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NEWS FEATURES | Vol 6, No. 3, January 19, 2006
(Healthcare Behind Bars)

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Women In Law

by Rick Outzen

Attorneys come from all walks of life and use their legal degrees in a variety of practices. There is probably not a more diverse profession.

The Independent News asked local attorneys to suggest female attorneys who they believed deserved to be profiled in our fifth annual law issue. The four selected here have stories worth being told and include a deputy, a teacher, a prosecutor and an advocate. Their backgrounds, work experiences and current law practices are very different. Each was fascinating to interview. They clearly enjoy their careers, believe their practices are worthwhile and love going to work every day.

In the end, those are goals for our vocations to which we all could aspire.

DARLENE DICKEY, THE DEPUTY The path to becoming a lawyer is anything but predictable, particularly for new sole practitioner Darlene Dickey. While an accounting student at the University of West Florida, Dickey was asked by friend to help the police with an undercover prostitution sting operation.

"We were the decoy prostitutes," Dickey admits with a wry smile. "I loved it."

Quickly she changed her major to criminal justice. Upon graduation, Dickey went through training at the police academy. After a year on the UWF campus police force, she was hired as deputy by then-Escambia County Sheriff Jim Lowman.

"I was attracted by the psychology behind why people do the things they do," she says. "I'm also an idealist and saw law enforcement as means to help people.

"I particularly liked the community policing program under Sheriff Lowman. The deputies were encouraged to help solve problems rather than just throwing people in jail," Dickey adds. "I tried to find solutions and connect the juvenile or adult with the proper social services that could help them."

After four years as a deputy, Dickey decided to go to law school. Upon passing the Florida Bar exam, Dickey became an assistant state attorney under former State Attorney Curtis Golden. For three years, she prosecuted first misdemeanors and then felonies.

She loved being in the courtroom, but hated the heavy caseload.

"It was to hard to find time to give each case individual attention," she laments.

Law enforcement had changed, since she had been away. The arresting officers were using less discretion and were arresting more suspects rather than referring them to social services for help.

"Florida Law is very pro-arrest. However, the officer on the scene has the power to arrest or seek other means to help the situation," Dickey explains. "When he is called to a home, the officer has to file a report whether an arrest is made or not. Unfortunately, many were choosing to arrest someone to avoid having to come back in the future."

The numerous arrests clogged the court system and led to Dickey and her fellow assistant attorneys trying some frivolous cases.    

"I had to try what became known as the 'Hot Dog Bun' case," she recalls. "A husband and wife got into an argument, while fixing dinner. The wife slapped the husband with a bag of hot dog buns. The cops were called and the wife was arrested and charged with battery. I had to take that case to court."

In the fall, Dickey set up her own private practice after three years with the State Attorney and two more in a big law firm. She now represents defendants, instead of prosecuting them. And she says she loves it.

"I'm back to helping people," says a beaming Dickey, who is also expecting her first child in June.

When asked what advice she would give other women considering law careers, Dickey says: "Take advantage of every education opportunity. The law is so broad and you can practice in so many areas. Explore them all."

LINDA HOFFMAN, THE TEACHER Linda Hoffman, of Emmanuel, Sheppard and Condon, is one of the area's top banking attorneys. But she began her career as a special education teacher in the Escambia County public school system.

"One day my sister-in-law told me what she was making as a secretary just out of school and it was more than I made with master's degree after five years of teaching," Hoffman confides. "I knew it was time to switch careers."

She was accepted in the University of Florida law school. After graduation, Hoffman went to work for a 110-attorney firm in New Orleans. She focused on banking law and represented government agencies in their suits against bank directors and creditors, who had defaulted on insured loans.

"It was the mid-1980s. The bank booming had crashed. Banks were failing right and left. Our firm was helping the government collect on the bad loans," she explains.

Eventually, Hoffman was lured by a former co-worker to join him at the legal department at Hibernia Bank in New Orleans.

"I had already made the decision that the big law firm wasn't where I wanted to be," she says. "It was very much an old-time, good-old-boy firm. Salaries were fixed and primarily based on tenure. The older partners made the big money regardless of what they brought into the firm every year. It was time to leave."

Hoffman enjoyed the legal department at Hibernia. The bank was buying failed banks across the South. She was sent to Dallas to establish the legal department for the a Texas bank, which was recently acquired.

Eventually, Hibernia itself got into financial trouble. It had to operate under a government consent order. Hoffman was brought back to New Orleans to head the legal department. New management was hired. Commercial and retail lending were gradually put under her control.

"I found myself involved in personnel issues all day and not practicing law," she says. "I helped handle 24 bank conversions. It was all interesting, but I was using less and less of my legal background."

