Passion and Purpose: Interviews with Legal and Health Professionals (Part Four)

It is always interesting to hear stories of professionals in the fields of law and medicine, particularly why they chose their careers. It is even more interesting to hear them discuss what motivates them to go to work every day and what they love the most about their jobs. Doctors and lawyers also tend to have very interesting stories about clients and patients they have served during the course of their career.

For example, one of the doctors we interviewed recalls a time he was working at a hospital and had a patient who came in unresponsive with a bleed in his brain. He successfully treated the man back to recovery. Several months later, that same man returned to the hospital to visit someone else. The man recognized the doctor, ran up to him and said, “You saved my life, I remember you, thank you so much!” The man explained to the doctor that he couldn’t have survived without the hospital’s treatment.

Stories like this are the stories you never hear. These are the types of experiences that keep our legal and medical professionals motivated to serve us in times of need.

Here is Part Four of the interviews we did with doctors and lawyers across the United States. Here is Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

16) Bill Robertson, Attorney at Kirk Pinkerton, PA

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I always knew I wanted to be an attorney. I am a fifth-generation attorney, and throughout my life, I watched my father and grandfather and could see how much they loved the practice of law and the ability to help people. I believe that attorneys can do for people what no other profession can, especially in court where the ground is level for everyone. I can go to court and represent an individual against the largest corporate defendant or even the U.S. government and can guarantee a fair trial and that we can get justice for them. Our judicial system in this country is the greatest in the world.

How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing for over 33 years and still love what I do. Not many people can say that about their profession.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

I love being able to help people, especially those who are in a traumatic situation from an accident where they cannot work or have lost a loved one and are completely overwhelmed. I can take that pressure off them and let them focus on healing and not worrying about the insurance companies and all the other things that come crashing in when they are hurting.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

A favorite case of mine was a tragedy caused by FAA employees steering two planes into each other in Sarasota resulting in the death of Charlie Heffner, an 81-year-old student pilot and an amazing man. He had a stellar reputation as a generous man. After Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps and then spent the next half-century devoted to supporting his wife and kids. Getting his pilot’s license was a lifelong dream.

But Heffner was killed March 19, 2000, when, as he was accelerating for takeoff at Sarasota-Bradenton Airport, air traffic control mistakenly directed another plane into the path of his Cessna. On behalf of Heffner’s widow, Shirley, we sued the FAA for negligence, investing $250,000 and multiple trips to Washington, D.C., to pursue the case over four years. In 2004, we recovered almost $2 million for Mrs. Heffner from the federal government. Before Heffner’s death, “Shirley had been planning a big party to pin Charlie’s wings on him,” says Robertson, who stayed in touch with Shirley until her death in 2015. “Becoming a pilot was the one thing that he was doing for himself.”

For me, Charlie was so memorable because of what he did for his invalid wife and all his neighbors. In one of the depositions, the U.S. attorney defending the FAA asked a neighbor to describe Charlie for them, and he said, “Charlie is one of those husbands that gets all of us other husbands in trouble because our wives always say we should be more like Charlie.”

17) Dr. Marc Mani, MarcMani.com

What made you decide to become a physician?

I wanted to be able to help people in a way that would also maximize whatever gifts and potential I had as a human being. I was always particularly good with my hands, so I went to medical school knowing that I would be a surgeon. My father was a busy surgeon also. But my mother was an artist and I inherited this gene, and was able to draw and paint since a small child. This is what led me into the very artistic field of plastic surgery.

How long have you been practicing?

I’ve been practicing plastic surgery in Beverly Hills for 16 years.

What do you love the most about being a physician?

I love seeing the smile on my patients’ faces when they’re happy. Making a change that someone wants to their face or body can add a lot of confidence and enhance someone’s life tremendously.

Describe a memorable story of a patient? What was so memorable about this patient?

One particularly memorable patient was a very famous actress who sent a friend of hers for her consultation, pretending that she was the actual patient. Her friend liked what I had to say, and called back to inform us that the actress wanted to meet me at a private home in Los Angeles. I walked in the door not knowing who she was, and when I instantly recognized her beautiful face, it was a magical moment for me. Luckily, she turned out to be a perfect candidate for a facelift!

18) Charles Lee Mudd Jr., Attorney at Mudd Law

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I love the law. Two classes I took in college instilled a passion for the law and the application of the law to the benefit of individuals and society as a whole. So, after graduate school, I attended law school.

How long have you been practicing?

