It’s always been a winner-takes-all game for me. When I was a kid, growing up outside of Boston, I was captain of the soccer team for years—until the day I was no longer the best player. Then I quit. It’s very telling of how I practice law; I’m in it to win it. At my firm, we seek only to accept the most high-stakes legal challenges. To put it simply, if the parties on each side stay up late at night worrying about their legal issues, it is likely something we are very interested in. Some people refer to it as “bet-the-company litigation.” We call it our niche.
I’ve always believed you can do the most good for your fellow man by participating in mass or class actions, where one decision will affect millions of people. I enjoy pension class actions in particular, because they benefit people’s livelihoods and futures. Right now wage and hour litigation is the hottest trend. The economy is tight. Employers are getting sued constantly for not paying the proper wages, both in overtime and minimum wage. Additionally, undocumented workers are not being paid minimum wage.
Miami is a Mecca for financial, employee benefit, and wage and hour litigation. While I plan to expand the firm internationally soon, and am considering opening a second office in London or another city, I realize I live in paradise. In many ways, Miami reflects my own background: “United Nations” with a Latin majority: my father’s family is from Portugal and Brazil, and my mother’s roots are English, Scottish, Polish, and German. I didn’t grow up wealthy. There was always food on the table, but it bothered me that my parents struggled with financial pressures. It made me work harder than the rest. It made me choose higher education. It made me never stop trying to get ahead.
Although my work is inherently intense, in my office, it’s unacceptable to yell, which is the norm at some law firms. An environment of fear and hostility produces lawyers who are so nervous they are not willing to step out and take a risk for their client. We do expect a lot from our lawyers, but it’s not measured in billable hours alone. It’s about the value they’re producing and the outcomes. Experience representing both defendants and plaintiffs differentiates us from our competitors. We believe you should hire a lawyer who understands what it is like to try a case from both sides of the bench. Too many firms focus on only one side; that means they are always thinking in the same bubble. Would you vote for a judge who had only served as a defense lawyer or a plaintiff’s lawyer? I think not.
One issue today, which is little known outside the courts, is the scarcity of judges. A judge recently told me she has 3,500 cases. That’s unacceptable. We have overworked our judges so much that they can’t give sober, considered judgment to each case. More resources must be allocated for disputes to be settled thoughtfully by a trial judge. Our judicial system is the mechanism that keeps our country in order.
I thrive being part of the system that thwarts corruption and upholds our constitution. That is why we have put our hearts and souls into this law firm, growing it to a staff of 45, with hopes of expanding to 100. It is starting to pay off. I, with the help of my cocounsel, recently secured a $3.8 million dollar arbitration award for a very deserving family, and I couldn’t have been happier for them.
At the end of the day, the fear of failure drives me; I never rest on past successes. I know the only thing I can control is how hard I work. I can always outwork my opponent. If I do that, at least I can sleep at night knowing I have given myself the best shot at success—assuming, of course, I sleep at all.