Daily Business Review
October 14, 2015
Baker & McKenzie
Lee Stapleton, a partner at Baker & McKenzie, calls what she does "representing people with situations."
Sometimes they're under investigation for criminal wrongdoing, sometimes they've been indicted. Sometimes they're facing civil forfeiture or a regulatory agency investigation. Sometimes they're actually large corporations involved in complex litigation.
With a practice split between complex commercial cases and white collar defense, she sees herself primarily as a litigator.
"I know young attorneys are told to specialize," she said. "What you really need to be is a good trial lawyer, then you can litigate anything. I keep telling young lawyers, learn your craft."
For example, she represented a drywall manufacturer in a mold case. "I didn't consider myself a drywall expert and they didn't hire me because I was a drywall expert," she said. "I was hired because they thought I was a good litigator."
Before she went to law school, Stapleton worked as a newspaper reporter in Jacksonville and Augusta, Georgia and she still uses those skills as an on-air legal analyst for WPLG-TV. Before joining Baker & McKenzie, Stapleton spent 16 years at the U.S. attorney's office in Miami, rising to the post of chief assistant and prosecuting some of Miami's most notorious criminal operations.
Outside of work, Stapleton is president of the Orange Bowl Committee, an organization she's worked with for years. "This year, I wanted one of the hallmarks of my year to be a girls' sports program," she said. "It occurred to me that golf is the kind of sport you take with you even after you're out of school." Then she learned that one third of golf scholarships for girls go unused. Beginning in mid-September, 35 middle and high school girls will start the First Tee, a national youth golf organization, in Miami. "If these girls learn not just the golf, but all the other things, the academics, the leadership skills, and then they get scholarships, we've made a difference," she said.
Stapleton has also taught for years at the University of Miami School of Law. "I love it that students I taught 20 years ago are now judges and respected lawyers," she said.
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