Attorney Sean M. Cleary is the owner and founder of The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary. In his legal practice, he focuses on representing accident and injury victims who have been harmed by the negligence of others. He also handles high net worth individuals in the area of family law. His law office is located in Miami, FL.
Lawyer Minds: What types of cases do you handle?
Sean Cleary: At my law firm, we handle catastrophic personal injury cases and represent individual people who are victims of wrongful death, medical malpractice, defective products of almost every kind, and general personal injury (for example, involving airplane and helicopter crashes, maritime (boating accidents), automotive, premises liability, construction, etc.). We also represent high net worth individuals in family law cases.
Lawyer Minds: What drew you to the legal field and made you want to become a lawyer?
Sean Cleary: I was interested in and drawn to the legal field because my father was a trial lawyer before I was born, and he continued for more than 45 years. My dad encouraged me to do and experience different things before starting my professional career.
I have always loved boating and being on or in the water. Thus, after graduating from college at the University of Notre Dame, I became a scuba diving instructor. After teaching diving for a few years in exotic places (including in Mexico, Turks & Caicos, and other beautiful islands) I decided I wanted to have a career combining the ocean and the law. Thus, I moved to Miami where I presently live and attended the University of Miami School of Law to pursue courses in Admiralty Law (The Law of the Sea).
Ultimately, I’m a people person and became a trial lawyer because I enjoy speaking to and working with people, and representing individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, which is what I still enjoy every day.
Lawyer Minds: What unique struggles do lawyers face?
Sean Cleary: I think lawyers struggle with stress because we are always working against the clock and driven by deadlines on the calendar. As a trial lawyer, I continually litigate against large corporations and their insurance companies. As defendants their goal is to delay our cases and prevent us from getting to trial for as long as possible, which in turn means they hang onto their money for as long as possible.
My goal is to resolve the case fairly and efficiently by settlement and without wasting time and money or, if that can’t be done to the client’s satisfaction, we are constantly battling to get the client’s case to trial quickly. Along the way, we deal with daily deadlines and the stress of managing each client’s case as we proceed forward to trial.
Lawyer Minds: What case has been most impactful to your career, whether it was a win or a loss?
Sean Cleary: The most impactful case in my career was a trial against Bank of America in Federal Court in the Southern District of Miami many years ago.
The clients were elderly retired folks from St. Lucia, more than 80 years old, whose retirement savings was stolen from their IRA accounts (which are supposedly protected from theft by a more than 20 step security system). We alleged that the only way this could have happened was if the bank was involved, either directly or indirectly, with stealing their money through defects in the bank’s system. The family’s account had suffered significant theft at least three times and as a result my clients were facing financial ruin and bankruptcy.
After many years of litigation and constant roadblocks put up by the bank’s attorneys, we prevailed on legal theories that to my knowledge had never been tried to a jury before. We proved our case and the jury awarded our clients significant money damages including all of the stolen money plus punitive damages. Then, after the bank lost, it appealed and again we won.
Lawyer Minds: How do you continue developing and growing your legal knowledge?
Sean Cleary: I try to continue to develop and grow my legal knowledge by constantly reading. I read books and articles written by other trial lawyers, medical professionals, engineers, and stay aware of changes in consumer safety. I also apply what I read to my cases because standards for safety evolve, and legal strategies for proving those changing standards in our lawsuits do as well.
Lawyer Minds: What are your hobbies outside of work? How do those skills or interests transfer to your legal career?
Sean Cleary: Outside of work, I love to be on the ocean as much as possible. We love boating, fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling particularly in the Florida Keys and Bahamas. Those interests transfer to my legal career because part of my law practice involves boating negligence cases, boat crashes, and defective boat products. Thus, what I know and practice as a captain of my own boat is very helpful in discussing these cases with potential clients, investigation, and handling these lawsuits.
Lawyer Minds: How do you find balance in your life when handling a particularly complex case?
Sean Cleary: I try to find balance by staying physically active. I have always worked out at the gym and walked throughout my career. I work out 4-5 days per week and spend 60 minutes doing cardiovascular exercise and then 30 minutes or so doing weights. I also regularly walk with my wife and kids.
Lawyer Minds: Why do you feel the legal industry is so heavily influenced by word of mouth and personal referrals? Do you ever see this changing?
Sean Cleary: I believe the legal industry is still heavily influenced by word of mouth and personal referrals because hiring your attorney is a significant and very important decision. But, with that said, having clients who recommend you, for example, by reviewing your performance on a law firm website is a good way to get to know your potential lawyer. In my career I have seen a shift from how individuals find their lawyers since in today’s world I believe more people look for a potential lawyer first on the internet and then secondarily through individual referrals from a person they know and trust.
Lawyer Minds: What’s your ideal day as a lawyer look like?
Sean Cleary: My ideal day as a lawyer is spending time with students doing one of our volunteer projects through ABOTA (The American Board of Trial Advocates), such as the Otis Lecture Series, which we present every year to hundreds of high school students. Students ask very interesting questions and learn a lot from them. As much as love my job, I love being outside the office and talking to and working with people.
Lawyer Minds: What’s one thing you want the readers to know about you that we didn’t ask?
Sean Cleary: I grew up in Vermont and have been a skier my whole life. But, while I miss Vermont, I love living here in Miami including our wonderful culture and great mix of people from all over the world.
Lawyer Minds would like to thank Sean M. Cleary for sharing his insights with our readers.