Finally, Hoffman decided to leave the banking industry and return to practicing law. She first joined a firm that had been formed by five attorneys from her old law firm, but later decided she wanted to live somewhere other than New Orleans.

"I was at the point that I needed to step up and become at partner in the firm or make a change," she says. "I put out my résumé. Emmanuel, Sheppard and Condon made

 me an offer and within 30 days I moved back to Pensacola."

Here, Hoffman has continued to work with banks. She wrote the prospectus for Gulf Coast Community Bank. She helps other banks document their loans and drafts and work out agreements on troubled loans.

"My experience has taught me what arguments are worth fighting over in a loan negotiation and which aren't really that important, if a loan goes bad," she says.

Hoffman advises those attending law school to maximize their time there and remain open to various careers.

"I genuinely like the practice of law," she says. "You can do a lot with it. There are many business people with law degrees and you can see how their law background influences the way they approach a problem and how they analyze it."

SHELLEY REYNOLDS, THE PROSECUTOR Former prosecutor Shelley Reynolds loves sitting on the defense side of the courtroom.

"It's very different representing the defendants," says the sole practitioner. "I've found most people aren't really bad people. They are people that have gotten themselves into bad situations.

"Many of my clients are people who just need someone to listen to them," she adds. "They are looking for an attorney to care about their case and who will protect their interests."

Since she was 12-years-old, Reynolds wanted to become a lawyer.

"I saw the law as challenging and interesting," she explains. "It was also a field that didn't seem to have many females at the time. That definitely appealed to me."

After graduation from law school, Reynolds quickly found that she preferred being in the courtroom and became a prosecutor under former State Attorney Curtis Golden.

"I truly prefer criminal and family law because you spend a great deal of time in court," she says. "I like the excitement of trying a case, the challenge of it and the whole pace. Criminal and family law cases move much faster than civil suits that may take years before they reach the courtroom."

During her stint in the state attorney's office, Reynolds also enjoyed helping the victims of the crimes she prosecuted.

"Many of the victims were intimidated by the court system and simply didn't understand it," she says. "I tried to ease their anxiety, treat them with respect and educate them on the process."

Reynolds says that her experience as a prosecutor has helped her become a better defense attorney.

"I fully understand what the prosecutor's goals are and what he's trying to get done with the case," she says. "There are certain things that I can do to make his job easier and still represent my client's interest well. Everything doesn't have to be so difficult."

For those aspiring to become lawyers, Reynolds encourages them to enter the pre-law program at the University of West Florida.

"I found it to be very good preparation for law school," she says. "Also, I recommend students take advantage of internships with law firms, the court system and law enforcement. The internships help you learn how the justice system really works and helps you decide where your interests may lie in the legal field."

VIRGINIA BUCHANAN, THE ADVOCATE Virginia Buchanan of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor sees herself as primarily a children's advocate. In her 17 years of trying medical, personal injury and wrongful death suits, she has strived to help protect the interests of children and their families.

"I practice a very personal type of law," Buchanan explains. "It's very much one on one. All of my cases involve some type of tragedy. My clients are looking for someone to listen to them and help them understand what really happened."

And Buchanan says she takes that very seriously.

"My clients share their deepest emotions, their medical histories and financial condition," she says. "As their attorney, I have to estimate the lifetime effect of an injury or loss of a loved one on my client. It's not a 9-to-5 job that you can just shut off when you leave the office. It's very personal."

Buchanan's first big case involved the death of Horst Maier and his wife. They were struck by a Greyhound bus, while driving back to Tallahassee from Panama City. She represented the three surviving children.

"It was a case nobody else wanted," she recalls. "One because the car had actually swerved into the lane of the bus, and also the case was to be tried in Tallahassee, where no large verdict had ever been awarded."

But Buchanan believed she could win the case for her young clients, who had no close relatives or family to take care of them. Firm partners Fred Levin and Bob Mayes believed in her and trusted in her ability, she says.

"I worked many long hours," she says. "I handled every deposition and met with every witness. In the end, we took the case to trial and won a great verdict for the Maier children."

Not bad for a Chiefland, Fla., native who grew up attending a school where she had the same classmates and teachers from elementary school through high school.

"I grew up in a very small town," she says. "It was in the School of Journalism at the University of Florida that I really blossomed. I worked in the telecommunications department, where I got to write and produce programs. I also met people from Chile, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and all over the world."

One of her Florida law school classmates was Martin Levin, who talked her into coming to work for Pensacola's Levin, Papantonio law firm. She has never regretted it.

