Dorothy F. Easley is a distinguished attorney based in Miami, Florida. An award-winning board-certified appellate specialist with a diverse range of professional and legal experience, Easley has been a leading national figure in appellate law over the course of her twenty-plus year career. She currently serves as the President and Supervising Attorney of the law firm Easley Appellate Practice, PLLC, where her appellate practice focuses on commercial law, intellectual property appeals, family law, health law, and business torts, among many other areas.
The renowned author of the appellate treatise Successful Federal Appeals in All Circuit Courts: A Practical Guide for Busy Lawyers (3d ed. 2017), Easley today is regarded as one of the foremost authorities in appellate law. Though for her, this success was the culmination of a lifelong commitment to hard work, a trait she cultivated at a young age growing up on a farm.
Prior to her career in law, Easley was a successful research scientist in Latin America. With a Master of Science in Forestry Genetics from SUNY/ESF at Syracuse, summa cum laude, she had published numerous academic papers in both English and Spanish, while she worked with several leading forestry companies in Colombia. After her contract expired, she moved to Texas to join her husband where she started working with the Latin American division of a large lumber company. As Easley tells it, her decision to change career paths was spurred by a string of unexpected events.
I tried to find work in East Texas as a research scientist, and I was hired by a Fortune 200 corporation. I built up their plywood division for Latin America and it was doing really well, and I had a secretary and I reported to the VP. The next thing I know, I’m working side by side with the manager. After two years, I was approached by the manager and he told me ‘next year, they’re going to offer you half your salary, the reason being your husband works here too, and you’re married and you don’t really need the money.’ So I decided to move on.
I’m from a long line of lawyers and doctors in the ages when you were paid a chicken for drafting someone’s will or a pig for saving someone’s life, so I thought I would follow in their footsteps and try law school. I found that I loved commercial law and constitutional law, and that’s what I began my career in.
Since earning her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Miami School of Law in 1994, Easley has seen a precipitous rise in her field. She has been a prolific writer over the course of her career, while she served as former elected-Chair of the 1,700-member Florida Appellate Practice Section, former Vice Chair of the Appellate Court Rules Committee, and was the former head of two "big firm" appellate departments.
As the founder of her law firm, Easley uses that experience to intimately supervise and work exhaustively with a team of appellate attorneys and appellate paralegals to efficiently and expertly advance legal appeals to leave no stone unturned. In part, she attributes her success in appellate law to her diligent research skills, which she cultivated during her time as a research scientist.
Appellate attorneys, within the highly specialized practice of appellate law, tend to be more generalized than trial attorneys. Trial attorneys might do only insurance defense or insurance prosecution. Appellate attorneys that are board-certified tend to go broader because so much of what we do concerns detailed and nuanced areas of law and because the areas of law are so detailed, often times, the attorneys who specialize in that area of law don’t even have enough information about it. We are professional students, adept at learning the intricacies within a larger area of law, and my particular appellate practice, even though it’s generalized in a sense, we have to go in and become experts about those particular nuanced areas of law every time we have to handle an appeal.
Today, Easley’s appellate practice incorporates issues that concern a wide range of areas, from Business to Health to Family Law. Though the prominence of her firm attracts a number of high-profile clients—from Fortune 100 national health plans and national entertainment groups—they are also happy to work with small businesses and individuals.
As a leader in her field, Easley is paying close attention to prevailing trends in appellate law. She distributes a weekly newsletter, "The Appellate Gourmet," and is currently following the development of proposed term limits for appellate judges.
Within Florida, I’ve been particularly interested in the suggested term limits of the appellate judges, which I think is a mistake. I understand the reasoning behind it, but I think it’s a mistake. Fortunately, it hasn’t passed yet, but it's no different from anyone else’s job. You have to study and have time to learn. The longer you do something and the older you get, the better you get at it, and in fact, this notion that people over fifty are actually less productive than younger generations is being debunked, and the studies out of the business think tanks indicate that people fifty to seventy years of age, on average, are more productive because they are better educated. I think this whole term limit of appellate judges is well-intentioned, but it would be a big mistake to try to remove our institutional memory and our experienced, qualified appellate judges.
With hundreds of appeals, her firm is highly experienced and respected by appellate judges and her colleagues. Recognized with numerous awards for expertise, Easley has garnered a reputation as an exceptional appellate advocate and writer, the uncanny ability to turn complex legalese into understandable prose, and win even the most complex cases.
After two decades of success, Easley shows no signs of slowing down. She recently finished a chapter on writing appellate and a chapter on writing amicus briefs for The Florida Bar Florida Appellate Practice Books, set to come out in 2017, while she looks forward to continuing to provide her expert representation and counsel to her wide range of clients.