Law Office Of William F. Underwood - August 2017

Justice MONTHLY

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AUGUST 2017

A Long List of Mentors The Professors Who Helped Me Get Where I Am Today

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from Elizabeth Decoux, my first-year torts professor, and one of the first teachers I had in law school. It was the first day of the second semester. Following our first battery of exams and the winter break, many of us first-years had experienced a wake-up call. It’s almost impossible to gauge your mastery of law school material, or lack thereof, until the end-of-semester tests come around. That first day, she sat the class down and thought for a minute. “Some of you,” she said, “may have done better on your exams than you expected. Some of you might not have been quite so lucky.” She paused and looked around the room. “But I’ll give you this piece of advice: I predict that — regardless of whatever scores you get in law school — assuming you’re diligent enough to get your degree and pass the bar, you’ll be a successful attorney if you return all your telephone calls within 24 hours.” We all laughed at the prospect of our thousands upon thousands of hours of studying being boiled down to just responding to our voicemails, but it really was sage advice. Regardless of what skills you may be equipped with, following up with people, returning calls, and being a prompt and effective communicator are a huge part of the job. The back-to-school season has me thinking about many moments like this from law school. I remember one professor, Anna

- William F. “Trey” Underwood, III I know I have my many professors at the Florida Coastal School of Law to thank for that success, not to mention the constant support and wisdom I got from my dad. Getting through law school isn’t easy. I’m just grateful I had such incredible mentors every step of the way. Shorstein, who was dedicated to scaring the first-year students. “Brief this case!” She’d order a student, selecting them at random. You’d do your best, hoping your studies the night before would pay off, because she certainly wasn’t going to step in and stop you from floundering. Once, in my contracts class, the adjunct professor, a practicing attorney, threw a student out of class after realizing he hadn’t read the case for the day. But it’s that kind of training that gets you off to a good start in the challenging world of law. In fact, Shorstein ended up being one of my favorite teachers. The day I passed the bar, I was still working in the district attorney’s office, sweating it out in my little office. “Hey,” he said, smiling. “Just so you know, you do have to stay here all day and wait with us until your bar results come in.” He laughed. “Nobody here has ever failed it before, so good luck!” I couldn’t focus all day, consumed by the possibility of failure. But, as I already knew, I’d put in the time and effort, and I managed to pass, to my immense relief. There are few moments as gratifying as passing the bar; let me tell you.

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