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Denise M Heekin of Bryant Miller Olive: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Attorney

Get used to anxiety and find a way to address it early it on. The “pit” in your stomach does not necessarily go away after years of practice.

As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise M. Heekin, Esq.

Denise M. Heekin, Esq. is a member of Bryant Miller Olive’s Labor and Employment practice group and serves as the Managing Shareholder for the Miami Office. Heekin is Board-Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Florida Bar, which designates her as an expert in the field. An attorney for over 30 years, she has represented management exclusively in the practice of labor and employment law throughout her entire legal career. She has advised clients in both the private and public sectors in all aspects of labor and employment law.

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 an Employment Discrimination class in law school. The cases were interesting — sexual harassment, gender discrimination, race discrimination — and the professor was great. I took all the other classes he offered which included Labor. The union cases were equally interesting. I then took all the other employment law cases that I could take, including more constitutional law classes which has employment implications primarily in the public sector.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?

We were in a trial before the National Labor Relations Board. A number of witnesses were Cuban and using a translator. Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish but one of our associates was Cuban. She prepped me that when the witness testified he would use a word and the translator would translate it as “pineapple” but it would be the wrong translation, the correct one being “group.” Sure enough, the translator stated “pineapple.” I jumped up and objected to the translation being wrong. I then had to explain that I did not speak Spanish, but had been prepped that the testimony would be translated as such and that it would be wrong. I had to ask the witness if his use of the word meant the “fruit” or if it meant a “group.” The witness affirmed that he meant “group”.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Some internal employee investigations, a police excessive force case and several teacher discipline cases. My interest in this area of the law is due in part to the variety of work you come across.

What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?

There are so many over the years, but the most interesting ones (of course) are those you win. I particularly like when we win on a motion to dismiss or summary judgment. I won one case that had 15 plaintiffs, all with different claims, and have had to make the argument in 30 pages of facts and law. The appendix to the motion to summary judgment contained deposition transcripts, affidavits and documents was approximately 3-feet high. It certainly gives you a sense of accomplishment to cull through all of the discovery and get a cohesive argument down on paper that is ultimately successful.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?

If you go to law school be prepared to work hard. Make sure it is something you are interested in before you take out school loans.

If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?

The use of more alternate modes of litigation, like arbitration, and require settlement discussions early before too much money is spent on discovery. Litigation is expensive and, at times, an inefficient use of money.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I volunteer with veterans organizations.

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

Being inquisitive, having a need to find the right answer, and loving a new challenge.

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. The long nights of studying do not end with law school. They follow you into your career.
  2. You do not leave your work at the office. Be prepared to have your work in your dreams. Sometimes you even solve problems while you sleep.
  3. Get used to anxiety and find a way to address it early it on. The “pit” in your stomach does not necessarily go away after years of practice.
  4. When you get a good raise or bonus, pay yourself first by putting the money away for retirement.
  5. Enjoy the people you work with because you will spend more time with them in a day than you family.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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