"Fred Levin has been a great mentor and so was Bob Mayes when he was here," she says. "They gave me big cases and always welcomed my input and ideas. And they openly shared what had worked for them in past cases."

She credits Levin for helping her be a better attorney, as a woman.

"Fred taught me to be true to myself and not be something I'm not," she says. "Female attorneys are often placed in the difficult position of proving themselves. Often, they come across too aggressive or too demur. Either way can hurt their effectiveness. From Fred, I learned to be me, be consistent and always be well prepared."

Buchanan advises others to choose a career in law, only if they love it. Otherwise, she says the law can eat them up.

"I've seen too many people go to law school because they couldn't think of anything better to do," she says. "You shouldn't go into law or any vocation planning to be mediocre. Life istoo short."


WOMEN IN LAW DIRECTORY

Mary Jane Bass
501 Commendencia St.
Pensacola, FL 32502
432-2451
www.beggslane.com
Practice Areas: Environmental Law, Land Use, Administrative Law, Litigation.
Bar Admissions: Georgia, District of Columbia; Florida, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida
Law School: Georgetown University, J.D., cum laude.
College: George Washington University, Masters of Arts, Science, Technology/Public Policy; Agnes Scott College, Bachelors of Arts, with honors. Phi Beta Kappa.
Member: Escambia-Santa Rosa and American Bar Associations; State Bar of Georgia (Member, Environmental Law Section).

Suzanne Blankenship
McDonald, Fleming, Moorhead, Ferguson, Green, Smith, Blankenship, Heath & de Kozan, LLP
25 West Government Street, Pensacola, FL 32502
477-0660 
www.pensacolalaw.com
Practice Areas: Real Estate Transactions, Community Association Law (Condominium and Homeowners' Associations), Real Estate Development
Bar Admissions: Florida, Alabama, U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida
Law School: Hamline University School of Law, J.D.; Editor-in-Chief, Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy; Law School Recognition Award for Excellence in Employment Law, given by Labor and Employment Section of Minnesota State Bar Association
College: University of Alabama, Master of Public Administration; Student Government Association Senator. University of Alabama, Bachelor of Arts; Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority, President
Member: Escambia/Santa Rosa Bar Association (Director 2005-2007); The Florida Bar - Member Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section; Community Associations Institute (CAI); Pensacola Association of Realtors; Pensacola Chamber of Commerce

Virginia M. Buchanan
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A.
316 South Baylen Street, Suite 600
Pensacola, FL 32502
(850) 435-7000
www.levinlaw.com
Practice Areas: Medical Cases, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death
Bar Admissions: Florida, Alabama, U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida
Law School: University of Florida College of Law, Gainesville, Florida, J.D. with honors; Order of the Coif, Bickel Scholar, Scripps-Howard Scholar, Moot Court Team, Florida Annual Moot Court Competition, Finalist - Benton National Moot Court Competition, Phi Delta Phi; Top Score Florida Bar Examination.
College: University of Florida, Journalism College, Bachelor of Science; Magna Cum Laude; Graduated First in Class; High Honors, Academics, (Special Project Committee vote)
Member: American Bar Association -insurance, premises liability and commercial litigation sections; Subcommittee of the American Bar Association on legislation affecting litigation; Special committee of the American Bar Association on health care; Association of Trial Lawyers of America; Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; Florida Bar Association; Board of Directors of the Florida Bar Foundation; treasurer of ABOTA; chairman of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee; Chief Judge's Council on Children; Judicial Liaison Committee of the Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association; Escambia-Santa Rosa County Bar Association Grievance Committee for attorney complaints; member of the First Circuit Fee Arbitration Committee.

Elizabeth C Callahan
501 Commendencia St., Pensacola, FL 32502
www.beggslane.com
Practice Areas: Health Law.
Bar Admissions: Florida, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (2004).
Law School: University of Florida, J.D., with honors.
College: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, B.A. with distinction; Phi Beta Kappa.
Member: Health Law Section of the Florida Bar; Escambia Santa Rosa County Bar Association; Young Lawyers Division; Florida Association of Women Lawyers.

Belinda B. de Kozan
McDonald, Fleming, Moorhead, Ferguson, Green, Smith, Blankenship, Heath & de Kozan, LLP
25 West Government Street, Pensacola, FL 32502
477-0660 
www.pensacolalaw.com
Practice Areas: Civil Litigation, including Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Professional Negligence, Commercial Litigation, Business Litigation and Real Property Litigation; Mediation; Insurance Disputes; Insurance Bad Faith
Bar Admissions: Florida, U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Law School: University of Florida, J.D.
College: University of Florida, Bachelors of Science
Member: The Florida Bar's Trial Lawyers Section; Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association; Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; Certified by the Supreme Court of Florida as a mediator in circuit civil disputes.

