TALLAHASSEE – A rating service recently recognized 13 attorneys from Hopping Green & Sams in Tallahassee as top-rated lawyers in the state in several practice areas.
The 2016 Florida Super Lawyers publication recognized seven people, including environmental attorneys Peter Cunningham, Ralph DeMeo and Frank Matthews; land use and zoning attorneys Gary Hunter and David Powell; general litigation attorney Kent Safriet; and business and administrative law attorney Vicki Weber. Six others were listed as Rising Stars, including business attorney French Brown and environmental attorneys Joe Brown, David Childs, Mike Collazo, Mo Jazil and Jon Harris Maurer.
Super Lawyers bases its selections on professional achievement and peer recommendations. It’s a valuable credential, DeMeo told the Florida Record.
Florida Super Lawyers has a thorough vetting process that includes talking to a lawyer’s peers and clients. It also has the added value of advertising an attorney to someone who may not know anything else about the particular law firm.
“We appreciate it,” he said, adding that there are others in the firm who likely also deserve the recognition.
With just 52 attorneys, a full quarter of the firm was recognized this year.
“I think they do a good job of recognizing the top lawyers in their field," DeMeo said. "We hope we earn it.”
DeMeo has worked in environmental law for more than 30 years, focusing mostly on contamination issues. He latched onto the area while in law school, which he attended after he’d worked as an English professor.
“I’ve always had an interest in the issues associated with air, water and land," he said. "I like the science of it. I get to work with toxicologists and biologists and soil scientists. It’s still very much a vital and still-growing practice.”
In addition to the technical aspects of environmental cases, DeMeo enjoys working in the state’s capital, where he feels involved in the goings-on of the government. Besides practicing law, he also lobbies the executive branch, teaches law, lectures and writes articles.
“It’s a passion, I guess," he said. "And if you like what you’re doing, it doesn’t seem so much like work. I’m with a great firm that allows me to do some of these other things. I enjoy to this day practicing environmental law in Tallahassee.”
Environmental law is particularly important in Florida because of human impact on the environment, he said. Environmental law in its modern form started in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. When DeMeo graduated law school in 1984, he was taking up a practice that was, by his assessment, in its childhood. Significant laws were being written at the time.
The firm has been “instrumental” in the forward motion in this area of practice, he said.
HGS was founded in 1979. Wade L. Hopping, a founding partner in the firm who died in 2009, specialized in environmental and land use law. He helped negotiate and get several pieces of legislation passed, including the Environmental Land and Water Management Act.
“We’re very much in the forefront of every significant environmental issue,” DeMeo said.