Our first interview for 2020 is with Real Estate attorney, Cristina Ortiz who is from Miami, Florida. I was drawn to Cristina’s IG page when I saw how intentional and passionate she is about sharing what she does via her instagram page. While doing my research and reading more about her, I noticed that one thing she emphasizes in all her interviews is the need for lawyers to have more empathy. We need to remember that as lawyers we work with real people and a little compassion can help build a better attorney-client relationship. This is an important attribute for any person.
Below is the interview between For Women in Law (FWIL) and Cristina Ortiz (CO) verbatim.
FWIL: What inspired you to study law?
CO: Going to Law School was always on my mind, since I was a little girl. I excelled in language arts and I loved to read and write. I hated math so I remember asking my mom what I could do to avoid math and she told me to be a lawyer. I guess that planted the seed.
FWIL: Why a specific interest in Real Estate?
CO: I fell into real estate. I graduated from law school in 2008. At the time I was working for a criminal defense attorney and he had to shut down his practice due to the economic downturn. I was so worried when I lost my position but I immediately got a job with a foreclosure and bankruptcy law firm. We literally had people lined up outside the door for consultations. Dateline and 2020 set up cameras outside the Miami and Broward courtrooms. It was a very busy and scary time. I handled over 500 real estate litigation and short sale cases. I didn’t even know at the time, but I was in fact practicing real estate.
FWIL: As a woman in law, have you experienced gender bias? Please tell us about the challenges, if any, that you have faced.
CO: As a female attorney, yes there have been situations where I feel like I have been treated differently because of my gender. I have been on the receiving end of some rude comments. However, I have learned to carry myself in a way where I make it clear to my colleagues and male counterparts that they can not cross that line- no matter the atmosphere. I can only speak for myself, but here in South Florida, it’s very common for a female attorney to have her own firm or to be a solo practitioner. I truly feel like we have each other‘s back.
FWIL: What does being an alpha female mean to you and would you describe yourself as one?
CO: Good question. I see myself as a strong woman who is a leader by example. I would like to say that I try to be tough and graceful at the same time. I definitely do not identify with the intimidating side of being an alpha female. I do not like it when women use that title as an excuse to be bossy or rude.
FWIL: Do you identify as a feminist? (Why/why not)
CO: I believe that men and women should have equal rights. I do not think that one gender is less or more than the other. I personally tend to support women business owners because that is who I identify with.
FWIL: The journey of most legal professionals is not always easy. What are some of the lessons you have learned along the way and how have they shaped your outlook on life?
CO: I am the only person in my family to have graduated from law school. What was challenging for me is that I really had to learn and carve my own way. I have no “hook ups” or family members that could get me an “in” to a law firm. I had to start from scratch and this meant that I had many trial and error situations. Going off on my own was definitely scary. I felt like I was risking a lot and I had no promise of success. Now looking back, the true challenge was running my law firm like a business. I have had a difficult time learning how to convert my law firm from an expensive job into a profit making business.
FWIL: What is the best advice you would give to a woman in law?
CO: Don’t take anything personal. I should take my own advice. Other people’s attitudes towards you has nothing to do with you. Keep going and keep being yourself, no matter what.
FWIL: What attributes do you think every young lawyer must have?
CO: Empathy. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Your client will feel more comfortable and have more peace of mind which will translate Into a better attorney-client relationship.
FWIL: What recent change/amendment in the law (in your country) has caught your attention? (Do you agree with the change? Why/why not)
CO: Recently, Remote online notarizations have become acceptable in the state of Florida. This is a positive change in my area of law because it allows for out of town or out of the country clients to have access to a notary without having to make an appointment at a US Embassy or having to fly into the US. I think it’s great.
FWIL: Our world is constantly changing, in your opinion, what are some of the challenges that legal professionals will face in future?
CO: The legal profession is constantly being challenged. As a business owner, I feel that lawyers will be inheriting more and more liability. Just in the last six years as a business owner, my insurance has increased and I have had to purchase new insurance policies. For example, Wire fraud protection has become a huge issue recently. This requires additional coverage as well as security software insurance.
FWIL: As a legal professional, it is quite important to effectively use your network. How do you meet other professionals and what are some of your effective networking skills?
CO: I am a member of a worldwide networking group of professionals. I have been a member for over six years. It has been beneficial to my business. I also make sure to create personal relationships based on service and trust with my referral sources. It takes time, but it works. I believe in quality, not quantity.
FWIL: What does the term “role model” mean to you? Is there a particular woman in your life that you consider a role model?
CO: To me, A role model is someone who displays behaviour and an example that can be emulated. I am a very observant person I have been like that since I was a young child. As I grew up I developed the tendency to admire women who faced hardships with tenacity and grace. My grandmother, my mom and recently my best friends are women who I admire.
FWIL: What books have you read that have greatly influenced your life?
CO: I love books that change my perspective and books that came to shift paradigms. I absolutely love books devoted to personal growth. Outliers, The Four Agreements and the Five Love Languages are awesome books.
FWIL: What’s a quote that you live by? Your mantra
CO: “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”
FWIL: How do you remain autonomous while working in the legal field?
CO: At the end of the day, I am the only one who has to go to sleep with myself and knowing my intentions. My inner peace governs most of my decisions- personal and in business.
FWIL: What is your take on mentorship and are you open to mentoring young lawyers or law students?
CO: I relied heavily on my mentors when I opened up my own law firm. I am the only attorney in my family. Therefore, I really had to start from scratch. I did everything they advised me to do. If it wasn’t for the mentors that I reached out to, I would not have had such supported launch to my solo career. I try to help any young lawyer that I can, especially young female lawyers who are hesitant to branch out on their own.
FWIL: How can people reach out to you? (social media handles)
CO: IG: cristinaortiz_attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org, YouTube: Cristina M Ortiz Esq.