Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Christina McKinnon to discuss her career and what she finds most rewarding about her practice.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
McKinnon: I made up my mind relatively early in life to become an attorney and was fearless in my pursuit of making it a reality. In middle school, I won captain of the debate team, which set me on the path to achieving what I desired through persuasive writing and speaking. During that same time, I took home the first place prize for the Countywide Oratory Contest in Dade County and appeared on WLRN TV to deliver my winning speech to the public and school board. I never deviated from this career path and have not regretted it. I am grateful for the many opportunities the law has provided me along the way and for the autonomy it provides in creating my own destiny by way of helping as many people as I can.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?
McKinnon: I went to law school part time at night and the weekends, while working a full-time job to support myself. It was tough. Many times, I wanted to give up one and go back to it later, but I pressed on. I needed to work, and I was determined to not give up on my life-long goal, so I preserved. At 23, that was a great responsibility and I made it work. I apply the same work ethic to my career today. Some days there is not enough time to get the intended work done, to be a mother and a present wife. My family invests a great deal in my career as well by giving up time with me so that the firm can be successful. In time, and with more associates, things will be increasingly more manageable and it will be well worth it.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?
McKinnon: I love listening to people and their stories. I am humbled that they choose me to help them out of a difficult situation, and am grateful when they let me know how I have made a huge impact on the trajectory of their futures. I love bringing resolution to acrimonious situations and helping post-divorce parties live better. In my experience, I have seen and heard it all. Not much surprises me, so I am confident that we can help guide the client to a peaceful and beneficial outcome based on my past experience. That, in and of itself, is extremely rewarding.
AALM: What do you find particularly challenging about your practice? How do you overcome these challenges?
McKinnon: Finding and maintaining work-life balance is what I find the most challenging about having a law practice. As they say, “the law is a jealous mistress.” I started a family five years ago when I got married and had my daughter two years later. It seems like I have no time for anything anymore, but I make it a point to make time for the things and people that matter most. The next step is to onboard an associate or two to help with the caseload as it increases. I find that taking time to meditate and reading personal and professional development books keep me centered and not so focused on the stresses of having a busy practice.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
McKinnon: A good attorney may not go above and beyond what is necessary for the person in completing the job. An outstanding attorney sets out to bring real value to the client. He or she is client-focused. An outstanding attorney understands that the relationship with the client never really ends and does everything possible to cultivate that relationship. I have gotten many more cases referred to my firm from former clients who not only appreciated the resolution of their issue but who also felt that I treated them with dignity, respect and compassion.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
McKinnon: I am presently most proud of being appointed to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the 17th Judicial Circuit. It is composed of a board whose responsibility involves vetting attorneys who aspire to become judges in Broward County. The commission is charged with nominating the best candidates of not fewer than three persons nor more than six persons to the governor’s office for appointment to any vacancy within our circuit. I look forward to doing right by the residents of Broward County and ensuring good judges get an opportunity to serve our citizens well.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future? Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10?
McKinnon: In five years, I hope to have grown the firm to at least three associates to take over some of the caseload and assist in servicing the greatest number of people our firm can handle. In 10 years, I hope to step back and take a more active role in the community in a philanthropic and charitable role. God willing, with enough hard work, dedication and a stellar team on board at the office, I believe we can turn lives around for the better in the greater South Florida community.