Career Corner: Diving into water law
In late 2009, when then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was searching for some of Florida’s top experts in environmental, land use and water law, Glenn Waldman’s (JD 83) name came up.
Crist was working toward a complex transaction involving the purchase of a large chunk of the Everglades from U.S. Sugar Corp. and needed professionals who were expert in the intricacies of a real estate transaction with far-reaching environmental implications.
“There was an opening on the board and he asked if I would serve and help the other board members and district staff navigate this rather substantial transaction,” Waldman said.
Waldman was thus appointed as one of nine governing board members of the South Florida Water Management District in early 2010.
Students considering practice in environmental and land use law can learn from Waldman’s path. When he graduated from UF Law more than a quarter century earlier, Waldman didn’t necessarily set out to be one of the go-to names in environmental and land use law in South Florida – rather, that was a result of a unique confluence of opportunity and interest, combined with years of valuable experience. He founded Waldman Trigoboff Hildebrandt Marx & Calnan, P.A. in 1991 as a boutique firm that focused primarily on complex commercial litigation and health care issues. His expertise in environmental and land use law came after.
“Part of this had to do with the fact that there weren’t a lot of attorneys practicing in (environmental and land use law) and at the time it was a burgeoning area of the law,” he said. “If you look at growth industries in Florida in particular – outside of tourism and health care – you would have to point to environmental because of the nature of our ecology, particularly in South Florida where we have the Everglades.”
Waldman points out that there is a good deal of overlap between complex commercial litigation and environmental and land use law, so it was a natural fit. Some of that overlap had even ensnared the South Florida Water Management District which Governor Crist also cited as a basis to appoint Waldman.
“I am a lifelong South Florida resident and have a keen interest in our environment,” Waldman said. “I think it’s important to Florida’s future; I think it’s important to Florida’s overall economy – inclusive of the sometimes competing environmental and agricultural interests.”
Waldman also became a certified mediator in 1990 and an arbitrator in 2000. Over time, he became well regarded for his blending of knowledge in the area of environmental land use and water law and skills as a mediator and arbitrator. As a result, “I started receiving a lot of referrals to help parties mediate and arbitrate those specific matters,” he said.
Waldman said his greatest challenges and rewards are both wrapped up in the cases he and his firm take on.
“Because we handle complex commercial matters of high-dollar disputes, typically we find ourselves as a boutique firm up against large, national law firms which have substantial resources,” he said. “The logistics of handling very substantial matters is, and continues to be, our biggest challenge.”
He said the rewards are often in those very same cases.
“In larger firms, they’ll have layers and layers of lawyers, none of whom know the entire case. In a smaller firm such as ours, you tend to have only one or two lawyers who are routinely involved in the day to day affairs of the case and, typically, that leads to advantages when it comes down to framing and arguing substantial motions or trial proceedings,” Waldman said. “The reward is the results we obtain for our clients.”
For those law students and young lawyers who are interested, Waldman said he doesn’t see any slowdown in the growth of environmental, land use and water law in Florida.
“Complex problems resulting from the intersection of governmental regulation; private development and property rights; and environmental and pollution impacts present continuous tension,” he said. “It’s all very complex and that provides for lawyers and lobbyists – many whom are lawyers – tremendous opportunity going forward.”
Waldman urges those interested to take every available course they can in environmental and water law.
“There is no substitute for that,” he said.
Additionally, he said it’s important to work with the Center for Career Development during their time at UF Law to get matched up with the most suitable firms for the student’s interests.
He also emphasizes the importance of volunteering with organizations such as the Everglades Foundation and other non-governmental organizations. Not only are such organizations doing great work, they can provide potential employment and, at least, valuable knowledge and background for a future practice, he said.
Waldman is no stranger to volunteering his time either. In addition to his seat on the Water Management Board, Waldman serves on the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 4th District of Appeal in West Palm Beach. He previously served as a special prosecutor for the Judicial Qualifications Commission and on grievance committees of The Florida Bar.
“I want to be involved in activities specifically designed to help improve the judicial system in general,” he said.
He also takes an active role in the future of UF Law, serving on the UF Law Board of Trustees and the Environmental and Land Use Law Advisory Board.
“Mr. Waldman has been very supportive of the ELULP,” said Director Mary Jane Angelo. “Among other things, he has been the driving force behind creating and funding the new Florida Water Law Endowment, which will be used to enhance students’ education in Florida Water law by providing funding to help support courses such as the existing South Florida Ecosystems course, and other potential courses on Florida Water Law.”
In addition to Waldman receiving his undergraduate and JD degrees at UF, he currently has a son in the UF MBA program – having received an undergraduate degree from UF, a daughter entering her senior year at UF who is a student senator and member of Florida Blue Key and another daughter in high school who can’t wait to get to UF.
“We have several generations of Gators,” Waldman said. “I am absolutely committed to our University, and it will always be so.”
– Matt Walker