University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Alumni profile: Marie Tomassi, president and managing shareholder, Trenam Law

Alumni profile of Marie Tomassi

By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing

When the COVID pandemic struck in March of 2020, Marie Tomassi had been in her new role as president of Trenam Law for just a couple of months.

A lawyer specializing in appellate law and a fixture on top lawyer lists for the region, Tomassi had been with the firm since 1988 and managing shareholder since 2013. It was that long history, she said, that helped her to navigate the unchartered waters of the pandemic for one of the biggest law firms in Tampa Bay. 

“The pandemic was such a destabilizing and difficult thing for everyone to go through,” Tomassi said. “However, it was a chance to show what we have said all along, that we are a work family.”

We talked with Tomassi - who graduated from USF St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s in English in 1985 – to hear about how her law firm responded to the pandemic, her personal journey into law and advice she has for college students interested in law school. This interview has been edited for length.

Most people know what a lawyer does, but probably not what a president of a law firm does. Can you tell us about your current role?

I’m certain you will find a wide variety of different responsibilities for what law firms have their president do or not do. It is amazing to me the variety of differing roles for this position, especially in a profession that is wed to tradition. At Trenam, the role of president is largely focused on community outreach and engagement, meeting with clients and having the responsibility to make things happen and address issues. Really, it’s about being the most effective and helpful to the firm in the capacity you see fit. 

You took over as president just a couple months before the pandemic began. What changes did the pandemic bring about for your law firm and the law profession in general?

The pandemic was a very difficult experience for most businesses and for the legal profession generally. I minimize none of that when I say that we came out of it stronger as a team by going through it. Our law firm is very team-driven and COVID really made us get through this as a team. For example, our shareholders and owners took a 10 percent pay cut because we decided early on we weren’t going to reduce staff and we weren’t going to lower salaries for others. It was a chance to show what we have said all along, that we are a work family. At the end of all that, we had very few people leave the firm, and it reinforced our commitment to each other. 

As for law firms more generally, I think it made us realize we could do things in different ways. You can still get your work done through Zoom and phone calls, and so we didn’t need to be wed to the way things were before the pandemic.

As a lawyer, your specialty is appellate practice. Can you explain that kind of law? 

My area of expertise and my Florida Bar Board certification is in appellate practice, meaning I deal with appeal cases, which is the next level after a case is resolved in the trial court. There are general principles to follow for appeals, but the subject matter is almost never the same, which is exciting. I get to dip my toe in federal law and state law and the type of cases are diverse. Also, instead of making your case to a jury, you are talking to judges, as they decide appeals. The strategies are quite different and thus it is considered a specialty practice. 

You majored in English at USF St. Petersburg. Is that a common educational background for students going into law school?

It isn’t uncommon. I really loved reading when I was in college and there is a lot of reading you must do in law school and in the general practice of law. I will say that if you want to be a managing partner or managing shareholder at a law firm, you probably want to have some background in economics, business and math as well. 

How did being an English major train you for law school and the law profession?

It trained me not just in being able to read and critically examine lots of text, but also in writing. There are many pleadings to the court or documents for claims and appeals that lawyers write, depending on the law you practice. And I have found that the more you read, the more you get a feel for good writing. 

Any advice for current students looking to go to law school following their experience at USF St. Petersburg?

I think that the best advice going into law school is to focus on doing well in your classes and getting involved in clubs, organizations, community projects and such.  Follow passions that you have that align with classes and groups at college. All of it provides learning experiences that will be valuable in the future. 

Return to article listing

About the Newsroom

At the USF St. Petersburg campus newsroom, we highlight the people, events and initiatives that make us distinct. From groundbreaking research to inspiring student profiles, we are dedicated to telling our campus' story and promoting its value to the greater Tampa Bay community and beyond.


Harbor Notes News

Learn about the latest news, research updates and public events in our Harbor Notes News and Harbor Notes Events newsletters.