Attorney at Law Magazine Miami Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with 2019 Superstar Helen Costa of Costa & Associates to discuss her career, her inspiration, and her plans for the future.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school?
Costa: I learned a lot, but the greatest lesson would be not to shy or turn away from the unknown but rather accept it as a challenge. Learning new things and how to view issues from different perspectives was probably my greatest lesson learned in law school.
AALM: How do you apply that lesson to your career today?
Costa: Since my practice’s focus is primarily on family law matters and I have been lucky enough to enjoy my profession for over 24 years now, I can humbly say I know a lot, but I never claim to know it all. Therefore, I accept every new or different issue as a challenge and in that way represent my clients the best way possible.
Therefore, I accept every new or different issue as a challenge and in that way represent my clients the best way possible.”
AALM: What personal traits most aided you in your career?
Costa: That’s not an easy question; however, I would say diligence and compassion. Diligence because I work hard at all that I apply myself to and with every client I give them 100% of myself. Compassion because I recognize that all my clients are experiencing a flood of emotions and uncertainties and counseling them with the utmost respect and professionalism as well as promptness and realistic expectations has never failed me.
AALM: What do you find most rewarding about your practice?
Costa: My initial meeting with my clients is always one where they are full of emotions, questions and worries. Their life is not as they had imagined it would be and many don’t see how they can move on or can’t envision how their tomorrow will be. When clients take the step and seek my advice it’s usually because they feel everything is weighing heavily on them. They interpret taking that step as confirmation or an acknowledgement of their failure; a failed marriage or a failed relationship. The most rewarding part of my practice is counseling my clients and guiding them to a place where they do see the light at the end of the tunnel. How their tomorrow is great and perhaps even better than they had initially imagined. As the saying goes, “the best success stories begin with failures.” The journey I embark with them on helps make even my toughest days and cases worthwhile.
AALM: What do you find particularly challenging about your practice?
Costa: I find that a few family law attorneys adopt an attitude of unnecessary aggression and harassment. They often direct their unprofessional behavior towards my client and myself, as their attorney. I imagine they feel their behavior is applauded or expected from their client. Family law should not be adversarial, we are not “attack dogs” for our clients, in fact it ought to be quite the contrary. Family law practitioners should focus their actions in a way that helps reduce hostility between the parties and encourage the clients to conduct themselves in ways that would reduce the emotional tension.
AALM: How do you overcome these challenges?
Costa: I do not let others change who I am and respond to aggression with courtesy and respect. That is easier said than done, but I work hard at acting not reacting.
AALM: Can you tell us the most unusual incident or funny story that has happened to you in your career?
Costa: Those who know me understand there is a quirky and playful side of me and I can easily laugh at myself. Early on in my career, I had what I perceived as a big case (because it involved issues I was handling for the first time) and well let’s just say I may have been a little anxious or nervous. Long story short, I walked from the parking lot into the courthouse and sensed that everyone was noticing me. Just an observation that I made and thought nothing of it. I walked into the waiting area right outside of the courtroom, and realized I was wearing one navy heel and one black heel. It doesn’t stop there, in my fascination to have curly hair, I had left a bright pink curler right smack in the front of my forehead to “curl my bangs.” I thank a tall and handsome young attorney for asking me if the hair thing was a tactile move; if you are out there and remember this please call me!
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
Costa: Together with my brother, Maurice R. Costa, and three staff members that we like to refer to as directors of first impressions we are a boutique firm. We are family, literally and figuratively. We are a team and work together to achieve all goals. Our success is due to each one of us being accountable and taking ownership of our work and because of that we can depend on each other. One sentence that best portrays the attorneys and the staff at the firm is “things happen around here because of me!”
AALM: What events are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Costa: I’m looking forward to participating in more collaborative family cases. I have been trained in the collaborative family law process for over a year now and I am a true believer in the process. This process not only helps my client, but the whole family, in resolving lifelong intimate family issues in a manner that minimizes scarring. Additionally, it keeps all their family affairs private and confidential and out of the public courtroom. By the end of this year I hope to have been able to counsel clients in cases involving pre-nuptial issues and agreements, or dissolution of marriages wherein the parties have achieved and accumulated significant assets, businesses and complex financial ventures using the collaborative process.