night. But, to come home and have dinner cooked then we could sit down
as a family and have dinner, without me being irritated because I had to
come home and cook dinner. My husband is the one who did it. He said,
Martha, I would much rather sit down and be with you, be with our children
than to have you in the kitchen mad, so I am hiring a cook. I said, you
cannot do that to my kitchen. But, he did and it was wonderful and I have
done that off and on every since. You carve out times that are for you and
your family and yourself. You have to carve out time for yourself. You
have to carve out time for yourself. I do, we all do, we need that time.
That is hard to get to the point where you can be selfish about yourself. I
go to the gym at 5:00 A.M. in the morning for a lot of reasons. But, the
most important one is no one cares what I do at that time of the morning.
That is time that no one else has any claims or wants to make any claims
on. You find ways to accommodate your lifestyle to what is doable.
S: That is important, because then, if you do not, you cannot be there for
anyone else. I experienced both sides of that.
B: You get angry. I did. Anybody who tells you that it is not difficult to be a
professional woman, or a woman who works, I think I got it better than
some woman who are in pink collar jobs because at least I make enough
money to afford to hire a cook to help me [make] dinner, or to hire really
good child care. It takes the edge off of a lot of it. It is very difficult.
S: Is it also about setting some sane limits too? Not working twelve,
twenty-four hours a day. At times, yes things come up and you do that but
in general keeping it to [a norm]. Have you been able to do that through
B: I learned the hard way. When I first started practicing I was so conscious
about not being perceived as different that I tried to do everything all the
guys did. Some of it comes with experience and self confidence but yet
now I do. I have times where I will work non-stop for days. During the
legislative session there may be four days that I leave home at six and get
home at midnight. But, it is of limited duration and you can confine it. I
basically try not to work weekends if I do not have to. A lot of my bar
activities are on the weekends, a lot of professional activities are. I do not
take work home with me. We take regular vacations. One thing I have
done with my children over the years, being involved in the bar you travel a
lot, once first my son and then my daughter got old enough that I could
leave them comfortably in a hotel room without a baby sitter I would take
one with me, not if it was an overnight, but, if it was trip to a place where I
was going to be Thursday, Friday, Saturday and it was a neat place, I
would take one of them with me. We would stay an extra day and do
something fun. It gave us time together. They got to see me and what I
did and they knew more about it, as opposed to me just disappearing and
coming back they got to know the people I was around. My son has
grown up in the ABA. A lot of people I know that I see regularly, I knew
before I had my daughter, so my children have gotten to meet people and
know a lot about the life I lead and what I do and I think it has made them
certainly more worldly. But more a part of a shared community there.
One time this person said Martha, where is your son? I think he was nine
or ten maybe. I said well, he is upstairs in the room. They said, well is he
okay? I said, he is in heaven, he has got room service in one hand and
the television channel changer in the other. Anyway, I did that. I tried to
find ways to involve my children in my life, and my husband does that too
and that has been fun.
S: I think a big part of it is what you have already said. If you love what you
are doing then it is easier. You do not mind working long hours. If you
are just working and showing up then you do, everything is a burden.
B: I do not know how you can do that. I feel sorry for people who really
punch the clock. As I said, law has been good to me. I know that I have
been fortunate to have some of the opportunities I have had because of it,
the freedom I have had because of that.
Women, you ask about women, I could take about that for hours, so maybe
you ought to save that for another conversation. It is an important topic to
me obviously, because I am a women and because I have seen so many
changes in the profession. I have said this and a lot of people say it. In
my tenure as a lawyer the very face of the legal profession has changed.
It is no longer predominately male and, in fact, it will be predominately
female not too long after the turn of the millennium. I frankly think women
will dominate the legal profession in the next couple of decades for a lot of
reasons. One of which is the one I mentioned earlier that I think it is a
culturalization or a genetic [quality]. I think women approach problem
solving and people skills and listening skills differently. I think all of those
go toward what it means to be a good lawyer, whose clients think you are a
good lawyer. I see tremendous changes coming in the role women are
going to play in the profession. It is not just as lawyers but, once women
are in the profession, I think that many of legal concepts we have today
may change. Certainly the debate on domestic violence and sexual
harassment would not have occurred in a time when there were not so
many women involved. The issues relating to children and education.
