Christi N Morgan. "Mallory Works and Plays Hard." Florida State Law Alumni Magazine Fall 2009
Although Sherri Denton Mallory used to be a Gator - she majored in computer science at the University of Florida - she now dons garnet and gold when attending Florida State University football games in Tallahassee. Mallory was accepted to the law schools at Florida State and the University of Florida, but chose to study law in Tallahassee because it was closer to her hometown - Panama City - and because she received a university fellowship from Florida State University.
Mallory's conversion to Seminole was solidified after she married husband and law partner Peter "Pete" Mallory in 1996. "I used to pull for the Gators," said the 1987 Florida State Law graduate. "Before I married Pete I had orange tennis shoes. At our first FSU-Florida game, I wore my orange tennis shoes and Seminole shirt, but I've since given that up. I'm a Seminole diehard now after going to all the home games."
Mallory met her husband when she was a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services - now the Department of Children &Families. She was prosecuting a case in which Pete represented the parents. As they worked on more cases together, they became good friends.
"That was the most difficult job that I've ever had," recalled Mallory about handling child abuse and neglect cases. "In my mind, there is not a more important matter than dealing with the life of a child. You are taking children away from parents or you are inserting services in the home. It was a very demanding job."
With the exception of the state job and working briefly at a law office in Jacksonville, Mallory has always practiced at Panama City firms. The Mallory & Mallory partner considers herself fortunate to have worked with some of the city's most well-respected lawyers since accepting her first legal job at Urquhart & Pittman in 1987.
Early in her career, Mallory worked primarily on personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Through the years, her areas of specialization have grown to include general civil litigation, real estate law and banking. Mallory's current caseload is focused on transactional work, including a tremendous amount of pleading work. Her experience with personal injury cases helped her develop strong litigation skills. Mallory credits working for Marvin ”Whitey" Urquhart in Panama City and Kitty Phillips and W.C. Gentry in Jacksonville with developing her pleading litigation skills.
"And you can't have any other job where you get more litigation experience in the courtroom than working for the state," remarked Mallory. "When I was at HRS, I would go to court practically every day." The real estate side of her practice has been impacted by the recent economic downturn, especially because lending has contracted. Mallory stays very busy with foreclosure work and handling commercial transactions for a bank holding company she has represented for more than 14 years.
After successfully practicing law for twenty-two years, Mallory is able to look back and laugh at the stress she experienced as a 1L in Dean Don Weidner's Real Property class.
"He used to have seating charts with your pictures and walk down the desks and quiz people," said Mallory. “I started developing high blood pressure. I went to the infirmary and they pinned it down to probably being stressed over his class - I was young and slightly intimidated." Even though his class caused her stress, Mallory still keeps in contact with Weidner. It was a visit by the dean that prompted Mallory to establish a law school scholarship for academically talented students in memory of her brother, Chad Denton.
"I had received $5,000 a year as a fellowship for three years, so I felt like it was time for me to pay back and provide an opportunity for someone else," said Mallory.
Even though Mallory and her husband are partners in the same office, they don't work together often because they specialize in different areas of law. However, they do spend most of their time away from the office together, along with their 11-year-old daughter, Mimi. Mallory has a thriving law practice, but her number one priority is family.
"There is always going to be work to do - I'm fortunate in that regard - so I have to prioritize and at the end of the day walk away from the rest of it and leave it at the office," said Mallory, who spends most evenings eating dinner with her family at their home on Saint Andrew Bay. "Pete and I try to spend all of our spare time doing activities with our daughter."
When she is not accompanying her daughter to dance, tennis or horseback riding lessons, Mallory spends her personal time traveling with Pete and Mimi and learning to maneuver a recently purchased family boat. She especially enjoys taking the boat to Shell Island on the weekends.
For now, Mallory's primary focus is raising her daughter. She rarely contemplates plans for the future, but would eventually like to retire so she can spend more time with her family and travel.
"I don't live to work; I won't be one of those lawyers working into their 90s," Mallory said. "But for now, to quote Larry Bird, it's work hard, play hard!"