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January 29, 2020 Did you Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”

TortSource Interview with TIPS Leader Pamela Beckham
Pamela Beckham Then & Now

Pamela Beckham Then & Now

TS: What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

Beckham: I was always interested in the law, but I began college as an art history major. I quickly realized that there weren’t a lot of openings to be a curator at the Louvre, and I changed my major to history and philosophy to prepare for law school because the law presented a lot of opportunities to do something meaningful and fulfilling. By becoming a lawyer, I could make a difference. My first clerking job in the Environmental and Lands Division at the United States Attorney’s Office confirmed that I had made the right decision.

TS: How did you become involved in the ABA?

Beckham: Although I had been a member for many years, I had not attended a meeting until my cousin, Walter H. Beckham III (a past chair of the Section) invited my husband, Gene, and me to attend the ABA’s 1994 Annual Meeting in New York. Gene and I had recently opened our firm and were looking for opportunities to network and develop our practice. At that first meeting, we met lawyers from around the country, attended outstanding programs, and joined substantive general committees. Gene and I both eventually chaired the committees we joined at that meeting, as well as many other committees before we each served on the TIPS Council. Gene went on to chair the Section (2013–2014). Not bad for two young lawyers from a small firm in Florida!

TS: What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active in the ABA?

Beckham: Becoming an active ABA member gives you the ability to distinguish yourself and make important friends early in your career. It gives you opportunities, such as speaking, publishing, networking, and becoming a leader in a national organization. You are able to meet and work with outstanding attorneys from all over the country, in all sorts of practices and from all generations, many of whom are preeminent in their field. Most importantly, you will make lasting relationships with great colleagues as you create your own amazing network of lawyers and friends.

TS: What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?

Beckham: Always remember that all you have is your reputation. Be courteous, listen, and be patient. Reflect on what is being said and show the colleague that you’ve heard their concerns. Have thick skin. Don’t let someone’s poor social skills cloud your judgment on whether you can trust them. Realize that they probably behave in a certain way in all interactions, and you aren’t going to be able to “fix” them. Assertive doesn’t mean aggressive. Remember: if they go low, you go high. It always works. Finally, realize that there are times when there is a real personality conflict and, if possible, try to avoid those situations. And, always treat difficult individuals nicely. They won’t be used to it, and maybe things can get better.

TS: What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

Beckham: Follow your opportunities. Find a niche that you want to focus on and become a specialist in it. The practice of law is extremely broad and no one can be proficient in everything. A good lawyer can’t be a jack-of-all-trades.

Become a member of TIPS. Join several general committees in your areas of interest. Get active in the Section’s leadership, attend TIPS programs, and participate in their social events. Volunteer to publish in their periodicals and offer to speak at their programs. Get involved. Not only will it be a great networking opportunity, you’ll meet some really wonderful people.

Join bar associations, groups, and clubs that interest you and develop relationships. The most important and enduring source of my appellate practice came from going to Miami Heat games 25 years ago, where Gene and I became friendly with people sitting next to us. Eventually, one of these friends (who we knew was a trial lawyer) asked what we did. He said he needed new appellate trial support counsel. I sent him several of my briefs and memoranda that I’d prepared in other cases. Within six months we were working together on over 20 cases. I am still working with lawyers with whom I worked on those cases. My experience working with him, and the word-of-mouth recommendations that he and the lawyers he knew provided, was just what I needed to get my practice off of the ground. Always do your best because you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Every activity is a way for people to know you, appreciate you, and hopefully refer a case to you.

Once you have a client, remember they came to you because they have a problem. Be a good listener, and be honest with them at all times. A good relationship with your client can only work if there is mutual trust and collaboration.

TS: What gives you the most satisfaction?

Beckham: The thing that has given me the most satisfaction is the balance that I’ve found between running my office, practicing law, and maintaining balance in my life. My husband, Gene, and I opened our office almost 30 years ago after leaving an insurance defense firm. We work together every day and still have plenty to share at dinner. My brother-in-law, Robert, is our partner; he has been with us since almost the inception of the office and has been a huge asset. Most of our employees have been with us at least 10 years, and I consider them all family. The ability to positively affect lives—both in the office and through the clients I have helped—has made me happier and, I think, a better person. In return, they have all given me much more than I can ever give back.

Pam Beckham’s Advice for New Lawyers:

  • Always listen first.
  • Your reputation is everything.
  • Always give more than you take.
  • There is no substitute for being prepared.
  • Don’t take everything personally.
  • If you don’t know, ask.
  • If you do things right, a mentor will find you.
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TortSource Interview with TIPS Leader Pamela Beckham

Pamela Beckham is an appellate lawyer with Beckham & Beckham, P.A., in Miami, Florida, where she has practiced with her husband and brother-in-law for over 25 years. She has served on the TIPS Section Council and has chaired the TIPS Appellate Advocacy Committee, the Scope and Correlation Committee, the Enterprise Fund Board, and the General Committee Board. She is a lifetime member of the TIPS Fellows, for which she has served as treasurer on the board of directors. She can be reached at [email protected].