Alumni Profile: Kim Picazio ('95)
Senior Partner at Law Offices of Kim L. Picazio, P.A.
Kim Picazio ('95)
When University of Miami graduate Kim Picazio arrived on Florida State Law’s campus in 1992, she did not look like the other students, much less the lawyers and legislators she was surrounded by in downtown Tallahassee. She quickly realized that her look – which included neon stretch pants and a blonde ponytail perched high upon her head – was not appropriate.
“That was fine at University of Miami, but that was not fine at Florida State,” said the Ft. Lauderdale native. “It was time to throw off the ponytail and stretch pants and to be a lawyer.”
Picazio no longer needs to wear neon to garner attention. As one of the top family lawyers in South Florida, her reputation precedes her. And these days, Picazio is known for a different look.
"My firm is kind of known for pink legal pads," said Picazio, who uses the pads as an intimidation tool. “We don’t write on them – we know our cases that well; we just come into a deposition with a pink pad and stilettos. I teach my attorneys and staff not to rely on a script; to question people as they would their boyfriend or mother. You have to listen and you’ll catch things.”
Picazio, who was named a 2012 “Top Lawyer” in field of family law by the South Florida Legal Guide, learned to litigate from people she considers some of the best legal minds in the state. Before opening Kim L. Picazio, P.A. in 2002, she was an associate at Heinrich Gordon Hargrove Weihe & James, P.A. for a year and then spent 6 years at the Law Office of Robert D. Hertzberg fine-tuning her robust in-court litigation skills.
“I knew I wanted to litigate,” said Picazio, who did not even take Family Law at Florida State. “I love to change people’s minds, I love to talk, I love to debate, I like to give people different perspectives and to turn their thinking around. And I can do that in a courtroom and in depositions. I was a very good writer, but I wanted to use my mouth to change things.”
At Heinrich, she was involved in many high-profile cases, including those for Big Tobacco, CSX and Bell South. As she was the “littlest man on the totem pole,” she was primarily responsible for writing legal briefs and motions.
“That first year I was writing a lot, trying to impress the associates who were above me. I knew that I was not going to be getting into court anytime soon,” said Picazio. “The senior partner in that firm, Richard Gordon, had a reputation as being mean as a snake. However, I believed then, and believe now, that he was one of the best at what he did. Although I had respect for him and a healthy amount of intimidation, I kept on bebopping my way into the senior partner’s office, saying, ‘When can I get into court?’ One time, with a smirk on his face, he just said, ‘Come with me.’ He took me to a room and there was a deponent waiting and a court reporter.”
Gordon gave Picazio the basics of the case and looked at her and said, “Go ahead. Question the witness.” She found the holes in the deponent’s case and impressed Gordon enough to be given opportunities to work on some of the largest cases in the office.
When Picazio moved to the smaller Hertzberg firm, she finally got a taste of the courtroom.
One of her first trials was representing the restaurant Joe’s Stone Crab against a class of women represented by the EEOC. The federal case involved allegations of discriminatory hiring practices toward women. Ironically, during her three weeks in the courtroom, Picazio was about eight months pregnant.
“The case involved complex constitutional arguments about equal rights, the 14th amendment, and about discrimination in the workplace,” said Picazio. “I really got my feet wet, and conducted over 50 depositions of potential class members. I spent night after night speaking with constitutional law professors, soaking up their intrinsic understanding and love for constitutional analysis. I listened and learned the intricacies of constitutional law to be ready and able to argue any position that was thrown my way. There is no one who, in my opinion, would be a better lawyer in the courtroom than a professor. I was very pregnant, but I put my heart and my soul into that case and was inspired by the highly publicized lawsuit that required a high level of skill, strategy and deep understanding of constitutional law.”
Knowledge learned from great litigators and law professors, along with a self-professed drive that earned her a spot in the top 10 percent of her 1995 graduating class, catapulted Picazio into position to open her family and matrimonial law firm in 2002. Picazio thrives on the competitive nature of her practice, because she loves to win.
“I am one of the most aggressive child custody lawyers in town,” said Picazio. “I love doing domestic violence cases because it’s fast, highly strategic and requires quick-to-the-draw litigation skills. It’s a fast-paced, mud-slinging environment that I love to be able to calm down, control and to guide. I love to take a case where it looks like my client is about to lose custody because maybe their spouse is setting up an environment for them to fail, and to bring the light to the truth and to turn it around. There is nothing better than to empower your client with knowledge, and good lawyering.”
The aggressive, yet respectful way Picazio conducts business has made her a natural fit for media commentary. She started appearing on television news programs a few years ago when she represented the biological mother of a missing child on a pro bono basis.
“I was on the news a lot,” said Picazio. “I did local news and national news – did the Nancy Grace show nearly every night. After that case they continued to ask me back on whenever they needed a commentator about high-profile crimes. I was able to entertain and argue with other commentators without being insulting. I continue to be asked back to commentate for CNN Headline News and other media networks – commentating on the Casey Anthony trial recently, as well as an appearance on the Dr. Drew Show about the investigation into missing baby Lisa.”
Picazio’s children TiVo their mother’s television appearances and are proud of their mother’s accomplishments. Even with her 60-hour work weeks, Picazio makes her three children a top priority. Picazio and her husband of 16 years, Michael, are parents to 14-year old son Sonny, 11-year-old daughter Stella and 5-year-old daughter Sloan. Nightly family dinner discussions about friends, teachers and “playground happenings” allow Picazio to stay involved with her kids, and to guide and direct them. Enjoying throwing a Frisbee in the yard, and attending her children’s extracurricular events, keeps her life balanced.
The value Picazio places on her family makes her a more passionate advocate for her clients. “As a lawyer, there are awesome responsibilities and obligations because you’ve got other people’s lives in your hands. Lawyers have a lot of clients, but you must not forget how important you are to each client – they are sitting at home wondering about their case. They are talking to their neighbors and family members about what their lawyer is doing in their case. That is the topic of their conversation when they are in litigation, especially with family law.
“You have to continue to trudge on in your work life, and devote quality time to yourself and family. There are 24 hours in each day – 8 for sleep, 8 for work, and 8 for yourself and family. That’s the goal – that’s balance. If you just manage your time and your life, it’ll all work out just fine. But, never forget your importance to your kids or your clients.”
*As reported in the fall 2011 issue of Florida State Law. Click here to download a PDF copy of the magazine.