Attorney Daniel D. Whitehouse: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Attorney
“…Know why you want to pursue law. I have spoken with many future attorneys who say they want to practice “constitutional law” not knowing what in the world that means or how future attorneys actually practice in that area. Might it be to help those less fortunate? If so, will you be able to afford your student loan payments by participating in this noble cause? Is it to make a lot of money? Know that many first-year attorneys do not make nearly a fraction of what you might think. Go to medical school if your goal is to make a lot of money.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel D. Whitehouse. He entered the legal profession with more than a decade of experience in the information technology (IT) industry. He has had the privilege of managing the IT infrastructures of some of the world’s largest companies while working for one of the largest international IT service providers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), both from Webster University. His unique blend of technology and business experience is an invaluable asset to the clients he represents.
Mr. Whitehouse attended Stetson University College of Law and graduated Co-Valedictorian of his class in 2011. While in law school, he served as editor-in-chief of the Stetson Law Review and received two distinguished Stetson Law Review awards: The Darby Award and The Outstanding New Associate Award. He participated in Stetson Law’s Honors Program and studied interdisciplinary relationships between the law and other convergent areas. Mr. Whitehouse had the privilege of interning for The Honorable Susan C. Bucklew of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Upon graduation, Mr. Whitehouse received the Walter Mann Award for outstanding leadership, the William F. Blews Pro Bono Service Award, the Leadership Development Certificate, and was included in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges listing.
Mr. Whitehouse received the highest grade in numerous courses, including Electronic Discovery, Technology in Litigation, Research & Writing I, and Criminal Procedure. He delivered the Top Appellant Oral Argument in his Research & Writing II section and competed in the Phelps Dunbar First-Year Appellate Advocacy Competition.
Mr. Whitehouse is a member of The Florida Bar, the Orange County Bar Association, and the Lake County Bar Association. He participates in numerous sections and committees within these associations and is the current chair of the OCBA Technology Committee. He is admitted to practice in all Florida state courts and the Middle District of Florida.
He currently serves on the board of directors of The South Lake Chamber of Commerce. He previously served on the Executive Committee of the Central Florida Chapter of the Stetson Law Alumni Association, and The Lake County Bar Association.
In addition to spending time with his wife and two daughters, Mr. Whitehouse enjoys endurance training (running and triathlon), fishing and golfing.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?
I took “business law” as an elective while completing my bachelor’s degree in computer science and found the topic highly interesting. I later pursued an MBA and was required to take business law as part of the curriculum. In the second round, I realized that I enjoyed the course and material much more than the career path I was on at the time. I spoke with the professor about requirements for attending law school, which he diligently tried to talk me out of considering. It is well-established that lawyers try to talk prospective lawyers out of the drudgery of law school. Clearly, he was not successful and two years later, I found myself studying for the LSAT and applying for law school.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?
One can argue that funny things do not happen in the practice of law, but I will say having a professor adamantly try to talk me out of this career path is one of the funnier things to happen to me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My niche is working on technology transactions with high growth companies. Being able to witness a company bootstrap itself off the ground to doing business with Fortune 100 companies is truly rewarding.
What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?
I am often engaged to represent companies that are being absorbed by larger companies with significantly more resources. This disparity in resources has the potential to create a lopsided negotiation table, whereby the larger company assumes the smaller company will go along with whatever it wishes without arguing otherwise. We argue otherwise when there is logical reasoning to do so.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
This will sound cliché… but the musical Hamilton struck me and I am currently pursuing in-depth information about our Founding Fathers. (Much more information than what I should have learned during primary education but was too interested in “other” subjects to pay attention.) The foresight and selflessness they showed in forming our country is truly amazing. Modern political attacks have become increasingly personal, far beyond what would have resulted in a duel during our country’s formative years. That to me is incredibly telling.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?
Don’t! (I’m fulfilling my obligations of talking them out of it by saying that.) But seriously, know why you want to pursue law. I have spoken with many future attorneys who say they want to practice “constitutional law” not knowing what in the world that means or how future attorneys actually practice in that area. Might it be to help those less fortunate? If so, will you be able to afford your student loan payments by participating in this noble cause? Is it to make a lot of money? Know that many first-year attorneys do not make nearly a fraction of what you might think. Go to medical school if your goal is to make a lot of money.
If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?
I could only think of two…
1) Reevaluating whether mandatory minimum sentences are serving the purposes for which they were intended. I am not certain they are.
2) Standardizing the definition of “equal” under the law (which may be a legislative responsibility). The court systems are constantly asked to determine whether certain persons are being treated equally from the outset or in results.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I can’t answer this one with humility, as it implies that a) I am successful, and b) that I have accomplished “good” for the world. Both remain a work in progress (and always will be).
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
I genuinely enjoy the work I do and the clients on whose behalf I perform the work. Being able to select your own clients affords a much greater sense of satisfaction and reward when you are able to help them accomplish their goals.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
1) There will be times you need to work all night. There will be times you do not have to. If working all night is the rule, not the exception, you need to reevaluate your priorities.
2) Learn to say no. I fail at this constantly.
3) Find a mentor whose opinion you value and who is not afraid to tell you something straight, not just what you want to hear. A mentor and an acquaintance is not the same thing — ask someone formally to mentor you so they know the value the relationship is providing to each of you.
4) The practice of law and running a business are separate and distinct skills. Not all lawyers are capable of doing both. Stick to what you do best, including when you might get frustrated doing one or the other.
5) Get involved with your local community. Your free time will be sparse, but you will be rewarded in ways you would not otherwise have expected.