Passion and Purpose: Interviews with Legal and Health Professionals (Part Seven)

It is always interesting to hear stories of professionals in the fields of law and medicine, particularly why they chose their careers. It is even more interesting to hear them discuss what motivates them to go to work every day and what they love the most about their jobs. Doctors and lawyers also tend to have very interesting stories about clients and patients they have served during the course of their career.

For example, one of the doctors we interviewed recalls a time he was working at a hospital and had a patient who came in unresponsive with a bleed in his brain. He successfully treated the man back to recovery. Several months later, that same man returned to the hospital to visit someone else. The man recognized the doctor, ran up to him and said, “You saved my life, I remember you, thank you so much!” The man explained to the doctor that he couldn’t have survived without the hospital’s treatment.

Stories like this are the stories you never hear. These are the types of experiences that keep our legal and medical professionals motivated to serve us in times of need.

Here is Part Seven (the last one) of the interviews we did with doctors and lawyers across the United States. Here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six.

31) Kevin P. Nelson, Attorney at Tiffany & Bosco, P.A.

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I decided to become an attorney during my second-semester of my junior year of undergraduate school with a major in accounting. I envisioned myself sitting in the back of some room the rest of my life crunching numbers and decided it was not for me. So, I took the LSAT, went to law school to become a tax attorney, and ended up (at this stage of my life) as a litigator.

How long have you been practicing?

I was first licensed in October 2004, so I've been practicing for a little over 13 years.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

I love every aspect of being a litigator. I get paid to take a position on behalf of my clients (i.e., argue) and continually educate myself. I also get to interact with people and find pragmatic solutions to what they believe is the biggest problem facing them at the time. It is beyond rewarding to provide that relief to another human whether it’s a personal or business issue.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

I have a lot of memorable stories. The earliest one that I believed shaped the way I practice was representing a small business owner on a relatively small case in rural Arizona. The owner was a stand-up person. He made a decent living, but wasn't flashy. The one thing he wouldn't tolerate was a bully.

He had a client who tried to work him over on a bill at the last second and he dug in and sued. I remember thinking that the reaction of the adverse party was similar to the first time you hook a big fish. You just know you're preparing for a hard and long fight. Despite my repeated attempts to convince my client that it did not make economic sense, he insisted that I keep pushing. I did. Over a year later we won the case and my client took me out to dinner. The one thing that I remember most about that dinner was him telling me that he had been bullied as a kid and he learned that the only way he got through it was to learn to stand up for himself. He said, "You just put your finger in their chest and keep pushing. You just keep trying."

Having been raised primarily by a single mother, I saw a lot of bullying during my childhood and despised it. My client's motto clicked and I adopted it. That's what keeps me going and I believe it has served me and my client's well.

32) Amy Miller, Attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

What made you decide to become an attorney?

I became an attorney later in life, but valued the decision all the more for it. I had a career in government where my public policy work was becoming more and more law related. I finally decided to leave my job for law school, and then joined private practice.

How long have you been practicing?

18 years.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

As a litigator, I love being a problem-solver for many different clients at the same time. It is so rewarding to take a big messy situation and help clients make it go away, either through the courts or counseling. My job never gets boring, as each day is different and I love new challenges.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

What was so memorable about this client? My most memorable clients have been those I have worked with more than 10-15 years, helping them overcome tremendous challenges and attacks on their business, only to reach new levels of success in the long run. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a client thrive, professionally and personally.

33) Alexandra Reed-Lopez, Managing partner of Cunningham Lopez LLP

What made you decide to become an attorney?

As cliché as it sounds, the idea of being someone’s resource navigating the court of law is what interested me in law. I always thought I was a persuasive person, so I wanted to make use out of what I consider to be strength.

How long have you been practicing?

Six years.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

Being a resource. Knowing that I’ve guided my clients through what can be a confusing and stressful process. I especially love handling adoption cases, since the outcomes are always positive! And I know that I’ve helped my clients do something really meaningful, and that my presence allowed them to sit back and put their anxiety aside, because, as I always tell them, it’s my job to earn my keep. I should be stressing about deadlines and submissions, not them!

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

There was the client who wanted custody of his daughter/step-granddaughter. That’s right, he had a child with his wife’s daughter…aka his step daughter (she was over 18, for the record). So that was memorable, for reasons that speak for themselves.

There was also the client who wanted to prove that the sexual relations with his partner were completely consensual…and he did this by proceeding, without prompting, to show us (his attorneys) completely uncensored photos and videos of he and his girlfriend having sexual intercourse. I had to excuse myself to get a glass of water in order to keep a straight face.

Lastly, there was another case where our client was being named in an order of protection for allegedly striking his girlfriend with - wait for it - a bag of lemons.

34) Gustavo Mayen, Attorney at Law Office of Gustavo Mayen

What made you decide to become an attorney?

In order to answer the question properly a little background would better explain.

Background

I think a little background overall will explain both why I became a lawyer and why I decided to open my own law office.

I was born in Guatemala and raised there until the age of 10, at which point I came to the U.S. to join my parents (who had emigrated to the U.S. when I was just a small child). I grew up in NJ until I graduated from High School.

