William N. “Buck” DeVane
A member of the Virginia State and Florida Bar Associations since 1975, William N. “Buck” DeVane has called Marathon his home for the past 35 years. He completed law school at the University of Miami and promptly joined the firm founded by Alfred K. Frigola.
“I desired to be a member of a profession where I could help people, be my own boss, and make a decent living,” he said of his reason for practicing law.
He contends, however, that “too much unnecessary bogus litigation and too many attorneys willing to take these cases” are what he enjoys lease about the business.
“I try to let prospective clients know from the outset whether their case has merit and to what extent.”
DeVane said another misconception commonly held about attorneys is their extensive wealth.
“On average, attorneys make no more than other people in other businesses, a lot of times less,” he offered.
Though he’s won numerous tough cases for deserving clients in his nearly four decades of General Civil practice, DeVane confessed he might not have pursued a career in law knowing now what he did not know then.
“I think I’d have also enjoyed being a doctor or an entrepreneur.”
Criminal Defense attorney Hal Schuhmacher admitted that though he routinely tells his daughters to pursue careers as veterinarians or marine biologists, he still believes in his original reasoning for becoming an attorney.
“Despite it being a part of many oaths required for government office, I thought the ‘system’ could use another person to protect our constitutional rights and thereby our way of life,” he explained.
The Saint Clair, Mich. native began his career in the Palm Beach County Public Defender’s Office as a certified legal intern before moving to Key West in 1994 and accepting the position of Assistant Public Defender for Monroe County.
A long-time board member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (FACDL), Schuhmacher said working with Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project to exonerate Orlando Boquete from a 50-year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit is undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences during his private practice (See Florida Defender, Vol. 19, No.1 Spring 2007).
He added that despite the common misconception that “attorneys are selfish and greedy people who are unconcerned with the plight of others, we try to dispel this belief by getting involved with community service and doing pro bono work.
“It is called a ‘practice’ because you keep working at it, hoping to get better and achieve better results for both your clients and the community,” Greenman declared.
This Marathon native was a schoolteacher before altering his professional course to pursue a career of “problem solving.”
“I help represent all kinds of people, property owners, business owners, condominiums and associations to create resolution to disputes, usually through creative negotiation, and if necessary, litigation.”
Greenman launched his practice in the Middle Keys the same year Monroe County was declared an Area of Critical State Concern. An integral part of the county’s first Land Use Plan and its subsequent revisions, Greenman said he saw the Keys go from a poorly governed area to a community that desired to protect its incredible resources.
He served three years on the City of Marathon’s first council as well as an active board member on nearly every civic and charitable organization in the Middle Keys, and his spare time is spent following local and national current events; enjoying the natural beauty of the Keys with his wonderful wife, Judy; and watching his three daughters grow into responsible adults.
David L. Manz
He is the author of multiple articles in the Florida Bar Journal, The Family Law Commentator and The Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education publications, and attorney David L. Manz said after more than three decades of practicing marital and family law in Marathon, he’s certain he’s in the correct field.
“It is an extremely rewarding profession,” he affirmed.
After majoring in Economics and Literature in college, which he said provided a good foundation for better understanding of the human condition and the importance of economic planning even at the family level; Manz discovered family law was a good fit.
“I enjoy the satisfaction of helping people who are suffering the extreme stress and anguish of a broken marriage, guiding them through the case and watching them come out stronger and healthier for the experience,” he explained.
Of his most memorable experience during his career, Manz described drafting a change to the distribution of property law two years ago and argued the new statute before the state legislature.
“It was particularly satisfying to see my work signed into law,” he reflected.
He also recounted recovering social security disability benefits for a client who was terminally ill after her husband had wrongfully taken her money. Though the process was difficult, the ultimate satisfaction came in knowing he’d made a difference in his client’s life.
In the summer of 1974, a federal judge in Northern Indiana, out for the evening with his three clerks, asked the band to play some songs by the Canadian horn band, Lighthouse. The young Richard Warner struck up a conversation with the judge about federal admiralty cases, and John Sharp commanded Warner to give up rock and roll to become an attorney.
“I asked him, if he had it to do all over again, would he want to be a federal judge?” Warner remembered, to which the judge replied, “No. He said he should have, as an attorney, gone into administering large estates instead. I followed his great advice.”
The Minnesota native, whose practice focuses on estates, trusts, taxation, estate planning, and elder law, said every day, the opportunity to meet new and interesting people who become his clients, is the best thing about his job.
His work on the vast Stanley Switlik Estate without paying a penny of federal estate tax is one of his most memorable experiences, and he’s quick to refute what he says is people’s largest misconception about attorneys – “That attorneys are more superhuman than proctologists. The only real difference is that proctologists charge more, but attorneys handle more sludge.”
Fourth generation Conch Eugene Kyle said he knew he wanted to be an attorney since he was six years old.
“I used to advocate all my points to my parents,” he laughed. “They told me I had to become an attorney!”
