Stephen W. Buckley never intended to stay in Florida after his grandparents offered to pay for his college at the “new” Edison College (now Florida SouthWestern State College). His planned to get his education in Florida and move back to Connecticut where he grew up.
His grandparents had been vacationing on the other coast and moved to Fort Myers in the 1950s.
“None of the kids or grandkids were close by, so they asked me if I would come down and start my college and they would help with expenses.”
He transferred to University of Florida for his undergraduate degree in journalism and then Florida State University for his law degree. “One of the kids in the class asked the assistant dean where he would go to practice law, and he said Fort Myers,” Buckley said. “I had ties in Fort Myers.”
He said he always knew he wanted to be a lawyer. His father and grand parents were in real estate. “I grew up with real estate law,” he said.
Now he assists clients with wills, trusts, estate planning, probate, real estate and real property law cases. Buckley is a top-rated lawyer under the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review rating system.
After graduating from law school in 1969, he moved to Florida and joined the firm, then seven years old and located in downtown Fort Myers in its present location at the corner of Main Street and Broadway.
Fort Myers was a different place when he started. Area Bar meetings were held in a corner of the former Snack House restaurant. Edison Mall had just opened, pulling Sears and J.C. Penney’s from downtown. When he started, he said there were five men’s stores downtown. “Attorneys wore suits more then than they do now,” he said, “Everyone dressed to the hilt.”
Buckley has seen tremendous change in the law through the years. “I think today there are more judges than attorneys,” he said. “When I started there were two circuit judges and one county judge.”
He remembers one of his first cases was to get a woman in real estate the right to sell property she owned without consent of her husband, which was the rule at the time. Shortly after he was able to make her a “free dealer,” the rule was abolished. He also remembers a case where he worked with the Coast Guard to have a man declared dead who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle on a flight to Bimini. Without a body, it would have taken five years for his spouse to get a death certificate. He said the investigation determined how much fuel the plane had and every place the plane could have landed. The plane, the man and his passenger were never found.
He enjoys spending time vacationing at his home in Maine, but Buckley says he has no intention of retiring. “I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I don’t play golf. I don’t play tennis. I don’t fish. I’ll just keep doing it while I can, and the clients want to work with me. My wife would have a long honey-do list if I did retire.”
He and his wife, Bonnie, who he met in Fort Myers at a roller-skating rink, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August.