I graduated law school 20 years ago in 1997. I worked for an appellate judge in Indiana for 2 years and a federal district court judge for one year. I then worked for a large New England firm for a year. In 2001, i started my own firm which I have operated for 16 years.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

My answer to this question happens to be two-fold. first, I enjoy the intellectual challenge of obtaining unique client circumstances that require creativity in effectuating a particular strategy. This ties back to the reasons for which I became an attorney and fell in lobe with the law. But, more importantly, I love being able to provide our clients with top quality representation. Further, while no result can be guaranteed, it means a great deal to receive a simple thank you from a client for the work completed on their behalf. Though I do not need or seek such appreciation, the power of the unsolicited compliment makes the practice of law very rewarding.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

When I began my firm in 2001, I began by working with pro bono clients through Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago, Illinois. One of my first five clients was a young woman named Amy Scott who had just graduated college studying film. Over the years, she remained a client on and off for various project and became a friend. Now, about 15 years later, she has directed a documentary film called Hal about the director Hal Ashby (who directed one of my favorite films, Being There) that has been accepted to the 2018 Sundance Film Festival In January. I am proud of her, the work she has done, and the success she has and will obtain the future. I also am fortunate to be able to have such a long-standing relationship with her such that I could observe and experience this fantastic acknowledgement of her talent as a filmmaker. She did not deserve the circumstances that brought her to me 15 years ago, but she most certainly deserves this moment in her film career.

19) Mike Giel, Attorney at Giel Family Law, P.A.

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I decided to become an attorney by chance. I was an English major, and we go to law school or grad school. When the University of Chicago Law School accepted me, that clinched it. There, I loved the challenging, but professional atmosphere. Fortunately, unlike most who “default” into law school, I have loved the practice ever since. No matter what kind of law an attorney practices, at the end of the day, we have the privilege to answer the same question: What problem did I solve for my client today?

How long have you been practicing?

12 years. I graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 2005, spent two years as a law clerk for Judge Emerson R. Thompson, Jr. of Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal, and been in private practice for the last decade. Previously, I handled complex commercial litigation; for the past few years, I focus exclusively on family law and appeals.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

I love helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, and their spouses get through divorce so that they (1) preserve their time and relationship with their children, (2) enjoy a secure financial future, and (3) protect the business that their employees, customers, and families depend on. Before I had children and opened my own shop, I thought of multi-million commercial cases as high-stakes litigation -- and they are -- but there’s nothing more important than preserving your relationship with your children, your business, and your security. And I especially love helping clients—who face one of the most tumultuous challenges they will ever know—to understand that the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “There are no second acts in American lives,” simply isn’t true.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

A pro bono case for a sailor. The Department of Revenue had secured a default against him with vastly exaggerated income, which threatened his career and the income he and his family depended on. The Department then refused a change to reflect his real income because he had not timely responded to the paperwork – which they had sent to the wrong ship in the wrong ocean! He wanted to do the right thing, but the error was devastating to him and his family, and the Department could not be moved until I secured an order setting aside their previous order. I’m proud to have helped him pay the child support he owed, but with an order and amount he could handle without financial ruin and without torpedoing his naval career.

20) Michael Steinger, Attorney at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene

What made you decide to become an attorney?

My grandfather was in law enforcement, a sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona.  Knowing that I wanted to help the community, I decided that I wanted to be an Officer of the Court instead of a wild west Sheriff.  Using my skills, both oral and written, to police wrongdoings throughout my community has been my life’s work.  Everyday battling those that cause harm to others and helping those people who need justice to put their lives back together is what makes my work so rewarding.

How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing law for more than 21 years. 

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

I am the Founding Partner of a law firm that not only advocates for those that have been wronged, but our firm of more than 150 people has been voted the #1 Top Workplace in South Florida.  It is building an environment and workplace that thrives on helping the community.  Our firm has supported 127 different charities, donated more than $1.6 million, spent more than 14,000 hour volunteering in the community, represented more than 57,000 clients seeking justice and recovered over $1 billion for injured victims.  Being able to use our skills not just to enrich the lives of those we represent, but to be blessed with an ability to give back to our community in a meaningful way.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

Although heartbreaking, it’s one I’ll never forget. My client, a 58 year old immigrant working for a large trucking company, had just changed the tire on a tractor when a crane operator on a job site maneuvered the crane above my client’s head. The metal grip pad on the crane, weighing nearly 100 lbs., detached and crashed down on my client’s head. My client was immediately transported to the trauma center where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain. After years of rehabilitation, my client was left with a permanent traumatic brain injury which prevented him from ever working again.

Recovering funds for my client that enabled him to not only continue his rehabilitation, but to remain in his home and have enough funds to provide for his family for the remainder of his life. Knowing that the impact I have had in this client’s life and understanding that the financial worry for him and his family will be no longer, gives me an amazing sense of pride. I am so pleased that I can help put people’s lives back together and enable them to move forward with some quality of life.

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