A Lifelong Commitment to Legal and Educational Service
Throughout his long legal career, Norman D. Tripp has helped clients overcome challenges and take advantage of business opportunities. As a passionate advocate for higher education, Tripp is committed to opening doors for students seeking a better future.
“I have tried to make a lasting contribution in both the private and public sectors,” says Tripp, chairman emeritus of Tripp Scott, the Fort Lauderdale firm he founded in 1969. Along with building his practice in business and commercial real estate, Tripp has guided the firm’s growth to approximately 50 attorneys with entrepreneur, business, finance, environmental, employment, real estate and technology law practices. “Today, we are the oldest large firm in Broward County, and I’m proud that every year we have paid a bonus to everyone in the firm, regardless of economic conditions.”
Tripp has also had a lasting impact on Florida’s colleges and universities, serving as a trustee for the University of Miami and board chair of Florida Atlantic University, and advisory board member of the Huizenga School of Business at Nova Southeastern University.
In 2008, Tripp was appointed to the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida, and was recently reappointed by Governor Rick Scott to another term. “Norman has made a strong commitment to ensuring access to the educational opportunities in our university system,” says Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System. “As chair of our academic and student affairs committee, he has also focused on improving the safety of our students, including mental health and counseling programs as well as physical security.”
Overcoming Early Challenges
Tripp has a deep personal understanding of the importance of education. ”I grew up poor,” says Tripp, who spent his early years in Binghamton, New York. His father Merritt Tripp worked for Ed Link, inventor of a famous aviation trainer, while his mother Eleanor took in laundry so their only child could have singing and dancing lessons. “We all lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and my parents felt my talents could carry me to a better future.”
After graduating from high school, Tripp enrolled at the University of Miami’s Radio, Television and Film School, planning a career in entertainment. But finances were a constant struggle. After 18 months at UM, he returned to Binghamton and worked at Link Aviation until he could save enough to return to college. “I finished another 18 months of school and ran out of money again,” he says. “I started working at a Miami title and abstract company, and was able to take a few more classes.”
Meanwhile, Tripp joined a new UM vocal music group, the Singing Hurricanes, organized by Glen Draper, former choral director of the U.S. Air Force. “There were 20 of us who took a summer tour to perform at air force and army bases in Europe,” Tripp says. When he came back, Tripp received a scholarship that enabled him to earn his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1962. “I can certainly say that going to college transformed my life,” says Tripp.
While at UM, Tripp met his wife Jane, and together they returned to her hometown of Cleveland. Tripp went to work for his father-in-law’s company, Doggie Dinner Dog Food, and became a claims adjuster for Allstate Insurance. Meanwhile, he began taking law classes at night at Cleveland State University. “It was in law school that I found my calling,” says Tripp, who graduated second in his class in 1967. “I passed the Ohio Bar and then The Florida Bar, and decided I wanted to practice in South Florida.”
Tripp moved to Fort Lauderdale and joined Watson Hubert and Davis, after at fellow UM fraternity member referred Tripp to his brother, who was a lawyer at the firm. “They gave me a great start,” Tripp says, noting that one his early clients was United Federal Savings and Loan.
Meanwhile, Tripp began handling capital criminal cases on a part-time basis for Broward State Attorney Philip Shailer, the only full-time lawyer in the office. “I was making enough money that I was able to open my own office in 1969,” he says.
Initially, Tripp handled a wide range of cases, including personal injury, divorce, and business matters. “I also had a lot of knowledge about real estate law. “It was the right time to open a practice in Fort Lauderdale, because there were so many newcomers moving here from the Northeast and Chicago who needed an attorney.”
Meanwhile, the Tripps adopted two children, Jennifer and Norman, and then had two of their own, Christine and Michael. “All our children grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where they enjoyed swimming and other sporting activities,” Tripp says, adding that daughter Christine Yates is now a probate lawyer with the firm. “We have eight grandchildren now, and they also enjoy sports,” he adds.
Building his Practice
With an office conveniently located on Sunrise Boulevard, Tripp found his practice growing rapidly. He joined the Kiwanis Club and became friends with several real estate developers and brokers. He helped contractor Howard Stiles with a 12,000-square-foot building, and his 23-year-old son, Terry, who took over the family construction company in 1971 after his father had a fatal heart attack. “This was actually the first building to get a certificate of occupancy in Terry’s long career in real estate,” Tripp says.
Another 1970s client was Michael Egan, who was an employee of Olin’s Rent-a-Car in Miami and needed legal assistance in negotiating with Miami Beach hotels. When the company’s New York owners filed for bankruptcy protection, Egan went to work for Palm Beach billionaire John MacArthur, whose holdings included a small local company called Alamo Rent A Car. Egan began growing Alamo and eventually bought the company. “I served as a counsel for Mike throughout this period, and our law firm grew quickly,” Tripp says. “We helped Alamo with buying and financing cars, opening new facilities in the U.S. and Europe and dealing with the legal issues faced by any successful business.”
Because Alamo was going head to head with national leaders Hertz, Avis and Budget, Tripp and the firm became involved in the political arena. State Sen. James Scott, who served for 24 years in Tallahassee, including a term as Senate president, became Tripps partner, as the firm continued to expand its government relations and regulatory practice areas.
Contributing to the Community
While building his practice, Tripp became active in Broward’s civic organizations, serving as chair of the Children’s Home Society and Visiting Nurse Association. He became a founding benefactor of the Community Foundation of Broward, and created the Tripp Fund for Educational Opportunity and the Tripp Scott Fund for Community Diversity.
In 1998, he successfully spearheaded the citizens’ campaign for passage of the Broward County Public Library bond issue, and later received the Outstanding Citizens Award from the Florida Library Association. Other honors include being named Leadership Broward Inc.’s “Leader of the Year,” award and receiving the awarded Broward Economic Development Council’s Spirit of Broward Award for Overall Community Leader.
“As our community and our state look to the future, I want to be sure we stay focused on high-quality education,” Tripp says. “Not everyone needs a four-year or graduate degree. But everyone should have an opportunity to pursue a fulfilling career of their choice.”
South Florida Legal Guide 2016 Edition