Attorney at Law Magazine First Coast publisher Tom Brady sat down the Honorable Michelle Kalili to discuss her recent recognition as JWLA Woman of the Year.
AALM: Tell us your reaction when you first learned you would receive this honor and about the experience of accepting it in front of your peers and the bench?
Kalil: To say I was surprised is an understatement. I had no idea I was receiving such an honor, much less that my family was there “hiding out” to surprise me. It meant so much to have my family and friends there, all in on the surprise, in support of me. I’m very blessed to have amazing family and friends.
AALM: How important do you think it is for young women to have successful women to look up to? How do you seek to fill that position in their lives?
Kalil: I enjoy being a mentor to young attorneys. I know how important it was to me when I was starting out in practice, and I enjoy sharing what I can with newer attorneys. I believe it’s very important for new attorneys to have a seasoned attorney they can turn to for advice and knowledge. Unfortunately these days, I’m seeing too many young attorneys starting out on their own without a mentor, which can be a detriment to a new practice.
AALM: In a past life, you worked as a public defender and the owner of your own law firm, as well as a judge for Duval County’s Teen Court program. You held various executive positions. What compelled you to change your career? Have you found what you were looking for in the law?
Kalil: Having practiced in front of so many different judges throughout my career, I knew that one day I would want to become one myself. I saw the impact they could have on a litigant, and how important it was to those appearing before them to have someone that cared about them as a person, and not just a case. I find in County Court I can actually make a difference in many peoples’ lives.
AALM: How do you seek to utilize your status to promote the issues and concerns of women in the legal community?
Kalil: I’m happy to participate in forums or events sponsored by the law school or different organizations to share my experiences as a female in the legal arena.
AALM: How out of touch is the legal community with the advancements the corporate world has made in improving gender diversity? Do you believe they have the opportunity to keep pace?
Kalil: I think the legal community, just like the corporate world, still has a long way to go in achieving overall diversity, not just gender diversity. As long as the dialogue remains open I believe there are positive changes being made.