Being given an opportunity to fight for a client in a criminal defense trial triggers the kind of passion that burns like fuel through Bob Morris' veins. And he is good at what he does because he understands the foundation of a good defense.
That skill level comes not only from time spent in the courtroom defending clients but in hours prepping to fight those cases and the research that goes on outside the courtroom. It is also grounded in a philosophy often lost in some industries.
"I love that this is one of those professions that if you work hard, you will succeed," he said.
A quaint downtown law office in Brooksville might attest to a comfortable kind of success. It came at a price, Morris said. He worked hard to mold his vision into a viable law practice that focuses on quality service for his clients.
His law career actually began in the State Attorney's office in Brooksville.
"I was offered the job and brought here from Indiana," he remembered.
He had been in Florida before, working as a clerk in a law office in Ocala during law school. An avid horse enthusiast and trainer, Morris was in his glory in a town known for its equine industry. And it was that stint that earned him the respect of colleagues and eventually led to recommendations for the job as state attorney.
Not surprising, the experience paved his way into private practice, working for two years with an established local firm.
Brooksville was different back then, Morris remembered. He would ride his bicycle to have lunch at the Cottage Dinette, where Dairy Queen now resides, or McDonald's since there were few other options.
"Brooksville was a lot smaller then," he added.
Morris' early start helped secure his own practice, which he opened in 1994. He purchased an existing residence on Summit Road, now Martin Luther King Boulevard, turned it into a professional law office in the front and lived in the back.
"I had established a practice in family and criminal law," he said, and he built a solid client base that anchored him.
"I was established and as the county continued to grow and prosper, my practice was able to grow and prosper," Morris said.
While affiliated with others in the beginning, the Morris Law Group formed after moving to Main Street in 2004, in the charming building that dates back to the early 1900s. And Morris began renovating to update the look, in some cases digging through the paneling-covered interior walls to expose the original brick overlay. He removed the dropdown ceilings to reveal the high architecture and covered the floors with dark hardwood.
The result was his business boomed from a solid foundation he continued to build on, gliding through the economic downturn with a few bumps. Yet he managed to stay viable.
"The law industry is dependent on its clients," he explained. "If the client has no income, they cannot hire a lawyer."
During the darkest times, Morris remembered an influx of others flocking into the county, practicing in areas where they lacked experience.
"They were doing it out of desperation because they were no longer able to make a living at what they were doing before," he said.
Yet Morris was relatively unaffected. "That's when being established in the county and having a reputation really was our saving grace."
Morris Law Group consists of Bob Morris and Kristie Ruppe who recently merged her law practice earlier this year. Ruppe specializes in criminal and education law. He has a dynamic support staff, including Linda Poling, who has been with Morris for 20 years; Brenda Loper; and Liz Carroll.
Morris decided to pursue law after his father, a physician, advised him to become his own boss in whatever career path he followed.
"I always took that to heart," he said.
He hasn't regretted that decision, finding a true passion in the work he does. He molded his practice to meet a high personal standard of professionalism that he practices at all times. His office is also run with that aura of authority.
"If an office is run professionally, you don't have problems," he said. "I think one of the reasons people hire good lawyers is so they don't have surprises."
When he speaks of his family, his wife and two young sons, Morris' pride is impossible to miss. His office decor hints at his passions, including trinkets he's collected through the years that rest on a shelf in clear view, all of which define the character of the man behind a well-organized life plan.
He recently announced his plans to run for Circuit Court Judge in 2018, an ambition he said is a natural transition for a high-profile attorney. Yet he is humble in his efforts to slightly diffuse the spotlight.
"The law is pretty consistent. It isn't hard to find cases with facts that are similar to yours," he said. "It is the people that make the difference and make it interesting."
Hernando Today correspondent Kim Dame can be reached at email@example.com