Subscribe to Florida Trend

NAVIGATION

September 22, 2018

Women Leaders

Calling the shots: GrayRobinson law firm gives Mayanne Downs full control

Amy Martinez | 9/28/2017

Inspiration

Downs, 60, grew up in Orlando on 15 acres with an orange grove and all sorts of animals, including horses, goats and a pet llama named Dolly.

Her father, Earl, a successful real estate developer, had grown up in Birmingham, Ala., during the 1930s and 1940s as the son of a sheriff who’d lost a re-election bid to segregationist Bull Connor. The experience left Earl Downs with a passion for civil rights. In the early 1960s, he clashed with the city of Orlando over a requirement that he provide separate “colored” waiting rooms for new medical offices he was building. The city relented and allowed him to build a desegregated waiting room. Downs’ mother, Sally, a former Little Miss Orlando winner, had been a member of the first graduating class that included women at the University of Florida.

Downs was the oldest of three girls and one boy, all of whom learned to be self-reliant. She tells of being given such adult-like tasks as checking out of the family’s hotel rooms at a young age as her father supervised from afar. “He just always wanted us to be able to do for ourselves.”

Downs, who graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1979, followed her dad into real estate, founding her own brokerage. In the course of doing business, she had an encounter with the law that shaped her later career track.

Early in her working years, she gained exclusive listing rights to homes in The Springs, a planned community that her father had developed in Longwood. In 1983, one of the subdivision’s builders sued Downs and her father in an antitrust case, claiming it had wrongfully been forced to market homes through her brokerage.

“I’ll never forget that awful, scary day when a deputy sheriff handed me a sheaf of papers. The words almost seemed like another language,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is awful. I can’t even understand what’s required here.’ ”

The Downses hired a local attorney, Jackie Griffin, who had gone into law after teaching Spanish. Griffin inspired Downs to become a lawyer. “She dazzled me with her intellect, her life and her job,” Downs says. “I became fascinated by that lawsuit.” Eventually, Downs and her father settled the suit for $750.

GrayRobinson, Orlando
302 — Number of attorneys and consultants in Florida
13 — Number of offices in Florida
22% — Percentage of firm attorneys who are women or minorities
47 — Years firm has been in business
$153.7 million — Annual revenue
5 — Statewide ranking based on number of attorneys statewide

Tags: Trendsetters, Government/Politics & Law

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Miami Beach considers annexing western Venetian Islands
Miami Beach considers annexing western Venetian Islands

Two of the Venetian Islands are part of Miami while the other four belong to Miami Beach. Some residents of Biscayne and San Marco islands say they want to join Miami Beach, but they face an uphill battle.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

With Florida's government projecting a positive budget outlook, what do you think is the most important for state to invest in?

  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health care reform
  • Infrastructure
  • Not spending it, keeping cash reserve
  • Public safety
  • Other (comments welcome)

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe