Jay Henderlite: The Family Philosophy
As the managing partner of the firm of Watson Henderlite Family Law, John “Jay” Henderlite, III sets a high standard for legal excellence. His board certification, dedication to clients, and commitment to advancing the field of family law all combine to make him a standout figure in the legal community.
Henderlite enjoys a reputation as a distinguished expert in the field, earning his board certification in marital and family law from the Florida Bar Association. This accomplishment is reserved for those who demonstrate exceptional knowledge and proficiency in the practice area. It signifies not only a deep understanding of the law but also signals a profound commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards. Henderlite’s certification attests to his mastery of Florida’s intricate family law statutes and his ability to provide sound legal counsel in matters ranging from divorce and child custody to spousal support and property division as well as a multitude of legal matters falling within this wide legal platform.
My goal has always been that my clients hopefully, leave my office in a better position than when they arrived.
Henderlite’s journey to becoming a trusted authority in family law has been marked by dedication, expertise and a steadfast commitment to his clients.
“I worked for a law firm for a year right out of college to make sure that’s what I wanted to do”, says Henderlite. “I fell in love with the research aspect of it, the intellectual aspects solving problems and forming effective arguments, but most of all, I enjoyed working with people and helping them. My goal has always been that my clients hopefully, leave my office in a better position than when they arrived.”
With years of experience in the legal profession, Henderlite has honed his skills to become a formidable advocate for individuals navigating complex family legal matters. His decision to focus on family law was inspired by a favorite law school professor.
“My family law professor was my favorite,” he says. “I was attracted by the fact that family law deals with all kinds of different areas of the law. It’s unique in that it’s the only area of the law that’s constantly changing. It requires having to learn about a wide range of laws and situations plus, you get to know your clients quite well and you feel that you’re actually helping.”
Partnering with Denise Watson in 2018, the two began to build what is now one of the most sought-after and prestigious family law practices in Florida. Sharing the same vision for their firm as well as a philosophy of compassion and accessibility for clients, they have built not only a successful firm but a reputation for outstanding representation. Understanding that family law matters can be emotionally charged and deeply personal, both attorneys approach each case with the utmost empathy and sensitivity.
“I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t had wonderful things to say about Jay, including judges and other lawyers,” says Watson. “He graduated from Wake Forest where he served on Law Review, which is very prestigious.
“I was just talking with an old friend this morning who had referred a client to Jay,” she continues, “and he was so pleased saying Jay just hit it out of the park.”
Henderlite with Partner Denise Watson
It’s apparent that the two have mutual respect and admiration for one another but beyond that share similar philosophies and have developed a unique working relationship over the years.
“I think what makes us somewhat special is how much experience we each bring to the table,” says Henderlite. “Denise has probably been practicing family law for more years than she’d care to name, and I have, in a relatively short time, become board certified in family law. We call ourselves ‘the family law firm that treats you like family’ because we like to get to know our clients. We get to know them not just from a legal perspective and what they want, but from a quality of life or best possible future perspective. And we try our best to make that happen whether that’s through trial or mediation, we find a way to help our clients bridge the gap.”
With sensitivity and compassion both partners have strived to ease the pain and uncertainty in the lives of their clients bringing in to play their combined years of experience and solid dedication to each and every case.
“Our philosophy has been that family law is a very personal area of law and we like to be available to our clients whether that’s a phone call or email, they know they can always reach us. Staying somewhat small by being selective in the number of cases we take on at a time, allows us to retain this connection with each client.
“You know, in family law you need to wear a lot of hats,” he adds. “We’re not just their legal representatives but sometimes we have to be counselors or quasi-therapists. It’s important to really listen to your clients and be able to offer them not only legal advice but try to calm their fears.”
Comfort and Compassion
Not only do these partners share the belief that relating to their clients on a personal level is critical to best serving their needs, but this attitude is also even reflected in their offices. Located in the richly historical Cathedral District, their unique office space is actually a gorgeous old home that has been retrofitted to accommodate their staff and clients in luxurious homelike comfort.
“Built in 1904, this home is just about a block from downtown and I think reflects our personalities,” says Henderlite. “It’s truly magnificent and nestled within the Cathedral District which was the first area to be rebuilt after the fire. I’m on the board of Cathedral District Jacksonville, which is the nonprofit organization revitalizing this part of downtown.”
The home features stained glass windows, rich wood moldings, and architecture that speaks to the rich history of Jacksonville.
“Being part of this redevelopment makes you feel like you’re making a difference,” he adds. “Just by being here we’re helping to keep commerce in this neighborhood.”
While wholly dedicated to his craft and serving his clients, Henderlite also has a private life that allows him to slow down and refresh. He and husband Christopher Collinsworth are raising a son together.
“We adopted Baylen when he was eight,” says Henderlite. “He’s just an amazing kid. We all enjoy traveling, Broadway shows and really just hanging out together. I am very fortunate.”
Why Board Certification?
Board certification is certainly not a requirement to practicing law so why did Henderlite decide to take this additional step?
“I am always trying to be better,” says Henderlite. “As I mentioned, family law is always changing and it’s important to stay current and expand your knowledge. Clients put their futures in my hands, and I owe it to them to be my best.”
Moving forward the Watson Henderlite Family Law practice plans to continue serving their clients in the only way they know how, by getting to know them and representing them to the best of their ability and in doing so give them hope for a better future.
I am always trying to be better. … Clients put their futures in my hands, and I owe it to them to be my best.”
At a Glance
218 Ashley Street