After graduating University of Miami Law School in 1987, Kyle opted to focus his practice on family law, which includes dissolution of marriage and divorce; prenuptial agreements; paternity proceedings; child custody; alimony and contempt issues. He’s qualifications as a Certified Mediator allows him to mediate circuit cases without going to trial before a judge.
“I believe that’s the shape of the future,” he explained. “In this economy, people can’t afford to go to trial.”
The acrimony that accompanies divorce is an unavoidable facet of his career.
“It is difficult for people when they’re dividing their children, home and assets,” he lamented. “After a divorce, people generally experience a 45 percent decrease in their standard of living.”
That’s exactly why the most important part of his practice is ensuring children involved in any proceeding are cared for, protected, and educated.
“They’re the biggest factor, by far,” he said firmly.
His proudest case, in fact, was winning a custody battle for a father against a party with unlimited resources because “he was the better parent.”
It was when New York native Tom Woods owned his own trucking company and hiring attorneys became an integral part of his daily operation that he decided to pursue a career in the legal field.
With the ability to represent clients in a broad range of cases, Woods focuses his practice on Personal Injury, Foreclosure Defense, and Litigation. He has been honored by the 16th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem as the Community Advocate of the Year and said helping abused, abandoned, or neglected children find permanent homes during difficult court proceedings.
Woods assessed that common negative misconceptions about attorneys are, “in large part, formulated by insurance company anecdotes and advertising. To change that I would ask people to look at the complete story, just like the judges or juries did when they gave the supposedly outrageous verdicts.”
His hobbies included fishing the Fabulous Florida Keys and reading, and given the opportunity to choose another profession, he’d still be practicing law.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a small difference in the world one person at a time,” he declared.
Attorney Christopher B. Waldera said after years of practicing law in Marathon, he most enjoys the relationships he’s established with both clients and colleagues. The resulting satisfaction in obtaining positive results for clients at the conclusion of their transactions is also a driving force in his career.
As a child in Milwaukee, Wis., Waldera set his sights on becoming an attorney because he viewed it as a noble profession.
The focus of his practice is Commercial Transactions and Real Estate, including closings, title insurance, and taxation, “which provides a unique aspect to my transactional practice.”
One his most memorable experiences is of his first major commercial transactions in which he was involved with the sale of a family business.
“It was difficult and took several months to complete; however, when the deal finally closed, the seller was very pleased with the results we were able to obtain,” Waldera noted. “He was able to retire with a substantially larger retirement account as a result.”
Waldera said one of the toughest parts of his chosen focus, particularly in the past several years, has been witnessing his clients’ suffering through the difficult economic climate.
An avid tennis player, this attorney is also dedicated to coaching soccer and helping lead Cub Scout Pack 901 for his eight-year-old son.
Licensed in Florida since 2001, Bernadette Restivo is also licensed to practice law in Ohio. Prior to opening her own firm in Key Largo, she was the Senior Attorney for the Department of Children and Families in Monroe County and was counsel for the Guardian ad Litem program in Monroe County; thus, the focus of her current practice is family and juvenile law.
“My dad has been a judge for as long as I can remember,” Restivo admitted. “He instilled in me a love of the law and a sense of justice and fairness.”
She thoroughly enjoys working with her clients on a personal level to resolve issues within their families, and if there’s a downside to her job, she has yet to find it.
“I love the feeling that comes at the end of an adoption,” she explained. “Placing an infant with a loving family is the best! I also enjoy helping people survive an emotional divorce and putting their lives back together.”
Restivo received her Juris Doctorate from The University of Toledo, Ohio in 1999 and is the mother of five children. She is an active member of San Pedro Catholic Church in Tavernier, Florida where she is a member of the choir.
The consummate negotiator, Patricia Gessel said the most appealing part of her job is, “dealing making (not breaking).”
When she is not hitting the links or traveling, her mind is wrapped around the legal particulars of real estate, business, wills, and probate.
“In the beginning, it was for the education,” she said. “The desire to make a profession out of the education came later.”
Originally from St. Louis, MO, Gessel has been practicing law in the Keys for more than a decade and swears she still loves her profession.
“Because of the areas I practice, my clients tend to be upbeat and each real estate or business transaction is a positive experience.”
Our attorney issue was fun, but a difficult edition to put together because believe it or not, these guys actually are really busy. Some of Marathon’s most notable attorneys, like Bob Miller, one of Marathon’s Founding Fathers who penned our city charter and legendary real estate attorney John Wolfe did not make it in.
We also failed to pin down our buddy, Rich Malafy. The young attorney avoids the spotlight like a political refuge dodging border patrol, but is an honest and trusted advisor to many Marathon residents and business owners. Rich enjoys working out, negotiating, fishing, and having fun with his buddies. He is so popular that his birthday crashes Facebook and will probably go down as one of the most beloved Marathon attorney since Ralph Cunningham.