Attorney at Law Magazine Miami Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with 2019 Rising Star Gabriel Garay of Law Offices of Robert L. Parks to discuss his career, his inspiration, and his plans for the future.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Garay: I always wanted to be an attorney. After graduating from UF, I did real estate and construction for about four years and then decided it was time to pursue a legal career. I’ve always been drawn to the law. The whole framework of this country, the whole experiment, is based on the idea that laws are to be followed regardless of whether you’re in a position of power or not.
When I was young, my parents’ dream was for me to be a physician. To them having their children become doctors was like winning the Super Bowl. My little brother, who always wanted to be a doctor, is a doctor. My half-sister is a doctor. My grandfather was a doctor. Two great-uncles on my mother’s side were doctors. I was destined to be a disappointment.
AALM: Who is your current mentor? What is the best lesson they’ve taught you so far?
Garay: My boss, Bob Parks, has been an incredible mentor. He’s recognized as one of the best trial lawyers to ever do it. Learning from him has been invaluable. Anyone who knows him also knows he’s a great human being.
The best lessons: Keep it simple. Be gracious in victory or defeat.
AALM: Who are some of your legal heroes? Why?
Garay: John Adams. His defense during the murder trial for the eight British soldiers after the Boston Massacre was brilliant.
AALM: What drew you to your current firm? How would you describe the culture there? How would you describe your role within the firm?
My mock trial coach, H.T. Smith – a brilliant lawyer, told me: ‘If you want to hunt moose, you have to go where the moose are.’ So here I am, with the moose.
Garay: In law school, I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer. My mock trial coach, H.T. Smith – a brilliant lawyer, told me: “If you want to hunt moose, you have to go where the moose are.” So here I am, with the moose.
The culture here is great. I didn’t get training wheels. I was thrown into the fire early. Everyone is expected to own their role. Do the job, do it well.
Our practice is focused on catastrophic injury cases. My role is to do whatever needs to be done to get our cases ready for trial. Clients hire us to try their cases. That most cases settle is fine, but you prepare them for trial if you want the best result. I love every opportunity to put my cases in front of a jury.
AALM: Where do you see your career going?
Garay: I’d like to have ownership in a firm one day – get my name on the door and all that.
AALM: Working with senior partners what is a trait they have that you would like to carry through to the next generation of lawyers? As a newer generation lawyer, what traits do you have that you think senior partners should adopt into their practice?
Garay: Be a professional and have thick skin. Trial work can be stressful, hard work. It’s a contact sport. It shouldn’t be, but some lawyers are going to be obstructionist and unprofessional. Don’t lower yourself to their level.
I own my failures. This profession needs real leaders (and mentors) not lawyers who make excuses or write off their associates’ performance or lack of work ethic to generational differences. There are no bad teams, just ineffective leaders. Ultimately, if I lose a case or the team underperforms it’s on me.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Garay: I have two young children so, happily, they take up most of my free time. I coach my oldest son’s intramural soccer team, play golf whenever I can, and try and get as much time poolside as I can.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Garay: Professionally, I want to get better as a trial lawyer every day. There are a lot of lawyers out there but few good trial lawyers. One day, I hope to be counted as one of the good ones.