Darlene Dickey
The Law Office of Darlene Dickey, P.A.   
216 South Palafox Place, Pensacola, FL 32502
470-0444
Practice Areas:  Criminal law, Family law, Workers' compensation, Personal injury
Bar admissions:  Florida, U.S. Circuit Court of Northern District of Florida.
Law School:  Florida State School of Law, J.D.; James Harold Thompson Scholarship for academic achievement; Dean's List; Highest Grade in Rights of Incarcerated Women class; FBI Honors intern.
College:  University of West Florida, Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice; President's List; Dean's List; Criminal Justice Society Member; Legal Society Member;  SGA Elections Review Board and Health Care Fee Committee
Member:  Escambia/Santa Rosa Bar Association; Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Florida Association of Women Lawyers; Guardian Ad Litem - Florida Supreme Court Certified Guardian Ad Litem in civil division family law proceedings;  Assistant State Attorney- Felony - State Attorney Curtis Golden; former Escambia County Sheriff Deputy.

Terrie Springer Didier
501 Commendencia St.
Pensacola, FL 32502
www.beggslane.com
Bar Admissions: Florida; U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida; U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida; U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
Law School: Florida State University, J.D., with honors.
College: Miami University, Associates of Arts; University of West Florida, Bachelors of Arts, Magna Cum Laude.
Member: Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association; Florida Bar -Member, Appellate Practice Section.

Sally Bussell Fox
Emmanuel, Sheppard & Condon,
30 S. Spring Street
Pensacola, FL 32502
433.6581
www.esclaw.com
Practice Areas: Bankruptcy & Creditor's Rights (Collections/Foreclosures); Business, Corporate & Banking Law; Contract & Commercial Litigation; Real Estate; Mediation & Arbitration
Law School: Samford University, Cumberland School of Law, J.D.; top 12% of her law school class; Dean's List; Associate Editor of the American Journal of Trial Advocacy.
College: Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University, B.A.
Member: Florida Bar Association -Real Estate Certification Committee (past chair),
Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Executive Council, First Circuit Representative,  Chair, Zoning and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, Certification Committee, Bankruptcy/UCC Committee,  Professional Ethics Committee,; Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association, (past president, secretary), Executive Council; American Bar Association -
Consumer Bankruptcy Committee, Foreclosure and Related Remedies Committee,  Workouts, Enforcement of Creditors' Rights and Bankruptcy Committee; Northern District of Florida Bankruptcy Bar Association - Chair, Membership Committee,  Board Member,  Secretary;  AV Rating, Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory;  Real Estate Law Specialist, Florida Certified; Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Rachael Raymon Gilmer
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A.
316 South Baylen Street, Suite 600
Pensacola, FL 32502
(850) 435-7000
www.levinlaw.com
Practice Areas: Securities, Mass Torts, Personal Injury
Bar Admissions: Florida, Alabama, U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida,     U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida, U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit
Law School: University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, J.D.; Cum Laude; National Quarter-Finalist Winner in the ATLA Trial Competitions;  Recipient, George Peach Taylor Award for Trial Advocacy; Dean's Community Service Award; Member, Alabama Trial Team.
College: University of Florida, Bachelor of Science, Cum Laude

Linda A. Hoffman
Emmanuel, Sheppard & Condon
30 S. Spring Street
Pensacola, FL 32502
433.6581
www.esclaw.com
Practice Areas: Bankruptcy & Creditor's Rights (Collections/Foreclosures), Business, Corporate & Banking Law, Contract & Commercial Litigation, Real Estate
Bar Admissions: Florida, Louisiana, Texas, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts - Eastern District of Louisiana, Middle District of Louisiana, Northern District of Florida.
Law School: University of Florida College of Law, J.D.
College: University of South Alabama, MS; Middle Tennessee State University, BS,; Pensacola Junior College, AA.
Member: American Bar Association, Business Law Section;  Florida Bar Association; Texas Bar Association; Louisiana Bar Association, Bank Counsel Section;  American College of Mortgage Attorneys, Fellow; Executive Vice President, Hibernia National Bank, 1989-1999.