At the time I graduated High School, I did not really know what (if anything) I was going to concentrate in school. I also did not believe I could afford going to college (even with grants and/or loans). Since we grew up poor (partly because the bread winner, my father, had a major stroke while I was in High School), I knew I would have to either pay for school myself or take out major loans. So I decided to move to MA and start working.

I worked various jobs at the same time for 3 years, and was quick to get promoted during this time. But I kept hitting my own professional ceiling, as I still only had a HS education.

After those 3 years, working at least 2 jobs at a time, and knowing I would never reach my true potential this way, I decided to join the USMC (something I wanted to do since I graduate HS).

After getting to my first duty station as an active duty Marine, I was told during the initial talks to new Marines, that the Marines would pay if I went to school while on active duty; Having neither of my parent having graduated High School (back in Guatemala, you had to either go to school or work around your teen years, and at that time, even getting an education did not guarantee a job), no opportunity to go to school before, and learning the importance of education after working for 3 years, I did not have to be told twice.

Within a few months I had taken the entrance exams and had signed up for school. I started to work on my Associates degree. During my years as an active duty enlisted Marine (5 years), if I was not deployed (which I did twice to Iraq), I was doing some type of schooling. When I left the service I came out with about 3 years of a college education (from a private university) with no debt. I did one more year of undergraduate school thereafter.

Still having much of the GI bill after my undergraduate degree, I decided to (again) not lose the opportunity to continue my education. I applied to law school and got into law school.

Once I graduated from law school, I was given the opportunity to take an assignment as a private consultant for a year in Afghanistan. I took the opportunity and was in various locations working with all the military services in Afghanistan during this time. During this time I had found out I passed both bars I took the bar exam to (MA and CT) and in the mid-break of the above assignment, I returned to the US and sworn in as a lawyer in CT (I sworn in as a MA lawyer at the embassy in Afghanistan due to travel and time constraints).

Opening my own office

Since my wife's family is from the area south of Boston, we decided to move closer and I applied to many jobs - to no avail. An opportunity came for me to have a contract with the state of MA and take on indigent clients and be compensated by the state for these services (which I still currently do). I decided to take this opportunity, and I decided to start my own law office from scratch, instead of joining an established law firm. It is at this time that I became a trial attorney.

While I was setting up the business plan, accounting, etc., and started my own law office, the opportunity to go to business school came about; As a law student, and thereafter, I did a few internships and worked for or with other attorneys. During this time I noticed, through dealing with attorney in different settings, that there were attorneys that were good at being attorneys, but at times some were not as good at being good businessmen. On top of this, I saw getting my MBA as an opportunity to get the proper tools to run my own business, and at some point be able to expand it, whether this was vertically (within law) or horizontally (venturing into other types of business).

How long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing law since 2014.

What do you love the most about being an attorney?

One thing I found out about myself in deploying overseas as Marine is that I am good at thinking on my feet, and that I like an intellectual challenge. My body took a beating from my active duty service, and I knew I could not continue to make a difference in this capacity.

But I found out that I could still make a difference in people's lives as a attorney. I went to law school to be able to make a difference, and through how everything developed, I became a trial attorney and have been able to make a difference in the lives of my clients. Being able to open my own office and be able to control my workflow also allowed me to complete my MBA recently.

More importantly, I love the fact that I have been able to both give my clients their day in court, and that this experience has allowed me to develop myself, both personally and professionally. So much so that I have started looking at how I can combine both my law degree and my recently acquired business degree to try to develop a non-profit to help veterans with their legal appeals concerning their military benefits.

Describe a memorable story of a client? What was so memorable about this client?

I have a few. But I think the most memorable would be my first jury trial (I have had a few since then). I had had a trial before, but that one was in front of a judge, not a jury. There is a difference in those two. I also expected an earlier case to go to jury trial. That earlier case had better facts for our side and would have been easier to try at trial, but it got resolved prior to trial (in my client's favor).

In any case, as to that first jury trial, not only was it a complicated case, but most facts were against my client, except one or two. On top of this, I had to deal with not just one, but two prosecutors that tried this case against me. Luckily, I had over-prepared myself to the point I knew the case inside out and had spend countless hours to properly prepare for the trial (between motions, the witnesses needed, and going over and over again as to my direct and cross examination of each anticipated witness).

I don't think anything really prepares you for that first jury trial. But once it started, I just had the mentality that "this is why I do this: to give my client his day in court". And so it went, for three days. At the end of the prosecution's case, my client was seriously concerned as to the outcome. But I was in my zone, and asked my client just to take a breath and let me do what I came to do. After we closed our case, my client's mood drastically changed (he even drew a picture during a break and put next to it "you brought you A game today!").

My client was found not guilty on all counts. At the end of the trial, my client thanked me, and stated that even if he would have lost, he knew I gave it my all; As a immigrant that came to the U.S. at the age of 10, speaking no English, growing up poor and in a very urban setting, my trajectory has been long, and with many sacrifices. Knowing I provided someone who could not afford a private attorney their day in court is what is memorable, the outcome was just an extra incentive.

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