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Giving back after being given much

By Katherine Bauman
City Guide contributor

Vero Beach attorney Brian Connelly enjoys a challenge.

It’s part of what has made him a successful personal injury trial lawyer in Indian River County for 25 years.

It’s also part of the reason this 55-year-old decided to open his own practice in his hometown after 18 years with another local law firm.

Connelly earned his undergraduate degree from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida.

He got his start with Vero Beach personal injury attorney Bill Frates. “He had a great reputation,” said Connelly. “I worked there for five years. It was a fantastic start.”

Connelly went into personal injury law because of the satisfaction he gets in helping people during their times of need. “They don’t come to me at their best,” he said. “It’s typically after they’ve been injured in an automobile accident or seriously harmed by another’s wrongful conduct.”

Connelly’s areas of focus are personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, and insurance litigation.

“I like it when I can help a client get their life back on track, and in my world that typically means with money. Insurance companies don’t just give it away,” said Connelly. “I love what I do. I love helping people who are in need; it matters to me.”

Connelly is married to his high school sweetheart, Laurie, who is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After graduating from Vero Beach High School, they both went to college in the Northeast, returning in 1995 after living in the Boston area for five years. “There wasn’t any doubt that we were going to come back to Vero Beach to live,” said Connelly.

They have a son, Dalton, 23, a senior at the University of Florida, and a daughter, Claire, 20, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Connelly said his childhood had its challenges. “My folks didn’t have a lot of money,” he said. “After my parents divorced, my two brothers and I lived with my Dad, which was pretty much unheard of in the ‘70s. It was kind of like being raised in a frat house. But I found stability and support through sports, mainly football.”

He also got help from the Youth Guidance Mentoring Academy as the first mentee of the program, some 44 years ago. “I didn’t stay with the program very long, but I remember the help I received from it,” he said.

Brian and Laurie are now paying it forward by supporting Youth Guidance as mentors of two boys for the past seven years.

“Neither one has a father in their lives,” Connelly said. “We’re happy to welcome them into our lives and our family. They are there at many family events. They see how hard we work, and how hard my kids have worked to succeed. These two young men have benefited from that.”

“We try hard to teach them that how success involves sacrifice,” Connelly said.

“Whatever your definition of success, it comes with sacrifice. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and work. Whatever your long-term goal is, it will take sacrifice, such as not going out with your friends on Saturday night and staying home and studying,” he said.

Laurie Connelly also works as Event Coordinator of the King of the Hill Tennis Tournament, a major fundraiser for Youth Guidance; and has been a board member the past three years.

Brian Connelly also supports the Indian River Lacrosse Association, The ARC of Indian River County; was formerly a board member for the Mental Health Association of Indian River County, and served as a past president of the Indian River County Bar Association and as an Indian River County Pro Bono Liaison for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.

Connelly, who opened his practice 14 months ago, hasn’t missed a beat.

He said a typical day is spent meeting with new clients, sitting down with existing clients to review their cases, in mediation or preparing for mediation or trial.

“A greater percentage of cases get resolved without having to go to trial,” said Connelly. “But you often have to file a suit to get the proper focus on a case. I prepare every case if it were going to trial.”

“I may look at 25 files on any given day,” said Connelly. “It can be challenging, but it’s important to let my clients know I’m there for them.”

What’s been another challenging aspect to opening his own practice? “Learning the ‘business’ of being a lawyer,” said Connelly. “The business and administrative side of it.”

Helping him with that is Amy Cone, who has been a paralegal for five years. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Paralegal Certificate from the U.S. Career Institute.

Connelly is Board Certified by the Florida Bar as a specialist in Civil Trial Law; and is recognized as a “Super Lawyer” on SuperLawyers.com, a rating service attained through peer recognition and professional achievement. He also maintains an “AV” rating, the highest rating conferred for legal ability and ethics from Martindale-Hubbell Law Director.

Connelly can be reached by phone at 772-999-2061; by email at BConnelly@ConnellyLawOffice.com; online at www.ConnellyLawOffice.com, or at his new office in the Downtown Office Center, 1201 19th Place, Suite B-200, Vero Beach.