Under a different set of circumstances, Jeffrey Tew might have become a journalist. Although he was born into a family immersed in the legal field, there was a time when Tew floated the idea of eking out a living through the written word.
“I went down to the Miami Herald … And they rejected me,” Tew said.
Having won the Miami Herald’s prestigious Silver Knight Award as a boy and serving as the editor of Coral Gables High School’s student newspaper, Tew figured he had a niche that would have been well-suited to the world of research and reporting. But the Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez partner said that experience “ended my thoughts about being a journalist.”
Several decades after that early brush with failure, things seemed to have worked out nicely for Tew. Now entering his 50th year as a trial lawyer, the Miami Beach native has assembled an impressive career that’s seen him represent everyone from the Seventh-day Adventist Church to infamous and now-disbarred foreclosure attorney David Stern.
In Tew’s mind, the siren call of legal work permeated his childhood. Many of his high school friends were the children of prominent Miami litigators, and his mother worked as a legal secretary.
But Tew’s biggest influence might have been his grandfather, who became a licensed attorney in Macon, Georgia, following World War I.
He said, “The reason that I became a lawyer is my grandfather.”
As a child, Tew spent much of his time in his grandfather’s law office, priming him for his own youthful stints as a clerk.
“I was in law offices in high school and in law school before I got admitted,” Tew shared, noting he spent time working for Shutts & Bowen as well as Fowler White and Miami attorney Errol Cornell, now deceased.
Tew followed in the footsteps of his late brother Thomas, a celebrated Miami litigator, by studying at Dartmouth College before earning his J.D. at the University of Miami School of Law. Upon graduating law school in 1969, Tew immediately set to diversifying his skill set as a trial attorney.
“I was naturally drawn to being a trial lawyer,” he said. Tew’s practice areas have included securities defense as well as white-collar criminal work, which brought him to the defense of former Florida state treasurer Thomas O’Malley, who faced government corruption charges.
Tew singled out his legal representation on behalf of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as one of his most significant cases.
“We established their trademarks and I think that’s — if not the only one — one of the few religious denominations that have established trademarks,” the attorney said.
More recently, he began serving as legal counsel to Philip and April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen died in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The couple filed a negligence lawsuit against the FBI in June for failing to respond to tips they’d received regarding shooter Nikolas Cruz’s intentions to attack his former school.
“It’s no secret anymore that [the FBI] were tipped by several people as to the shooter’s threats, and his mental state,” Tew said. The Schentrup’s complaint cites a phone call made to the FBI about the violent and murderous content of Cruz’s Instagram posts. “In the transcript you can see that this was something that they should have acted on, and under their protocols and rules they were required to … But they didn’t.”
When he’s not in the courtroom, Tew is sharing his office space with his son Spencer. The two worked together at Tew Cardenas prior to the firm’s dissolution and worked separately for a number of years. Tew said he eventually asked his son, who practices securities and construction litigation, to join him at Rennert Vogel.
“It’s really fun to have your son in the same profession,” Tew said, adding fondly that even though the two don’t always see eye to eye, “that’s fun, too.”
Reflecting on the arc and longevity of his work, Tew said he draws a connection between the writing career he forsook and the legal world he devoted his life to.
“The average person is not a lawyer,” he said, speaking on the need for trial lawyers to be effective storytellers. “You have to tell a clear, easily understood, chronological story. And of course that’s what journalists do. In the first paragraph you have to [summarize] what the story’s going to be about. In a lawsuit, your opening statement gives the jury a road map of what the facts will be and what their case will be. You have to be a clear communicator, and you have to understand what the people on the jury will relate to, and what will motivate them to see your client’s side of it.”
Jeffrey A. Tew
Born: March 1944, Miami Beach
Spouse: Maureen Tew
Children: Spencer Tew
Education: University of Miami School of Law, J.D., 1969; Dartmouth College, B.A., 1966
Experience: Partner, Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez, 2014-present; Partner, Tew Cardenas, 2000-2014; Partner, Tew & Nowak, 1995-2000; Partner, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, 1985-1995; Partner, Jeffrey Tew Law Offices, 1980-1985; Partner, Tew Tew Rozen & Murray, 1969-1980
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