Paul Butler was my first legal mentor. John Pappas was a classmate of mine at the University of Florida School of Law, and the best man in my wedding. They have built a hundred attorney law firm representing solely insurance companies. We have cases against them all the time. As they are physically located several floors below us in the same office building, and both David Pettinato and I worked at the firm in different eras, we have a pretty good idea of what our familiar foes are about.
Sandy Burnette and I reminisced about Butler Pappas while he was editing his Guest Blog, Sandy Burnette Defends Insurance Fraud Fighters. Sandy joined Paul Butler while I was a law clerk in 1981. The firm was then known as Butler and Neilson. Lane Neilson is still practicing insurance defense in Orlando Florida. Sandy recounts that the prior names of the current Butler Pappas have been:
Wilson and Butler
Butler and Neilson
Butler and Burnette
Butler, Burnette & Wood
Butler, Burnette, Wood & Freemon
Butler and Burnette
Butler, Burnette & Pappas
Butler and Pappas
Butler, Pappas, Weihmuller, Katz & Craig
Attorneys have a peculiar way of coming and going at law firms. Few of us, especially litigators, ever stay in one place during our entire legal career.
Paul Butler came to Tampa via Atlanta. His mentor was Clayton Farnham. Paul is an ordained Methodist minister. Like Clayton Farnham, Paul is a consummate gentleman, driven, and very bright. Like many Methodist ministers, he can touch one’s soul with eloquent rhetoric. I was at a trial he won where the jury was crying with Paul during his closing argument.
John Pappas and I were not only classmates, but also on the Law Review and Moot Court in law school. He was a hardworking student and a very competitive debater. When Paul Butler indicated that they needed to hire more attorneys because of the firm’s growth, I recommended John. I felt he would be a perfect fit for the type of practice Paul Butler was establishing. I have been proven right about that.
John Pappas is as dedicated to the insurance industry as I am to the advocacy of policyholders. It is not uncommon for tough feelings and bitter disagreements to come about between lawyers on opposite sides of a case where the stakes are high. Possibly as a result of competitiveness for our clients, John and I have not seen much of each other socially for a long time. However, while many who meet John may think he has a serious and unrelenting personality, he personally has a light sense of humor. I would encourage reading his From Beautiful Brazilians to Bear-Catchers to gain a glimpse of Pappas’ humor.
Yesterday, I replied to a comment concerning Surplus Lines Insurers, Sinkholes, and the Law of Mars. I thought a lot about how attorneys and policyholders view our opponent’s representatives and wrote in part:
“The attorney in the above cited case, Donna Devaney, represented insurance companies at one of the largest law firms in Florida. After becoming a partner and finding that status was not all it seemed when she was younger, she switched over to the policyholder side with us.
Donna has always been successful. Fortunately for her, she is now able to use her considerable talents to help people.
One of the reasons I left the representation of insurance companies in 1985 is because I did not want to go see my Maker and explain that I used my talents to help save Travelers $25 million dollars. This is not to say that I do not respect my adversaries. The vast majority of insurance counsel are very honorable, good people, and play an important role in society. However, we all have a choice to make at the endeavors we try to be successful.”
I was very fortunate to have Paul Butler as a mentor early in my career. Indeed, I may have been blessed. Without Paul teaching me this line of legal work, I would never have become an attorney for policyholders. It is interesting how one thing leads to another in life’s journey.