A middle school field trip to Tallahassee left a big impression on Shannon Puopolo. Not necessarily the elected officials but in learning about all the attorneys who worked behind the scenes to get things done. “I just thought it was really interesting,” Puopolo recalls. “I thought that would be neat.”
She followed through on that career path and is now a business litigation partner with Fort Myers-based Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt P.A. In that role Puopolo focuses her practice on complex business litigation, including real estate and creditor’s rights in bankruptcy and state court proceedings. She represents companies, financial institutions and individuals in bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings, alternative finance transactions and related work.
Puopolo joined the firm in 2009, after she worked there as a summer intern. That was a period when the firm, like many others in the region, handled a slew of real estate foreclosures and bankruptcy cases, courtesy of the recession. That could be happening again, particularly after a state moratorium is lifted on mortgage foreclosures. After that, Puopolo says, “I think there will be a tidal wave of new foreclosure and bankruptcy cases.”
While Puopolo readies herself for that challenge, she also puts a good amount of effort into her leadership role at Henderson Franklin, one of the biggest firms in the region. One area for that is in hiring: She’s the chairwoman of the hiring committee. The first woman in that seat, Puopolo says the role lets her mentor younger attorneys and also keeps the firm focused on diversity in its hiring practices.
Outside the firm, Puopolo is on the inaugural board of the Lee County Bar Association Foundation and for the past five years has chaired the Lee County Bar Association’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament, raising more than $100,000 to fund grants to local charities. She’s done other volunteer work, through the Bar Association and other groups, always with a go-getter and enthusiastic spirit, some of her colleagues say.
That spirit carries over to her work too, says Puopolo, who traces her fiery drive to being an athlete in high school and college, where she ran cross country and track and field. She remains a competitive athlete today, running in half-marathons, marathons and triathlons, a determination that motivates her at work, too. “I’m a very competitive person,” she says. “I want to out-prepare my opponent. I really love to win.”
Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt, P.A.
Business litigation partner
Years on the Gulf Coast
37 (born here but left for college and law school)
Married with one daughter (13 months old)
Washington University in St. Louis — B.A. 2005; University of Miami School of Law — J.D. 2009
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
Lee County Bar Association Foundation
What's the weirdest job you've ever had?
During high school, I worked at Claire's, which is a jewelry and accessories store. Part of my duties included piercing children's ears. As you can imagine, the second ear was always more difficult to pierce, once they knew what to expect.
What's your top tip for being productive?
Each morning, I make a to-do list of tasks that I need to complete, and I don't leave my office until all of the tasks are completed. I like to tackle the most difficult assignment first, so I don't have it weighing over me later in the day.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
I always dreamed of being a park ranger in a national park.
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
I love long-distance running. Now that I have a daughter, I enjoy taking her for runs in her jogging stroller.
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?
"90 Day Fiance" on TLC
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?
I would use Skype occasionally to conduct interviews because I'm the hiring chair for the firm, but not nearly has much as I use it now.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
You have to be willing to adapt to unexpected turns in life. In my profession, we had to adjust to working from home and learning how to conduct depositions, mediations and even trials via Zoom. I quickly realized I would be doing my clients a disservice if I resisted this new way of practicing law. Instead, I've tried to embrace it by taking courses on virtual platforms and fully utilizing the available technology to better advocate for my clients.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?
I miss traveling. I look forward to planning trips almost as much as I enjoying taking them, and it's tough not knowing when it will be safe to travel again.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?
The silver lining of the pandemic is that I've been able to spend more time with my family. Instead of commuting to and from work, I spend the morning and evenings going on walks with my family or playing games with my daughter. I got to watch her take her first steps and say her first word, and I am grateful I was able to experience those milestones.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?
Home. I've actually been more productive and have fewer distractions.
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?
We schedule periodic calls or Zoom meetings to catch up with one another. We even did a virtual pizza party a couple weeks ago, where we had pizza delivered to our houses at the same time and conducted a Zoom meeting while eating pizza. We try to keep it creative.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?