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South Florida Legal Guide - 2011 Edition

Throughout Florida, Sidney A. Stubbs is known as a lawyer's lawyer. He represents attorneys and law firms in their legal disputes. He provides advice to managing partners on business practices and serves as a mentor to younger lawyers. And he sets a high standard for the legal profession through his own conduct.

“I believe that professionalism and candor with the courts are of paramount importance in making our justice system work,” says Stubbs, a partner and board member at Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs, P.A. in West Palm Beach.“Lawyers need to remember that their clients must always come first. There is no excuse for being rude, uncivil or making a case into a personal matter.”
A board-certified civil trial lawyer and a certified civil trial advocate (by the National Board of Trial Advocacy), Stubbs has more than 40 years of experience in commercial, corporate and law firm litigation.

A former state chair of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Life Fellow in the American Bar Foundation, Stubbs has also served on the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar and is a former president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, which honored him with its “Professionalism Award” in 2005.

“Sid is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Florida,” says Joel A. Rose, principal, Rose & Associates, a management consulting firm in Cherry Hill, NJ. “He is a gentleman, an excellent trial lawyer and an effective leader in his law firm. Sid has the vision and ability to see the strategic issues beyond the day-to-day operations. Other attorneys come to him with their concerns, and he is always gracious in responding to them.”

A Florida native, Stubbs was born in Gainesville in 1938, moved to Bradenton at age 5, and graduated from Florida State University in 1960. “I was always active in organizations, and was an officer in my fraternity and involved in student government,” he says. “I was having a hard time deciding between a career in university administration or in law.”
Fortunately, Uncle Sam gave Stubbs a few years to make up his mind. After completing the ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program at FSU, Stubbs entered the Air Force and was stationed on a radar site in Montana for three years. He was also newly married to Annette Macintosh, a coed at Florida State who had one uncle serving as a judge in Panama City and another as an attorney in Washington, DC. Her grandfather had also been a judge.

“I had lots of time to think about my future,” Stubbs recalls. “My wife was willing to work and put me through law school, so we went to Gainesville.” Three months before enrolling at the University of Florida School of Law, the Stubbses had twin daughters, joined six years later by a son. All three are now adults with graduate degrees, but none followed their father into law.

After earning his J.D. with honors, Stubbs went to work for a small firm in Clearwater. “I thought I wanted to be a transactional lawyer, and it took me a little while to figure out that field was not for me,” he says. “One of my former roommates said his firm in West Palm Beach needed a litigator. Since Annette grew up in Pahokee, moving here was an easy decision, and we’ve been here ever since.”

In 1983 and 1984, Stubbs served as special counsel to Gov. Bob Graham. “I found this to be an exciting and challenging assignment,” he says. “Bob Graham was an incredibly talented and dedicated public servant.”

At Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs, P.A. — a firm that can trace its roots to 1909 — Stubbs has worked on a wide range of litigation cases, from agricultural ventures to hospitals, healthcare and commercial matters. “I enjoy the courtroom experience immensely,” he says. “Even at 72, I enjoy the research aspect and developing legal strategies for our clients.”
One of Stubbs’ most significant cases was representing New York law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in a 1980s case he lost at trial and received a better result on appeal. “The case revolved around the fiduciary duty of lawyers and law firms to each other, and it has been discussed in many articles and appellate opinions.”
Today, much of Stubbs’ practice involves representing other lawyers in malpractice and law firm “break-up” litigation. For instance, he obtained a directed verdict defending a national law firm in a case that involved $12 million in alleged damages in the preparation of partnership documents. He also has a wider commercial litigation practice that covers fraud and breach of contract matters.

Drawing from his years of experience, Stubbs has some practical advice for South Florida attorneys seeking to protect their interests. “Be sure you have a written agreement with your firm and that it’s in accord with the changes in the law,” he says. “In smaller firms, lawyers sometimes forget about the importance of putting their arrangements in writing.
Stubbs has seen a definite increase in legal malpractice cases in recent years, which he attributes to the slower economy. “Regular client communication is the most important way to reduce that risk,” he says. “Be clear, put it in writing and be sure the client understands.”

Outside the courtroom, Stubbs enjoys time with his family and hiking with his wife. “We walked across England in 19 days, and have hiked through Italy, France and the western U.S. I’ve also done parts of the Appalachian Trail.” At home, Stubbs likes to read, particularly books like “Under the Tuscan Sun” that bring other parts of the world to life. In the community, Stubbs remains active in Boy Scouts, the Legal Aid Society, Leadership Palm Beach County and the Forum Club.
Looking ahead, Stubbs says his primary goals are to continue to grow the law firm and maintain the legal profession’s standards. “I believe that Florida has one of the best bars of trial lawyers in the nation,” he says. “I have seen what our attorneys can accomplish both inside and outside Florida. They are professionals in every sense of the word.”

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