Lawyer of the Week — Episode II
Edward Birk tells us how he translated his career as a journalist with a newspaper to becoming a Lawyer
Pamela : Hi my name is Pamela and I’d like to welcome you this week to lawyer of the week and I’m very pleased today to have Edward Burke from Jacksonville Florida. I want to tell you a little bit about Ed. But first I want to say hello to him. Hello Ed how are you doing?
Ed Birk: Good Pamela how are you?
Pamela : I am doing great. Thank you so much for being the Lawyer of the Week.
Ed Birk: Oh it’s really an honor. Thank you.
Pamela : Yeah I know you’re busy and I appreciate you taking the time. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Ed Birk.
Ed has been with Marks Gray for over 18 years and his practice focuses on Employment law for employers and individuals; Fair Labor Standards Act wage and hours claims and compliance, trademark and copyright registration and infringement litigation; Civil litigation with concentrations in products liability, Employee Retirement Income Security Act plans and claims.
And I know there is more Ed. I also want to tell you a little bit about his honors, he has been with the Best lawyers in America employment for individuals. 2013, 14, 15 and 16 and he’s a member of this sort of Super Lawyers 2013, 14, 15, 16 and 17. So thank you so much for being with us.
Ed Birk: Glad to be here Pamela, thank you.
Pamela : I’d like to go ahead and ask you the Lawyer of the Week questions and the first question is, what made you decide to become a lawyer?
Ed Birk: Always a good question. So I worked for about 10 years in journalism and in that position you know in that job I was a spectator. I saw courts, legislatures, government areas executive officials all from the side-lines. And it was very interesting to me how all of those different institutions worked. So after about 10 years I said it’s time to be a participant not just a spectator. And I ended up in law school.
Pamela : Oh that’s really something. So you actually wanted to be a part of that process?
Ed Birk: Yes. Yeah it was very interesting to me. You know as a journalist to see laws being made see the courts interpreting laws, to watch trials criminal trials or trials involving other important policies of the day. Learning about government was always very interesting to me how our government works. Law school enhanced that understanding obviously and it allowed me to be a participant in the legal court system.
Pamela : That’s great. Now I notice that your practice focuses on media, does your having been in journalism for 10 years have anything to do with that?
Ed Birk: Oh certainly it does. And that gives me a unique value to client’s news media clients. Having been a journalist I understood the processes that journalists have to go through, the news gathering challenges that they have. Having worked under deadlines you know and I understand the concerns of news media organizations. I come from that come from those roots and so that gives me an automatic understand what my clients are. What their concerns are.
Pamela : Okay, so I imagine that you have a lot of passion for that area of law.
Ed Birk: I love this work. I really do. To me especially now more than ever we need a strong news media. It’s not just a business. It’s part of our democracy. Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers wrote about that. But if we don’t have a strong independent news media in our government we won’t know what our government is up to and we won’t be able to challenge our government when government either deviates from what our public with the electorate wants from our elected officials or when our government misbehaves. We know that happens from time to time.
Pamela : That’s great. Well that brings us to the next question. What can you tell us about your biggest wins and maybe your biggest challenges?
Ed Birk: Sure. We in Florida here have a wonderful set of laws having to do with open records and public meetings and open courts and we are the envy of many other states and jurisdictions. Yet there’s constant pressure on those open records and open meeting laws to narrow them because, it’s frankly inconvenient for state agencies and public agencies to comply with these laws. It’s expensive, they don’t like it many times. And so and then there are other reasons that legislators and others are trying to create exemptions to the openness that we have. So it’s a constant battle.
It’s a constant and requires constant vigilance to oppose efforts to close down these public records and public meetings laws. And, so we’re lucky to have different organizations in the capitol in Tallahassee that lobby and monitor legislation. And then of course of course almost every week you see a new opinion out of the courts around the state having to do with public records. Many of them are very good, the courts recognize the openness of the laws and that these public records of meeting laws are to be construed broadly. A few of them are not. Sometimes the courts get it wrong just like any other organization but it requires constant vigilance. It’s something that we enjoy. But we cannot take it for granted.
Pamela : Wow that’s really important and I didn’t really realize that. Well tell me what kind of legacy would you like to lead in your law practice?
Ed Birk: As an attorney and representative advocate for news media organizations. I’m going to advocate and push for open government, push for access to our government institutions, clear the way for news gathering to take place, and do whatever else I can defending in court if necessary for news organizations when they when they’re sued.
News media law, news gathering law is really very broad based area it includes copyright trademark privacy, trespass and defamation, libel. Public records open meetings. Contract law. Employment law. You know if it’s a very broad area and so on any given day, depending on what the issue is for one of my clients, iI can be called upon to be present iand an advocate for one or more of those different areas. It’s really something I love and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I have in this area.
Pamela : Okay that’s really great to hear Ed. Now I’m just a little bit on a personal level name one thing that you like to do to relieve your stress.
Ed Birk: Stress, stress, stress. We always hear about stress don’t we? Yoga is my exercise of choice at this stage in my life. It really is terrific. You know it looks easier than it is, believe me. I always get a really good workout when I go to class. And you know it’s good for stretching, it’s good for breathing, it’s good for relaxation and it’s just wonderful exercise. I can’t recommend it enough.
Pamela : So Ed on final thing I’d like to ask you, what is there that you’d like the world of lawyers that might be watching this video to know about you?
Ed Birk: Well that’s a big question. Let’s see I suppose I want them to know how much I really am grateful for the opportunity to be a lawyer. It’s such an important part of our society and culture and the image of the legal profession is not very good which is unfortunate.
But, I tell you what I’ve worked with wonderful lawyers here at my firm. Terrific lawyers and the high standards that we expect of each other and of ourselves. It’s really a pleasure to work with lawyers who, even as adversaries in court, who are skilled at what they do, who are able to advocate for their clients in a way that is respectable and courteous. Even though you are determined but still courteous. I think those are the best lawyers who can accomplish what they need to accomplish without engaging in offensive conduct.
You know our oath of attorney that we take to become an attorney in Florida says that we will not engage in offensive conduct. And it’s sometimes hard to say what’s offensive and what isn’t, especially when you’re advocating for a client or a position, but the attorneys who manage to do that I think really are our best and that’s important.
Pamela : Wonderful thank you and thank you so much for being our Lawyer of the Week.
Ed Birk: You’re welcome Pamela. Thank you I really appreciate the opportunity.