Career Corner: Law grads find more than passion for law at UF
After being introduced through a mutual friend on the moot court team in the fall of 1988 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Marc Chapman (JD 89) and Tracy Duda Chapman (JD 90), became friends right away.
But it wasn’t until they worked at the same law firm in Orlando that they started dating.
“They didn’t have policy against it,” Tracy said of their relationship at the firm. “But we both were concerned over whether or not that was a smart thing to do.”
Fast-forward to 2013. The Chapmans now have two daughters, aged 12 and 15, and have been married for 19 years.
Tracy is the senior vice president and general counsel of A. Duda & Sons, Inc., a diversified land company with operating divisions and subsidiary companies in agriculture, real estate development and related businesses. She is also the CEO of The Viera Company, a subsidiary of DUDA that manages the commercial and residential development of DUDA’s non-agricultural property in Florida, and is the master developer of the master-planned town of Viera in Brevard County, Fla.
In February, Marc was elected president of Dean Mead, a full service business law firm based in Orlando with three other offices around the state (Ft. Pierce, Viera and Gainesville) and nearly 50 attorneys. He practices in the area of commercial litigation, including banking, construction, real estate, commercial landlord/tenant and probate litigation, as well as creditors’ rights and non-compete/trade secret enforcement.
As a couple of Gator grads with diverse paths in law, Marc and Tracy said passion for a chosen field is recipe for success.
“You have to enjoy and like what you do,” Tracy said. “If you choose a field that you’re interested in, it makes going to work a lot better.”
While Tracy is passionate about agriculture law, working for her family’s company makes her strive even harder for success.
“I have stock in the company. My daughters have stock in the company. So I have a vested interest in its success,” she said. “You feel like you’re continuing the legacy of passing on the business to future generations.”
Tracy also recommends that students continuously seek knowledge outside of their chosen career path as a means of broadening their horizons and as preparation to take on unexpected jobs.
Marc adds that students interested in commercial litigation should take a number of business classes.
“In addition to the litigation issues, you’re going to advise clients on some type of corporate, tax or other business issue impacted by the litigation in most cases,” he said. “You need to at least recognize the business issues so you can refer your client to the appropriate advisor.”
He also gives a simple but crucial piece of advice to law students and recent graduates: Be a good listener. It is the only way to really figure out what a client wants and actually needs, he says.
Marc and Tracy say they have been fortunate for the ability to participate in many philanthropic events. Together they’ve donated to the St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and School, the HOPE Foundation and UF Law, among many others.
They enjoy traveling and taking their daughters to the Keys every summer, which presents Marc a perfect place to enjoy his hobby of fishing and Tracy a lush landscape as family photographer.
They are also huge football fans. Marc, a seven-year Gator, is a Champions Club season ticket holder, and Tracy spends many football weekends at the University of Alabama, her undergraduate alma mater.
“We don’t see each other much on football weekends,” Marc said. “And when the Gators play Alabama, we sit on opposite sides of the stadium.”