Celebrating 50 years of practice

first_img Celebrating 50 years of practice Florida lawyers recall the profession a half century ago Britt Dys Assistant Editor From human cannon balls to judicial canons, and the evolution of the language of math to the logic of law was how the journey began for a few of The Florida Bar’s 50-year members.They all became Florida lawyers in 1954, but traveled many different paths to get there. Rene Zacchini, a circus star turned judge; Stephen Grimes, a math wiz who reached the Florida Supreme Court; and Manuel Zaiac, a Cuban immigrant, are just three of the 69 members of the graduating class of 1954 who were honored at The Florida Bar’s 50-Year Member Luncheon June 25, during the Bar’s Annual Meeting (after this News went to press).Zacchini, a former circuit judge, came from a legacy of trapeze artists and human cannon balls. But he traded physical for verbal gymnastics when he decided to become a lawyer. His family shot to fame as the “The Flying Zacchinis” starring with Ringling Brothers and later headlining their own carnival.It was decided by Zacchini’s father that of his five children, the last two would go to college.Since he was the youngest, it was deemed that his future profession would not include a safety net. But that didn’t stop him from performing with his family on semester breaks from college.After completing law school in 1954 he was drafted into the army — and back into the acrobatic life. Zacchini completed basic training, and because of his family background in entertainment, he spent most of his time doing shows in special services.“I was doing an act with my brother,” he said. “A comedy trampoline act that together with other acts was sort of a variety show.”He traveled with a unit entertaining troops at various bases across the country and overseas in the Far East. Of his time under the big top he said, “I had a wonderful time in that business, but I felt at that time that the law profession was something that was appealing to me, and that’s what I did.”After his tour of duty, Zacchini set up an office in Tampa and later served for four years as a state representative for Hillsborough County.Lonely Work In the 1970s he was a judge of the 13th Circuit, and although he maintains that it was interesting work, he missed the camaraderie of lawyers.“It was a very somber type occupation. You know when you’re a lawyer you have a bunch of friends — comrades in the profession,” Zacchini said. “But when you become a judge, it’s not the same anymore because in a sense you’re sort of isolated with the other members of the bench.”Since hanging up his robe, Zacchini has noticed some changes in the profession.“When I first started practicing, there was absolutely no advertising permitted. It was unethical and you weren’t allowed to do it,” Zacchini said. “It went from nothing to people being on the back of phone books, and television ads several times a day. For my taste, I think it’s stretching it a bit.”Advertising would be all right if, in a tasteful manner, it lets the general public know what sort of services are available, Zacchini said.“But some people, like in all other things, they overdo.”Now he is content living in Sarasota with his “little boat,” glad that he no longer has to put in the strenuous hours the profession requires. He has been retired now for almost 20 years.Still Going Strong July 1, 2004 Assistant Editor Regular News Celebrating 50 years of practicecenter_img While sandy beaches and blue waters may bring happiness to most, fellow 50-year member and former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Grimes said, “I really don’t know how to retire. I get edgy just sitting around. I don’t really want to spend all my time doing leisure things.”That was apparent during recent oral arguments when Grimes represented The Florida Medical Association.Striking up a match of tennis can only keep him busy so long, and he doesn’t like to sit around the house without a constructive task, “I get discontented and want to do something.”After retiring from the court, Grimes returned to work at Holland & Knight in Tallahassee— his same employer out of law school — except back then it was called Holland Bevis McCrae & Smith and it was in Bartow.It was not “an instantaneous revelation” that lured Grimes away from his accounting books in college, but a “gradual realization” that the law interested him.“The more courses I took the majesty of the law and the logic of it appealed to me. . . the logic of the law to resolve disputes,” he said.He may not be able to define the catalyst that inspired his career, but Grimes is concise when describing how the practice of law has changed over the span of the last 50 years. He said that in some ways the practice of law has become more complicated. Grimes noted the numbers. More people — more law.“There is so much more government regulation and people rubbing against each other creates conflict,” he said.Lawyer advertising is also a source of regret for the former justice, “I think that the public is probably dis-served rather than served by it.”Another concern is how the adversarial nature between lawyers has grown over the years, saying that “often times there is a little more hostility in litigation then they used to be.”But he is quick to add that he is still proud of the bar and of lawyers’ place in society.“There have been many changes and not all of them happy changes; nevertheless, I think that society is well-served by the lawyers we have.”Grimes summed up his sentiment of the profession of law: “I think without lawyers our country, well, we just couldn’t have the freedoms that we have.”From Cuba to Florida Manuel Zaiac’s family moved to Florida from Cuba in 1945. He said his mother visited Miami Beach in the 1930s and liked it. She thought that the U.S. would be a nice place to raise a family.With a mind geared toward number crunching in college, Zaiac became a CPA before becomming a lawyer. He said his father, who was in real estate and before that a merchant, gently suggested the idea of law school: “We could use an attorney (in the family); what do you think?”Not all students are meant to survive the rigors of law schools, according to Zaiac, and the good teachers weed out those who don’t have the capacity to be lawyers. He had a pleasant experience while in law school at the University of Miami, but Zaiac said the tougher the professor the better.“Some of the professors were tough as hell, but, well, that’s expected. You’ve got to shake the tree a little bit to get rid of some of the guys who can’t cut it,” he said.A seasoned professor himself, having taught 45 years in the accounting department at UM, he has seen a greater number of women entering the legal profession through the decades.“Tremendous increase, and very welcome increase from the female sex,” he said. “I think they’re smart. I think the girls are going to take over.”During his career as an attorney, his knowledge of statutes has helped him achieve some noble deeds. He is most proud of playing an instrumental part in having the Cuban expropriation losses accepted by the Internal Revenue Service.“That saved the Cuban immigrants millions of dollars,” Zaiac said, adding the way it works is that “if a Cuban comes to the U.S., with no intention of going back, green card or not, any property confiscated by the Cuban government after he touches American ground is really an American taxpayer’s assets. So he’s entitled to the loss.”Although Zaiac enjoys listening to classical music and fishing in his spare time, don’t expect him to retire any time soon. His wife won’t hear of it, he says. If he hangs around the house too long, she claims it drives her crazy.“My wife says that if I retire she’ll divorce me,” he said.Anyway, Zaiac says practicing law is the salve to a quick and robust mind. “It keeps me young — it keeps me on the ball.”last_img read more

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