Jeff Guy made stops in health care and construction before becoming an attorney. The experiences helped him gain a better understanding of how to work with clients.
Jeff Guy didn’t follow a regular path into law.
Growing up, he says he thought about going to law school, but after undergraduate school, he says he got stuck following a familiar path and got a job instead.
When he moved back to Sarasota after college, he worked for a nursing home management company. It was challenging work, but not what he wanted to do. Later he started a flooring company, but that also wasn’t full-career satisfying.
Then, when the economy slowed in 2007 and 2008, Guy again looked to law. This time, it felt like it was now or never. At 34 years old, he thought it might be his last chance to go to law school. So he enrolled at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport.
"It’s always about having a happy customer. You’re working on different things, but you’re still trying to make the client happy." — Jeffrey Guy, attorney, Kirk-Pinkerton
A decade later his decision has culminated in a big career step: He was recently named a partner at Sarasota-based Kirk-Pinkerton, which has more than a dozen attorneys in a wide variety of disciplines. He’s been with the firm for four years, practicing in the areas of divorce and family law, personal injury and commercial litigation.
In law school, where most of his fellow classmates were at least a decade younger, Guy’s age made him somewhat of an outlier. But he worked hard not to be seen that way, using some of the soft skills he learned in business.
He says during the first year of law school, when everyone was trying to figure out how to study and read cases, he thought the best way to do that was to take “the-more-the-merrier” approach. So he was outgoing and friendly and built relationships with classmates.
While he was in school, his wife, Scarlett Guy, an attorney, continued working. Jeffrey Guy finished law school in two and a half years, and when he was done, he was 37. He worked for Sarasota law firm Syprett Meshad for two years before joining Kirk-Pinkerton.
Guy’s experience owning a business helps him interact with clients from a variety of backgrounds. “It’s made client relationships much easier,” Guy says.
It’s also helped him with that part of being an attorney that involves acquiring and retaining clients and collecting fees. “You have to be able to talk to a client and not feel nervous,” he says.
That’s a skill Guy picked up in construction in the early 2000s, when he and a friend, David Broecker, started a flooring business in Sarasota called Bay Flooring. The business, Guy says, “boomed perfectly with the market.”
Bay Flooring also grew through a key connection — another business lesson for Guy, to always be aware if opportunities. One of Guy’s neighbors was a manager at a local Home Depot. He arranged for Guy to meet with Home Depot, and Bay Flooring soon got a contract — Home Depot would send orders to Guy’s company for customers who bought flooring and needed it installed. Stores in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas started sending orders regularly.
Customers bought flooring directly from Bay Flooring, too. Despite more growth through referrals, Guy says he always fought opening a showroom. He didn’t want the overhead. “From a dollars-and-cents perspective,” he says, “it never made sense to me.”
For a few years, Guy ran the company on his own after Broecker left to pursue other opportunities. And now, having dealt with the pressures of managing people on multimillion-dollar construction sites helps him stay more calm and reasonable during cases as an attorney, too.
Guy says he doesn’t miss working in the construction industry. He enjoys law. And he says his door is always open to new attorneys who have questions they need answered.
There’s another key similarity between construction and law, Guy says — they’re both about trying to resolve issues. “It’s always about having a happy customer,” Guy says. “You’re working on different things, but you’re still trying to make the client happy.”