Several years ago, my former partners and I had the pleasure of meeting and, ultimately, the wisdom and foresight to hire Stephanie Martinez. It wasn’t long before we realized just how fortunate we were to have Stephanie as a member of our firm. She had/has all the attributes required to develop into an exceptional lawyer. She has a keen and agile mind that is able to discern and distill to their essence complex legal issues and arguments. She is thorough in her research and analysis of case law and clear and concise in conveying the results of both. She is diligent and reliable, respectful and humble – at times even self-effacing. She is a young woman of faith, high character and integrity. And, as an added bonus, though we didn’t know it at the time we hired her, Stephanie also holds several black belts in the martial arts, which makes her an excellent companion when you have a hankering to grab a beer at a rowdy biker bar!!!
Over time, I also grew to appreciate Stephanie’s considerable talents as a legal writer. In fact, in 2007, I enlisted her help in co-authoring a feature article for the Florida Bar Journal entitled: “The Burden of Truth – Have Florida Courts Gone Far Enough in Addressing the Problem of Juror Misconduct” (http://tinyurl.com/cnnct2w), which later received the Journal’s prestigious “Excellence in Writing Award,” as the best feature article of 2007. Regrettably, shortly thereafter (in January, 2008), I left the firm I had helped to establish 15 years earlier to join forces with my current partners. As “fate” would have it, however, less than a year later, Stephanie and our mutual friend, Doug Stein, independently decided to leave as well and, thankfully, joined my new firm. Candidly, from a purely selfish perspective, the move couldn’t have come at a better time, as what ultimately would become the manuscript for “Dear Ashley” was just beginning to take shape.
Looking back, I don’t have a clear recollection of when or how I first spoke to Stephanie about the book or the journey that gave birth to it, let alone when I began to use her as a “sounding board” for the ideas and reflections that would eventually fill its pages. What I do remember are countless early morning and mid-afternoon “breaks,” some might go so far as to characterize them as “therapy sessions,” spent on the floor in the corner of her office (I’ve always been a floor person), sharing my vision for the book and seeking her feedback on early drafts of a new chapter. I also remember (and now and am quite grateful for) the many times I “allowed” Stephanie to talk me out of abandoning the project entirely when it was all becoming a little too real and the emotions surrounding it a little too raw and her unwavering and enthusiastic support of my efforts and the book with every turn of a page.
Finally, I remember how impressed I was by Stephanie’s insights, particularly for such a young woman, and how appreciative I was for her incredible tolerance of my rather unpredictable manic/depressive episodes during the writing of the book – and for her friendship and her laughter when I needed them most. Suffice it to say, for the entire 3 years that I spent working on the book, I was blessed to have a welcoming and compassionate “next door neighbor” – a young woman of Ashley’s “approximate” generation, a daughter herself, to filter my thoughts through, not with an eye towards sanitizing them, but rather with one focused on ensuring that the “messages” of “Dear Ashley” rang true to a critically important segment of my intended audience. I’m not sure how you adequately capture, let alone thank someone, for contributing so much, but I tried with the following inscription:
I can’t possibly thank you enough for the support, encouragement and “floor space” you so unselfishly provided during the writing of this book. I am deeply and eternally grateful.