She credits her mentors for giving her the tools needed to be successful.
Newly appointed judge of the Miami-Dade County Court, Laura Anne Stuzin says that she always wanted to be a lawyer. “My father was a lawyer and I wanted to be a lawyer just like my dad.” she said. “I was hooked at a young age. In high school, my ‘sport’ was debate and forensics and I attended debate camp in the summer this helped prepare me to be come a lawyer.” she continued.
"Public service has been in my heart since the beginning of my career," said Laura. “Just like I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, I also knew early on that I wanted to be a prosecutor in Miami,” she explained. Laura interned at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in college and law school and then was hired in 1994 as an Assistant State Attorney. During her four years as a prosecutor, she tried in excess of 50 trials to verdict.
"While I truly loved public service and did not want to leave, I wanted to spend time working in a private civil firm so I could learn and understand the needs of the private sector as compared to the public sector," she explained. "In my heart, I knew I would return to the public sector and I dreamed that I might become a judge one day."
As a young associate at Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, Laura was mentored by seasoned trial attorneys Steve Smith and Scott Sarason, both partners in the Miami office. "I could not have asked for two better mentors," she said. "I worked for both of them as an associate and they taught me how to be a civil lawyer. Even though I had four years of trial experience, it was in the criminal arena as a prosecutor and civil defense was a new territory," said Laura.
In reflecting on her own experience, Laura notes that RKC focuses on grooming its associates to become the next generation of trial lawyers at the firm. "The partners truly care about the younger attorneys and want them to be happy and have a long career at the firm," she said. “While you are working extremely hard on very complex issues, the partners take the time to guide, train and prepare you to be independent."
At Rumberger, associates are given the opportunity to do mediation, depositions and participate in court hearings. “Many other large firms do not offer these types of experiences until much later,” she added.
"I received so much excellent mentoring that I wanted to be sure I did the same for the new associates that joined the firm after me," said Laura. “It’s definitely part of the firm’s culture and it even continues through to the summer clerks where everyone is encouraged to get to know the clerks, take them to depositions and mentor them with mock trial competition.” she continued. Laura noted that all of this mentoring helped her to become a good role model and help others learn the importance of professionalism, skills she expects to take into the court room.
"RKC has taught me the importance of temperament and demeanor and those lessons will translate well in serving as a judge," said Laura. "RKC teaches that every attorney is responsible for protecting the firm’s reputations. We are expected to be professional and treat people with respect and dignity. I really learned the importance of getting along with people. "There is no place for disrespect in the courtroom."
In addition to temperament and demeanor, Laura also says that understanding the pressures that the parties face will help her in her role as a judge. "I've had a lot of exposure to a variety of experiences during my time at Rumberger that have broadened my perspective. I understand what it’s like for both plaintiffs and defendants to have their day in court. A lot of times a litigant is more concerned with the pace of a case than the result of a ruling."
After many years of preparation Laura says she is ready for the bench now both professionally and personally. "Becoming a judge was a professional goal of mine and for the last few years I had been seriously considering it and was waiting for the right opportunity,” she explained. "I’m thrilled to be going back to public service."
Laura looks forward to getting back in the courtroom on a daily basis and serving the community that she has been a part of for most of her life. She spent just a few years living away while attending the University of Michigan for her undergraduate studies and came home to South Florida for good when she returned to attend the University of Miami School of Law.
Laura and her husband have been married for 18 years. They met while working in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. "We were hired in the same class and worked together on many cases. He continues to work in public service staying with the State Attorney’s office for twelve years before becoming a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of Florida," she said. "Our two sons, play water polo and soccer, so my free time is spent going to practices, games and tournaments and traveling all over the state of Florida," she shared.
"Laura is a valued friend and colleague," says Administrative Partner Scott Sarason. "Her experience and ability as a lawyer exemplifies the highly qualified type of person necessary to perform in a judicial capacity. Laura's appointment to the bench will greatly benefit our profession and our community."
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