You look at Congress, the agenda in Congress now, issues which twenty
years ago nobody cared about or the few who did were shuffled off into a
corner. Those are [now] the mainstream issues and they are being
brought up by women and women' perspectives on what is important. I
see not only more women there but I believe there will be substantive
changes hopefully that will be positive for them.
S: It sound like you would think it is important for women to hold onto those
qualities that make us different. Rather than the fact that professional
women sometimes start to take on the masculine qualities and all the
problems that come with it, the diseases and things thinking that is what
they have to do to make it in the system.
B: I could not say it any better than that. It used to tickle me, it still does
tickle me, to see women lawyers try to dress like men. Being a lawyer,
you do not have to give up your femininity. I think women and men are
different. You do not have to give that up just to be a lawyer. I do not
think I ever wore a three-piece navy blue suit in my life and I hope I never
do. There are a lot of women who do that. It was a physical sign of really
what was probably going on in their minds is that I have got to mold myself.
I think that is a major mistake. One, men are not comfortable with
women who do that, women are not comfortable with themselves when
they do that. I think you just need to be yourself. I think it has been hard
because nobody knew the rules, you did not have role models, you did not
have a structure with more and more and more women in the profession
and just in business in general. I have a lot of clients who are women,
general counsels of corporations now are women. The guys used to take
people to private clubs and they did not worry that I could not go because
everybody but me was a guy and they could all get into those
discriminatory private clubs. They would not dare take women. A good
friend of mine is a general counsel of the Washington Post, no not the
Post, I cannot remember. The first time they took her to a private club
would be the last time they represent her. Things change because women
are now in business and in the profession. It is changing how we practice
law and what people do and I think for the better. Where it is slowed, the
place that I think many of us are frustrated with is the advancement of
racial and ethnic minorities. They are more, for whatever reason, maybe
ethnic racial prejudice is far more deep seated than gender issues. It just
is not happening. To me, it is very slow. It is a challenge for this law
school, it is a challenge for my law firm, it is a challenge for the profession.
We have to reflect the communities that we want to represent.
S: Yes, but minorities are dealing with so many more issues, than just gender
issues. It is educational, there is the whole cultural issue.
B: It is much more complex. But, I think it is our challenge as a society. I
really think that that may be the Achilles' heel of this country, if we are not
able to deal with those issues effectively.
S: And there is not a moment to lose as I help out in the schools where those
children are occasionally. I will see that and you think, gosh, somebody
needs to sit down with these kids who do not have parents who read to
them or work with them at home. Somebody needs to do that.
B: We have a program, and the firm decided, we have thirteen offices and
everybody wants to give to their pet charity and their pet thing. We
decided that we would take most of our philanthropic or charitable
contributions and focus them on one program. We spent a year trying to
figure out what program would we use our resources and the credibility of
the firm on. We created what we called our opening doors for children
program. That is where we spend most of our money that we otherwise
would donate to different entities. It takes all kind of forms. The idea is
that we go out into the community and find ways to work with kids and
open new doors for them. Like in Tallahassee, I am not doing it now but I
did last year, we go into the most disadvantaged school, which is 99
percent black, we have lawyers who are tutors, we go in and read.
Something as simple as going into these kindergarten classes and reading.
When we first went we were reading their books and we realized they do
not have hardly any books. I said I have got more books that my kids
have thrown away than they have got in those schools. So, we now take
the kids books. Whatever books we read we take and donate to the
school. The other day for Christmas we took thirty-two [books]. We got,
Barnes and Noble gave us a great deal on it, thirty-two compilations of Dr.
Seuss. It has got a book that has ten of its best. These kids, it was as
though they had never had anything like that. So, it is important. That is
part of being a professional, it is part of being a lawyer. It is part of the
pride that I mentioned. Not just us because there are thousands of
lawyers that do similar things. The pride that I have in what lawyers do
and the things they do for people.
S: A little goes a long way.
B: Then you see it with a kid who just has had none of these. The things we
take so for granted with our children they have had none of. Because they
first do not know how to sit and listen. But no one has ever read them a
book. It is really interesting.