Shark Patrol

Kimberly Leach Johnson's unlikely idea of a vacation        

Published in 2008 Florida Super Lawyers — June 2008

Growing up in a small Ohio town, Kimberly Leach Johnson worked as a lifeguard at her community pool. After moving to Florida and getting a law degree from the University of Florida—then a master's in tax law from University of Miami—she went deeper into her hobby. She became a scuba diver.

She really became serious about diving after moving to Naples in 1982 with lawyer-husband Ken Johnson.

They have since taken diving trips to Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and the South Pacific. They had a trip scheduled for the Red Sea, but 9/11 put the kibosh on that plan.

 "We try to take a couple trips a year," says Johnson. They include their three sons—now ages 23, 22 and 21—in the diving experiences. On land, Johnson is chair of trusts and estates for the Naples office of Quarles & Brady, a Milwaukee-based law firm with 450 lawyers nationwide. She heads a team of 25 in Naples.

 "I specialized in tax law at the University of Miami, but when we got here, there were few businesses that needed that expertise back then."

So Johnson found her niche in estate work.

Some of her clients have been with her since she came to Naples.

 "In Naples, there are so many high-end families, so it makes estate work so interesting. You get to know them; you become part of their lives.

"Estate planning is like reading a book. When they come back every few years, you learn about their family, their successes and their failures; what they are doing. You get to know several generations of family."

Still, practicing law can be pretty intense. For Johnson and her husband (a real estate lawyer), diving among the reefs is a refuge.

Even feeding sharks was a relaxing experience for Johnson.

 "It was off the Cay Sal Bank in the Bahamas chain. The divers go down and the sharks know what is coming. We sit near the bottom and someone in the dive tender lowers chum into the water. Then the divers watch the sharks feed on it."

On this trip, a crew member topside accidentally dropped some silver knives in the water while he was dropping the chum. It startled the divers a little, but didn't break the sharks' concentration as they continued their meal.

Other than that incident, Johnson finds her pastime soothing.

"The quiet, the colors of the fish and the plants in the deep water, the coral, it really helps you unwind," she says.

Even feeding a shark can take the edge off.

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