When two people have practiced law for a combined 101 years, it could be time for a change.
A career transition, at least.
Elliot Zisser, 75, marked his 50th year of practice in 2021; his wife, Carolyn, 75, passed the milestone this year.
Married 51 years, the Zissers practiced with separate corporations and staffs.
His office Downtown was established in 1971. His office near their home in Neptune Beach opened in 1975.
“We made the decision to not combine our business and our personal life. We both practice family law, so we were competitors,” Carolyn Zisser said.
They consolidated the two practices about a year ago as Zisser Family Law. It was the first step in their succession plan.
The law firm vacated 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 turn over the daily operations to managing partners Jonathan Zisser, their son, and Sara Frazier, Carolyn’s protege since 2017.
A lot has changed in the past five decades in how law is practiced.
“When we started, we had typewriters,” Elliot Zisser said.
They watched as advanced office technology with fax machines and then personal computers, the internet, email and smartphones.
The coronavirus pandemic brought its own technological advances, such as remote hearings becoming the preferred format for many procedural issues.
“The first time I saw a computer on a lawyer’s desk, I thought, ‘What could they possibly use that for?’ Now, I plug in my laptop and have three screens. There are no more boxes of files. I can take my office wherever I go,” Elliot Zisser said.
Having easier access to data made the office more efficient, but also changed the workflow, Carolyn Zisser said.
“Sometimes, it’s too fast-paced,” she said.
“When the mail used to arrive once or twice a day, I could get caught up. Now, I try not to look at my email when I’m on vacation.”
The Zissers also have watched changes in society change their practice and clients.
“So many women pursuing professional careers have affected family law. Men’s time share – what we used to call child custody – 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 mothers, forgoing their career to raise children,” Carolyn Zisser said.
As they plan to begin limiting 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 into practice in Jacksonville with his brother, retired attorney Barry Zisser, then took over the Downtown firm.
“I’m figuring out what I want to do. I haven’t had that choice in my life,” Elliot Zisser said.
Travel, reading, cycling and mentoring young attorneys are possibilities, he said.
Carolyn Zisser plans to remain involved with the firm and with the profession, while having the time to revisit something she enjoyed early in life.
“I still consult with clients and then refer them to the firm. I want to use my talents any way I can and still have the time to transition.
“I also want to take piano lessons like I did when I was a young child. This is a creative time. It makes me think about the present and what I want to do today,” she said.
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