I was flattered when the “anonymous talent” at the South Florida Lawyers Blog approached me about guest blogging. Initially, an interview was suggested, but that became too cumbersome. It was feared that I might inadvertently reveal too much about myself and in the process learn Blog’s editor’s secret identity.
Since I have been practicing law in relative absurdity, I mean obscurity, for the last 21 years; I would like to thank SFLB for finally giving me an opportunity to get my name out there. I am aware that this Blog is tailored for a particularly smart, curious and socially aware legal audience. I too appreciate its daily thought provoking posts. Its unbiased journalistic approach is rarely found in today’s liberal mainstream media.
My assignment was to write about myself, explaining why I do what I do – helping real people with real problems. I am not sure how the last 20 years of practicing law have passed by so quickly. The hundreds of translated plaintiff depositions, special set hearings, impassed mediations and client phone calls are all a blur. But from the very beginning, even when in law school at the University of Miami, the idea of being a lawyer never seemed like it was really a job.
I never accepted a case based on how much money I would make, how long it would take or cost. I think that explains a number of my cases which have defied traditional logic. I take cases when I believe that an injustice has been committed. Sometimes juries agreed with me and sometimes they did not.
I started my own practice right out of law school. I did not have the benefit of the training or the supervision that many lawyers receive through traditional employment as an associate. In my early career, many of the cases I took were those that other lawyers did not want. It was not uncommon for me to take a case that had already been rejected by several lawyers.
If I liked and believed the client, I found a way to help them. If I got paid that was the bonus. Until very recently, I never considered owning my law firm or being a lawyer was a business. This misconception has at times caused enormous pressure on my staff, family and me.
At 47 years of age, my view of the practice and business of law has matured and evolved. I now try to make decisions more with my head and not just my heart. As my case load has become more complex, I have begun co-counseling more cases. Currently, I am working on pharmaceutical and medical device mass torts. By associating with other lawyers and law firms, I am able to collaborate in new ways that were impossible as a sole practitioner.
Practicing law has given me the opportunity to give back to our community by helping not just my clients, but others who are in need. I am very proud to have founded Lawyers to theRescue. It allows lawyers to do the kind of pro bono work that the reality of today’s legal climate makes virtually impracticable. The Board of Directors is comprised of an impressive roster of South Florida lawyers- Scott Kotler, Jessica Laleh, Marco Britt and Santiago Cueto.
After the earthquake in Haiti, I saw how passionately Doctors Without Borders responded. I wanted to create a similar opportunity for lawyers to help those in need. I did not have to look farther than South Florida’s homeless community.
Lawyers to the Rescue joint-ventured with Camillus House and opened an onsite legal aid office providing free assistance to the homeless. In addition to its monthly free legal clinic, it sponsors a monthly lecture series called HEART-Homeless Education Advocacy Resource Training. The seminars are held at Camillus House and open to the public. Our presentations focus on sealing criminal records, immigration, disability, employment, child support and family law.
In addition, Lawyers to the Rescue provides public service ex-tern credits to students at both Florida International College of Law and Miami-Dade Community College. We do this to mentor and motivate future lawyers. Lawyers to the Rescue hopes that its work will help change the public’s negative perception of lawyers. I urge anyone who shares in the spirit of public service to join us at our next event.
Thank you SFLB for your loyalty, support and for showcasing my efforts. Let’s have sushi some time soon. I know a good place.