OUTCOAST had the opportunity to sit down with Ohio native, Tim Martin, to discuss his late-in-life career transition, LGBTQ community advocacy work, and his tips for securing an attorney.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in southern Ohio (out in the middle of nowhere). My hometown is Latham, Ohio.
Share with me a favorite childhood memory.
Growing up in a rural part of the state with a very large immediate and extended family, I loved spending time with my cousins and other relatives. I really enjoyed our annual family reunions. Perhaps my favorite memory though is going berry picking with my mom and grandmother – although I did more exploring in the woods than picking berries, and I ate most of the berries I did pick. Grandma also taught me how to make homemade biscuits.
Tell us about your educational background.
After two years at Defiance College in northwest Ohio, I transferred to The Ohio State University where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations in 1989. I moved to Florida the same day I graduated.
I went back to school in 2003 (working full time and going to school full time) and earned an Associate in Science Degree in Paralegal Studies from Valencia Community College in 2004. I later went to law school at Barry University School of Law and earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2008.
What were you doing before you became a lawyer?
I was a paralegal manager for a timeshare company in Orlando for six years before going to law school.
What pushed you to take that next step to become a lawyer?
My former boss (and friend), John Campbell, encouraged me to go to law school – a logical progression undertaken with some apprehension. After all, I was 42 when I enrolled in law school.
The reasons people become lawyers varies quite a bit. A close friend of mine had some legal trouble, and that helped me decide that I wanted to make a real difference (rather than just contribute to the bottom line of a corporation).
Why did you go into law?
After I had relocated to Orlando (from Jacksonville), I had some difficulty finding employment so after a couple of months decided that I needed to add to my education. I waffled between paralegal studies and a computer-related education, but ultimately decided on the law because I figured that I could work in that profession well into my later years. I got a job as a paralegal before I even earned my degree.
Why did you choose to branch out on your own versus work for a firm?
I graduated from law school during the big recession and job opportunities were very limited. I couldn’t just sit around and wait so I created my own job. I also like the freedom of being my own boss – taking cases I want instead of what may be assigned to me, setting my own hours, etc. Of course, being on my own presents its own set of challenges as I have to do both the legal and administrative side of things.
What should people consider when seeking legal guidance?
Anyone with a legal concern should first consider the complexity of the issue(s). They may be able to handle the matter on their own. There are self-help programs and forms available for certain types of cases. But sometimes it is advisable to hire an attorney.
When that decision is made, people should also consider the effort that will be required by them as well as the attorney, and the cost (court fees and attorney fees). It is crucial that they have a good working relationship with the attorney and involved in the process.
Describe the areas you focus on?
Martin Law Office focuses on animal, business/corporate, estate planning and probate, LGBT advocacy, and real estate property law. Each of these main areas have sub-areas as well.
What services do you offer that directly affect LGBTQ community members?
I regularly provide legal services to members of our community including name changes, estate planning, probate, landlord/tenant matters, real estate, business organization and contracts, divorces, pet agreements, etc.
How does your firm get involved with the local LGBT community?
I participate in local PRIDE celebrations by having an exhibitor booth to introduce myself and to show support. My firm also participates in the annual AIDS Walk and other similar events.
I am the President of LGBT Bar Association of Tampa Bay, and the Secretary of Florida Association of LGBT Lawyers & Allies which hosts an annual legal update on LGBT related matters.
I also chair the Diversity Committees of both the St. Petersburg Bar Association and the Hillsborough County Bar Association, where I can help direct events and learning opportunities for lawyers representing the LGBTQ community.
I also provide free legal advice every month at Metro Wellness and Community Centers and provide pro bono or reduced fee services for clients who cannot afford legal representation.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My answer to this is two-fold. First, I enrolled in law school at age 42, graduated at age 45, and was admitted to the bar at age 46 – far older than most of my peers. Secondly, I started my own law firm in January 2012 and I’m still around. Most new businesses fail. I thank the LGBTQ community for its ongoing support.
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
First and foremost, my mom, Evelyn Martin, has been the most influential to me from a personal perspective. She has always supported me, given me advice, and taught me a lot through the years. From a professional perspective, my friend (and former boss), John Campbell, provides invaluable guidance and ongoing support to me as an attorney.
Share with us the best advice you ever got from someone?
The best advice I have received was to not send an email when I’m upset. I have learned (too often the hard way) that I should wait until I’m calm so I can edit the email or not send it at all in some instances.
And for some added fun, what’s your favorite movie and why?
My favorite movie is “Beaches” with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. For many years I was able to maintain lasting friendships with classmates from high school, and I saw this movie with two of those friends. The parallels of our friendships have had a lasting effect on me ever since.
Who’s your celebrity Crush?
I can’t really say that I have a celebrity crush (being happy at home of course). But years ago Jean Claude Van Damme might have changed my mind on that.