March 17, 2009
ATLANTA—One of the top environmental and land use lawyers in Florida, Robert M. Rhodes, has been taking a break from his hectic practice this winter and spring to visit Georgia State University College of Law, where law students are benefitting from his breadth of experience and expertise.
Rhodes is the practitioner in residence at the law school, where he is associated with the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth, directed by Professors Julian Juergensmeyer and Colin Crawford.
Rhodes, who is of counsel the law firm of Foley & Lardner in Jacksonville, Fla., is participating with Juergensmeyer and Crawford on two courses, Growth Management Law and Comparative Growth Management Law. He's also mentoring students in the center's Urban Fellows Program, teaching classes as needed and doing research on his own on land use matters.
Rhodes, who arrived in Atlanta in January, said he's been impressed with the law students at Georgia State.
“These are serious students,” Rhodes said. “This is not a per se academic exercise just to get a law degree. These are people that want to work in the field and go on.”
Rhodes, who has known Juergensmeyer for four decades and worked with him on numerous projects, is recognized as one of Florida's leading legal professionals in land use and environmental law and real estate development. He is the former executive vice president of The St. Joe Company, where he also served as the company's general counsel. Prior to joining St. Joe, he served as senior vice president and general counsel to Arvida Corporation and Disney Development Company, the community development arms of The Walt Disney Company.
Rhodes practiced law with two Florida firms, Messer Rhodes & Vickers and Steel Hector and Davis, concentrating his practice in real estate, administrative, environmental, and land use law. Earlier, he served as the first administrator of Florida's growth management program and as counsel to the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He chaired state commissions that developed revisions to Florida's growth management (ELMS Committee) and administrative procedures programs.
Rhodes also worked in Washington, D.C. as assistant director of the Council of State Governments and National Governor's Conference office. He currently chairs the Northeast Florida Advisory Council for the Trust For Public Land, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, the Florida Coastal School of Law Board of Trustees, and the City of Jacksonville Mayor's Growth Management Task Force.
“When I return to Jacksonville I'm going to be chairing a new regional initiative for northeast Florida,” Rhodes said, “and just being in Atlanta and watching some of the interesting activities of the various regional entities here, it's illuminating and it's very informative for me to watch it.”
Taking a break from his normal law practice with Foley & Lardner, Rhodes is enjoying the luxury of reading and doing research. He's also enjoying the working with students, some of whom have solicited his advice as a hiring partner about what they can do to make themselves more attractive to law firms upon graduation.
“They're not bashful,” he said. “The student body here is a little older, so they're very directed. I've enjoyed the student interaction.”
Rhodes sees great value in the Growth Management Law course, which includes students from the law school and students from Georgia Tech with the idea of bringing together future planners and lawyers to work together on projects.
“So they have to talk to each other and cooperate, which is what we do in the practice world of real estate, of course,” Rhodes said. “When I was in government I managed a division of planners in Florida, so I've lived with them and I know how to talk to them. I've stayed busy, occupied and engaged.”
Rhodes has co-authored a book, Development Exactions, and several articles on such topics as development, land use, and environmental and constitutional law. He has been named a 2006, 2007 and 2008 Florida "Super Lawyer" by Law & Politics Media, Inc. Rhodes holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California (1964, with honors). He earned his J.D. in 1968 from Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law and a master's in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1973.
Rhodes' office is in room 462 in the Urban Life Building, and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.