A Miami Lawyer on the Sante Fe Trail

Sitting in a French bakery before it opens is one of life’s great pleasures. I arrived late last night to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend the American Association for Justice’s Leaders Forum. The dry chill of an early morning in New Mexico is quite a different experience than I typically find waking in the humid dankness of Miami’s early hours.

With the our Blog’s addition of its first official Managing Editor, Bruce Musgrave, I made a promise to myself, and I guess a bit of a challenge to Bruce that I would try to write a post every day for our first month of collaboration. Together I hope we can provide a slightly different perspective than a typical lawyer’s blog.

Like most everything I have ever done in life, I know no balance or moderation. In fact, my slogan, unlike Nike’s “Just Do It” or Coke’s “Have a Coke and a Smile” would be “Know no Balance.” My slogan has been many times in my life both a blessing a curse.

Many lawyers have blogs now; in fact, most people I know have blogs, including my 14-year-old daughter, on subjects ranging from fashion to frogs. Lawyers tend to blog as a marketing tool, with strategically designed posts stuffed with keywords implanted to trigger search engines in the hopes of finding clients. I know this because many of my blog posts including this one have certain phrases that I know people looking for personal injury lawyers in Florida might plug into a Google search.

Back to the bakery for just a moment, when I was in college at the University of Miami in the mid-eighties, I was uncertain what I would do for a living. My father was eager for me to be a lawyer or at least go to law school; my mother urged me to be a journalist. And of course I had no idea, so I took one of those aptitude tests offered at most University career planning offices. The answer came back that I should be either a baker or a florist. Ironically I cannot bake or even select flowers correctly from the street-side vendors in Miami. But I do like to write, and I love being a lawyer, so perhaps like most things in life a parent does know best?

So why Santa Fe in May? The American Association for Justice is an organization based in Washington, DC that provides educational, political, and networking support for personal injury lawyers across the country. AAJ’s current president, the brilliant Texas lawyer, Mary Alice McLarty, is hosting this year’s Annual Leaders Forum Retreat. It is an important opportunity for lawyers from around the country to get away from our busy law firms and lives and collaborate about our practices in an informal setting and strategically plan for the future. This retreat is different from the typical convention because of its intimate setting, and most attendees bring their “significant” or “more than significant” others. Rather than being one of a thousand attendees crammed into a giant overwhelming hotel conference center, just a few dozen lawyers confer in a relaxed and beautiful venue.

For example, I am a Miami car accident attorney, but I also sue stores and hotels for slips and falls, hospitals and doctors for medical malpractice, cruise lines for accidents, and companies that make artificial hip implants and defective surgical mesh. Rarely, will I get a chance to sit and chat with lawyers from around the country to exchange ideas and perspectives.

Yesterday I met a fascinating lawyer from South Carolina who specializes in trucking accidents. Until we met, I did not know any lawyers in South Carolina who specialize in truck cases, and now I do. He did not know any Miami PI lawyers either. Coincidentally, one of his daughters is about to go on the Semester at Sea, something I also did while in college, about the same time I was advised that my life’s calling would be as a baker. And that’s how this works–business cards and handshakes exchanged and ideally one day an opportunity to work together.

Now back to the bakery. It’s called Chez Mamou, and Chef Paul Perrier is what one would expect to see at a Hollywood casting call for a French pastry chef. His cheeks are the color of a perfectly baked apple torte, and his eyes sparkle like his namesake’s water.

I found this place simply walking by last night on my way to and from the La Posada Hotel, where we are staying. The waiter, whose name I have since learned is Carlos Real, invited us in for desert. Still aching from the red and green chile sauce of The Shed, we passed on his offer but vowed to return for what Carlos promised would be the best breakfast in Santa Fe. He delivered a perfectly cooked spinach omelet with goat cheese that can only be described as spectacularly delicious. The journey continues.