Kimberly R. Lambert
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A.
316 South Baylen Street, Suite 600
Pensacola, FL 32502
(850) 435-7000
www.levinlaw.com
Practice Areas: Personal injury, Mass tort litigation, Products liability litigation, Wrongful death, and Class actions.
Bar Admissions: Florida, U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida
Law School: Loyola University College of Law,  top 20th percentile of her class; Excelled in Legal Research and Writing, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Insurance, Computer Law, Commercial Transactions, and Law Clinic: Vienna School of Law Study Abroad Program; Journal of Public Interest Law, Managing Editor; Maritime Law Journal, Staff Editor; Stephen and Schezy Barbas Scholarship; Dean's endowment scholarship; Who's Who: American Law Students.
College: University of West Florida, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Pensacola Junior College. A.S.  Paralegal Studies.
Member: Loyola Chapter American Trial Lawyers Association; Junior Member of Inns of Court; Northwest Florida Association of Women Lawyers; Escambia/Santa Rosa Bar Association, and Florida Bar.

Kathlyn E. Monroe
McDonald, Fleming, Moorhead, Ferguson, Green, Smith, Blankenship, Heath & de Kozan, LLP
25 West Government Street, Pensacola, FL 32502
477-0660 
www.pensacolalaw.com
Practice Areas: Real Estate Transactions, Real Estate Development, Community Association Law, Real Estate Litigation
Bar Admissions: Florida
Law School: Louisiana State University, J.D. and Bachelor of Civil Law.
College: Birmingham-Southern College, Bachelors of Science
Member: Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association.

Stacey N. Penn
Emmanuel, Sheppard & Condon
30 S. Spring Street
Pensacola, FL 32502
433.6581
www.esclaw.com
Practice Areas: Personal Injury and Wrongful Death, Social Security Disability, Trial Law, Workers Compensation
Bar Admissions: Florida
Law School: University of Florida, J.D., cum Laude;  Journal of Technology Law & Policy; Write-on Competition winner:  Assistant Research Editor;  Student Works Editor;  Godwin Scholar; S+ Appellate Advocacy; Book Awards: Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Torts;  Grade-on candidate Law Review
College: University of Florida, Bachelor of Arts - Criminology, with honors; Bachelor of Science – Psychology, with honors.
Member:  Escambia-Santa Rosa Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division - Board of Directors; American Bar Association; Association of Trial Lawyers of America; Florida Association of Women Lawyers; Florida's Association of Women Lawyers; Florida Worker's Advocate

A. Renee Preston
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A.
316 South Baylen Street, Suite 600
Pensacola, FL 32502
(850) 435-7000
www.levinlaw.com
Practice Areas: Mass Tort Litigation, Class Actions, Products Liability, Securities Litigation, Personal Injury/Wrongful Death
Bar Admissions: Florida
Law School: University of Florida, J.D. with Honors; galleys editor and assistant managing editor for the Journal of Technology Law & Policy.
College: University of West Florida, Bachelor of Arts with honors.

Shelley Guy Reynolds
Law Office of Shelley Guy Reynolds, PA
314 South Baylen Street, Suite 116
Pensacola, FL 32502
434-1330
Practice Areas: Criminal Defense and Family Law.
Bar Admissions: Florida.
Law School: Florida State University College of Law, J.D.; Order of the Coif; Law Review Article and Notes Editor.
College: University of West Florida, Cum Laude.
Member: Escambia Santa Rosa Bar Association, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Society of Criminal Defense Bar. Former Assistant State Attorney.

Crystal C. Spencer
Emmanuel, Sheppard & Condon,
30 S. Spring Street
Pensacola, FL 32502
433.6581
www.esclaw.com
Practice Areas: Mediation & Arbitration, Trial Law, Securities Litigation
Bar Admissions: Florida; U.S. Federal Court, Northern District of Florida; U.S. Supreme Court.
Law School: University of Louisville School of Law, J.D., 1985
College: University of Kentucky, with honors, B.A., Journalism & Political Science.
Member: The Florida Bar - Trial Lawyers Section; Workers' Compensation Section; Family Law Section; Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers;  Florida Workers' Advocates, Member & Board of Directors; American Bar Association, Dispute Resolution Section; The Family Law Commentator;  Florida Bar Committee Editorial Board, The Florida Bar News/Florida Bar Journal;  Escambia/Santa Rosa Family Law Committee; Escambia/Santa Rosa Law Week Chair; Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Court Mediator,  Certified County Court Mediator and Qualified Arbitrator; BV Rating - Martindale Hubbell.

Meghan Tans
Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor, P.A.
316 South Baylen Street, Suite 600
Pensacola, FL 32502
(850) 435-7000
www.levinlaw.com
Law School:  University of Wisconsin Law School, Cum Laude; Dean's List Every Semester;  Ray and Ethyl Brown Award; National Association of Women Lawyers Award for Academic Excellence; National Dean's List 2000;  Law Review: University of Wisconsin, Associate Articles Editor.
College: Northwestern University, Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Sociology

rick@inweekly.net