Monday, November 30, 2015

Recognizing Professionalism as a Foundation for a Successful Career

By Judge Frances Perrone

        The Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Professionalism Committee proudly presented Don M. Stichter with the second annual professionalism award. The award recognizes consistent honesty, integrity, fairness, courtesy, and an abiding sense of responsibility to comply with the standards and rules of professionalism in the practice of law. These criteria precisely summarize Mr. Stichter’s reputation and dealings with the courts, opposing counsel, and parties.

        Mr. Stichter personifies professionalism and serves as a role model not only to legal colleagues, but to many members of our community. His leadership began early in life when he served as president of his high school class. At Colgate University, he competitively swam and performed with the famous Colgate “13” singing group. After graduating college in 1951, Mr. Stichter joined the Navy and bravely volunteered to serve on what is now known as the Navy Seals (then the Underwater Demolition Team). Mr. Stichter and his wife of 55 years, Ellen, raised four children. One son, Scott, now practices law with him.

        Mr. Stichter’s legal career began in the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department and continued as a Chief Assistant United States Attorney in Tampa handling criminal and civil cases. Moving to private practice, he handled a wide variety of cases in state and federal courts before narrowing his focus to bankruptcy.

        Judge Michael Williamson, chief judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, attributes a great deal to Don Stichter for building the collegiality and professionalism of the local bankruptcy bar. He is recognized for building a culture of professionalism at his firm, Stichter Riedel, Blain & Postler. Judge Williamson noted, “Mr. Stichter proved to local lawyers you can build a go-to law firm on professionalism.” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Peek McEwen praises Mr. Stichter as a model of the civility pledge recently added to the oath of admission to The Florida Bar. Judge McEwen recognizes Mr. Stichter as “a consummate professional and a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

        While he has served as counsel on many high-profile and high-stakes cases, Mr. Stichter nevertheless consistently provides pro bono representation. In fact, Mr. Stichter routinely volunteers for the Bankruptcy Bar’s Pro Bono Clinic and often covers if a volunteer cancels due to an emergency. His firm’s efforts were recognized in 2014 with the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice’s award for pro bono services.

        Mr. Stichter served as HCBA president and continues to exceptionally contribute. Many lawyers praised Mr. Stichter’s formal and informal mentoring of young lawyers throughout the local Bar.

         In addition to his practice of law, Mr. Stichter remains active ― swimming, playing multiple musical instruments, racing sailboats, playing tennis, singing, reading, and teaching Sunday school. He currently performs with the Tampa Community Band and, until recently, volunteered as a diver cleaning saltwater tanks for The Florida Aquarium. He has also led efforts to preserve historic buildings in downtown Tampa.

         Leadership, military service, graciously assisting others — these activities shape Don Stichter’s daily routine. He sets a tremendous example of achieving success through integrity, professionalism, and service to others.