February 05, 2011

IRR News Report

Summer 2007

Section Vice Chair Neal Sonnett Named "Alumnus of Distinction" by University of Miami School of Law

Nationally acclaimed criminal defense attorney and Section Vice-Chair Neal R. Sonnett received the 2007 Alumnus of Distinction Award, from the University of Miami School of Law, only the fourth time the award has been presented, on Thursday, May 10, 2007, at a special dinner celebration at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, FL.

"Neal is an outstanding leader who has rendered extraordinary service to the legal profession and the nation in upholding the Rule of Law and insuring that the Bill of Rights applies to all," said University of Miami School of Law Dean Dennis O. Lynch. "As a past president of the Law Alumni Association, he also stays involved in the law school and is there if we call on him for student related activities."

Although Sonnett, who received both his undergraduate and law degrees from UM, began his professional work as a child actor and singer, today he is well-known in the legal arena as the "trial lawyer with a social conscience" - an informal title that he has earned after a 40-year career that has included countless pro bono work.

Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, who chaired the gala dinner honoring Sonnett, described him as a "consummate professional with a reputation as one of the foremost criminal defense attorneys in the nation" and a "long and distinguished history of service to the bar and community." "Neal has passed on to future generations of attorneys not only his substantive knowledge but also his passion and love for the law," Kogan said.

Sonnett attributes his courtroom ability to his acting, debate, and moot court training in high school, college, and law school, and he gives great credit to the University of Miami and the School of Law. "This award is particularly special to me," said Sonnett, "because UM and the School of Law provided me with a wonderful education and a solid foundation on which to build a rewarding career." "I've been fortunate to be able to give back to my profession, and I'm humbled and honored to be recognized for it."

Sonnett has led many local, state, and national bar associations, and is currently President of the American Judicature Society and a leader in the Section and ABA. He has received numerous accolades throughout the years, including most recently the UM Alumni Association's William R. Butler Community Service Award, the 2007 Outstanding Service Award from the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, and the 2006 Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award from the Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar. He was named three times by The National Law Journal as one of the "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America," and is one of only 12 Lawyers in Florida included in every edition of The Best Lawyers in America since 1983.