When two people have practiced law for 101 years, maybe it’s time for a change.
A career transition, at least.
Elliot Zisser, 75, celebrated his 50th year of practice in 2021; his wife, Carolyn, 75, passed the milestone this year.
Married for 51 years, the Zissers practiced with separate corporations and staffs.
His Downtown office was established in 1971. His office near their home in Neptune Beach opened in 1975.
“We made the decision not to combine our business and personal life. We both practice family law, so we were competitors,” Carolyn Zisser said.
They combined the two practices about a year ago as Zisser Family Law. This was the first step in their succession plan.
The law firm has moved out of its space at 121 W. Forsyth St. Downtown and is opening a new office at 10175 Fortune Parkway in South Jacksonville.
The next part of the plan is for the founding Zissers to hand over day-to-day operations to managing partners Jonathan Zisser, their son, and Sara Frazier, Carolyn’s protege since 2017.
Much has changed over the past five decades in the practice of law.
“When we started, we had typewriters,” said Elliot Zisser.
They saw office technology advance with fax machines, then personal computers, the Internet, email and smartphones.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought its own technological advancements, such as remote hearings becoming the preferred format for many procedural matters.
“The first time I saw a computer on a lawyer’s desk, I thought, ‘Why would they use it?’ Now I plug in my laptop and have three screens. There are no more file boxes. I can take my office wherever I go,” said Elliot Zisser.
Easier access to data made the office more efficient, but also changed the workflow, said Carolyn Zisser.
“Sometimes it’s too fast,” she said.
“When the mail came once or twice a day, I could get caught. Now I try not to check my emails when I’m on vacation.
The Zissers have also seen changes in society change their practice and their clients.
“So many women pursuing professional careers have affected family law. Men’s timeshare — what we used to call child care — is heading toward equalization,” Elliot Zisser said.
“There are still a large number of women who are our clients who are traditional stay-at-home moms, giving up their careers to raise children,” Carolyn Zisser said.
As they consider starting to limit their law practice, Elliot Zisser hasn’t formulated his plan for the next chapter of his life.
After college and law school at George Washington University, where he and Carolyn met, he went to practice in Jacksonville with his brother, retired attorney Barry Zisser, then took over the firm Downtown .
“I think about what I want to do. I haven’t had that choice in my life,” Elliot Zisser said.
Traveling, reading, biking and mentoring young lawyers are possibilities, he said.
Carolyn Zisser plans to stay involved in the firm and in the profession, while having time to revisit something she enjoyed early in her life.
“I always consult clients, then I refer them to the firm. I want to use my talents in every way possible and still have time to transition.
“I also want to take piano lessons like I did when I was a kid. It’s a creative time. It makes me think about the present and what I want to do today,” she said.
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