Prominent land use attorney Dan Bailey has done many things in his career. Working with his son was one perk he didn't see coming.
When talking about longtime attorney Dan Bailey's contributions to the evolution of Sarasota, its roads and housing communities, schools and shopping centers, the shorter list is the projects in which he had no part.
The diverse list of projects Bailey, with the Sarasota law firm Williams Parker, has worked on includes the Sarasota Bay Club, the Plaza at Five Points and Heron Creek.
Beyond projects, in 2004, Bailey partially broke a barrier of sorts at Williams Parker, one of the region's most established law firms, founded in 1925. It happened when Bailey's son, Charlie Bailey III, joined Williams Parker, which temporarily suspended its anti-nepotism policy. The elder Bailey had been with the firm since 1975.
Officially named Charles Dan Bailey Jr., on Oct. 30 Bailey is scheduled to receive another honor: the Argus Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. Dan Bailey's father, Charlie Bailey, who died in 1980, received an Argus Foundation Lifetime Achievement award posthumously in 2007.
Dan Bailey, 71, and Charlie Bailey, 48, sixth- and seventh-generation Floridians, respectively, recently sat down with the Business Observer to talk about their careers and working together. Edited excerpts:
Early days: Dan Bailey's legal career started with zoning board appeals and a variety of lawsuits and cases for Sarasota County. “We did everything that came in,” Bailey says. He joined Williams Parker in 1975, when the firm had 13 lawyers. It has 49 today.
In the air: Bailey has been general counsel for three Sarasota institutions: The Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority; Sarasota Memorial Hospital; and the Sarasota County Clerk of Court.
He remains general counsel with the airport authority, where he not-so-fondly recalls the 1980s, when the board was an elected position, not appointees like it is today. Most people who ran for seats, says Bailey, were far from polished politicians. “It didn't always draw quality members,” he says. “When it did, it was mostly by accident.”
Family and work: Charlie Bailey joined Williams Parker after a stint at another well-known area firm, Icard Merrill. At first, the Baileys had no plans to work together. Then, in the early 2000s boom, Dan Bailey hired an attorney to help with the increased workload. The hire didn't work out. “Next thing I knew we were interviewing my son. I knew they were going to hire him, even if it meant they had to fire me,” quips Bailey.
Big change: Williams Parker temporarily suspended its anti-nepotism policy after several attorneys encouraged firm partners to hire the younger Bailey. “I was very happy where I was,” says Bailey. “I thought I would work there the rest of my life.”
Yet the lure of working not only with his dad, but also with Williams Parker icons, such as William Harrison and George Dietz, was strong. “The partners at this firm were like aunts and uncles to him,” Dan Bailey says.
Father knows best: The Baileys are each land use experts, but they don't share cases often. When the elder Bailey hands work over to his son, it usually involves complicated transportation matters. Says Dan Bailey: “I just don't have the attention span for that kind of work.”
And while Charlie Bailey says following his father wasn't part of a larger plan, he's glad he did. “He has been a great resource,” says Charlie Bailey. “He can tell you the politics and reasons behind everything that's happened in this town.”
IF YOU GO
The Argus Foundation is bestowing its Lifetime Achievement Award on Dan Bailey Oct. 30 in Sarasota. For information, call 941-365-4886.