An interview with Joel S. Perwin, the veteran appellate attorney behind the law firm of Joel S. Perwin, P.A.
How long have you been serving South Florida clients? “I have been working as an appellate attorney in South Florida for 37 years: 24 years at Podhurst Orseck, P.A., and 13 years at my own firm, Joel S. Perwin, P.A.”
How many attorneys work for the firm? “I am the only attorney in my firm, and I handle all matters personally. I have found that there is no area of appellate litigation — such as reviewing the trial record, legal research, formulation of the arguments and factual statement, writing and editing the brief, or conducting oral argument — that I do not need to do myself.”
What are the firm’s legal specialties? “Although I was a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., my practice now is entirely civil, and I handle cases of every kind. Typically I am hired for my expertise in appellate practice and procedure, rather than any specific substantive specialty.”
What is the best part about practicing law in South Florida? “From the time I came home from Washington to Miami in 1981, I have been taken by the dynamic nature of the practice here. It is not entrenched or hierarchical, as in some legal communities.”
What sets your firm apart from others? “One thing is the benefit of my 37-year experience as an appellate lawyer, which has brought an appreciation of the pitfalls and nuances of appellate litigation, and repeated experiences with the appellate judges of Florida and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. There isn’t very much procedurally or substantively that I haven’t encountered at some point.”
Is there a particular case that exemplifies the firm’s work and success? “The case I’m most proud of is Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, in which the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of what’s called long-arm jurisdiction — the constitutional permissibility of a plaintiff’s attempt to bring an out-of-state defendant to Florida to defend a lawsuit here. Burger King has become an important decision that is taught in every law school.”
What is something people may not know about your firm that you would like them to know? “Of course I want referral lawyers to know that I am still going strong. I still dictate the initial drafts of my briefs, then get the drafts printed out so I can edit them by hand. I also make my outlines for oral arguments by hand. These are things that younger lawyers don’t quite get, but they work for me.”