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Paying Forward

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  • | 11:01 p.m. July 1, 2010
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A few people were kind enough to lend Dave Harper a hand before college, and he has been paying it forward ever since.

Now a partner in the Tampa law office of Foley & Lardner LLP and vice chair of the Milwaukee-based firm's national construction practice group, Harper says he might not hold these positions today had he not had help as a student at Lemon Bay High School in Englewood.

His upbringing was far from privileged, yet his honorable grades got him a few academic scholarships that led to earning a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Florida in 1993, then graduating cum laude from the Stetson University College of Law in 1996.

“Having received grace myself, I understand how a little financial help, guidance and encouragement can go a long way,” Harper says. He adds that trying to assist families and individuals can seem fragmented until it's done in a group effort, which has stronger impact and desire.

Over the last decade, Harper's involvement with charitable organizations has included the Boca Grande Pass Enhancement Fund, Horses for the Handicapped, Metropolitan Ministries, Divine Providence Food Bank and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. He is also a founding member of the 7:24 Foundation, a project-based fundraising group started through his church, South Tampa Fellowship.

“Dave brings passion to the foundation,” says Barbara Rebold, PCF executive director. “His efforts have been, and will continue to be, critical to the organization's success.”

Harper credits strong faith with motivating him to give back to the community, and his efforts were recognized by Foley in 2007 with a firm-wide award including a $5,000 charity donation. But his path to grace was far from easy — he worked his way through college on a bait-fishing boat and survived a brain tumor discovered five years ago.

That potentially catastrophic illness did not impair his career. He became one of the youngest lawyers in Foley's history to take on a national practice leadership role, and he continues to serve as a point man in representing developers and builders.

“I want to continue to be seen as a go-to person who is responsive, highly efficient and can represent our clients in the best manner possible,” says Harper, who spends a lot of time lately representing clients in trials and arbitrations on cases exceeding $10 million, involving most everything from construction deficiencies to Chinese drywall. He teleconferences every other week with his 24-member practice group, including its chairman in San Diego.

“Dave is a perfectionist and extremely driven...,” says Randy Wolfe, managing partner of Foley's Tampa office. “He is known for his thorough preparation for trial and unflappability in the courtroom, but most importantly he is a man of great integrity.”

Now married with three young children, Harper is greatly appreciative of what he has achieved so far. “When you're a good attorney and a good person,” he says, “nice things come your way.”


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