Career Spotlight: Steve Uhlfelder (JD ‘71), Tallahassee Attoryney Specializes in Government Law
“A successful career in governmental law is sometimes as much knowing the process and system as it is understanding the substantive law”, said Steve Uhlfelder, who has represented companies such as General Electric, Microsoft, Bristol Myers and UPS in his long career. “People are not just expected to be very good lawyers, but to be able to successfully navigate through state bureaucracy. Clients often have unrealistic expectations of what can be done in this process.”
Governmental law offers its best rewards when one wins cases against the state that improve things for citizens, said Uhlfelder, citing as examples his legal successes securing for a large technology company the right to start online registration for driver’s licenses and with helping to secure the contract for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), part of the state’s plan to increase student achievement.
But the downside with governmental law is that there’s not enough time for everyone to gain access, leaving those with less power and influence at a disadvantage. “That’s part of the process that troubles me,” he said. ”So I use my influence with both big businesses and pro-bono work. I think every lawyer should strike a balance between the two.” Of particular interest to Uhlfelder are at-risk children. He chairs the Governor’s Mentoring Initiative for at-risk children, and he received the national Daily Point of Light Award in October for his commitment to public service. His goal is to increase his pro bono work to 50 percent or more of his practice within a few years.
Though he encourages people to get involved in governmental law, Uhlfelder advises them to have a realistic attitude. “You aren’t always going to be representing a client with whom you totally agree, but they must be reputable and well-respected to associate with them in the governmental process,” he said. “Remember, in government things are gray rather than black and white. You learn this with experience. We must always remember that no matter who we represent you must respect the integrity of the political process.”