Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Jennifer V. Ruiz of Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A. in the 2020 Women in Law special issue to discuss her career and her aspirations.
AALM: What do you find rewarding about being an attorney? What do you find challenging about your practice? How do you overcome those challenges?
Ruiz: As a civil defense attorney, there are few things more rewarding than successfully executing a defensive strategy carefully designed to meet my client’s needs and goals. Litigation oft en presents challenges that stand in the way of achieving certain results. But despite the many hurdles that oft en manifest themselves, I always aim to creatively overcome challenges whenever they arise. Doing so requires diligence and perseverance, as well as commitment and dedication to always obtaining the best results for my clients. The ability to counsel my clients and help them better understand the judicial process is another rewarding facet of my practice. Finally, serving as a zealous advocate on behalf of my client – serving as his or her voice – is also incredibly gratifying.
AALM: Did you have any mentors or professors who helped you develop your career? What is the best lesson they taught you?
Ruiz: As the first lawyer in my family, I have been blessed with many mentors along the way who have helped shape me into the lawyer that I am today. The most significant mentor in my career has been my partner, Barry Postman. He has truly been my champion. I have been with my firm, Cole, Scott & Kissane, my entire legal career. And throughout my tenure, Barry has given me countless opportunities to grow my practice and develop my skillset. He has always given me a seat at the table by allowing me to argue substantive motions, take difficult cases to trial, spearhead special projects within the firm, and meet with our firm clients. I am grateful for his mentorship, guidance, and friendship throughout my years of practice. Barry leads by example; he has taught me the importance of being a loyal team player and always demonstrating professionalism. Moreover, Barry inspires me to serve as a good mentor to others.
AALM: How welcoming do you think the South Florida legal community is to women practitioners? How supportive are fellow women practitioners? How do you personally try to help women following in your career path?
Ruiz: My view of the South Florida legal community as it pertains to women practitioners has evolved over my years of practice. As a young female litigator, I was oft en underestimated and even patronized by more seasoned attorneys—male and female alike. However, I found that my preparation, perseverance, and professionalism (including some very direct conversations regarding unacceptable conduct) won over my detractors. Now, many of the more seasoned attorneys that once misjudged my abilities are a source of referral business, as well as friends. While I find that the South Florida legal community has become a more welcoming place for female practitioners than when I first started, there is still room for improvement. I try to help move the needle in that regard by mentoring younger female attorneys, participating in panel discussions on gender bias in the law, serving on the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and serving on the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for Miami-Dade County’s Professionalism Committee.
AALM: How do you balance your home life and work life?
Ruiz: As a litigator with two young children, managing my daily responsibilities is a delicate balancing act (in heels). I am only able to successfully balance my home and work life because I have an amazing support system. My husband is a true partner. I am blessed we are able to share the same passion for this profession. He has always supported my career and, with a demanding career of his own, he finds ways to share in the daily responsibilities of our home and children. I also have the invaluable support of my family to help with pick-ups, piano lessons, etc. My working-mom-tribe also helps me by pinch hitting in emergency situations—like a deposition or mediation that ran late. Finally, my firm, Cole, Scott & Kissane, has been instrumental in fostering my growth as an attorney by supporting my efforts to strike a rewarding work-home balance, while still satisfying my love for the practice of law. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the invaluable role my legal assistant of eleven years, Natalie Orellana, plays in helping me strike a work-home balance; we are a team in every respect.
AALM: How are you involved in the legal community and the local community?
Ruiz: In the legal community, I am a member of the Florida Bar Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee; the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County Professionalism Committee; the Hispanic Heritage Commemoration Committee for the Southern District of Florida; and a Director with the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. I also regularly serve on planning committees and as a panelist covering topics regarding diversity, inclusion, cultural sensitivity, and mentorship in the legal profession.
In the local community, I volunteer for the Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida by leading my daughter’s Troop. I volunteer at my children’s schools and am also an active member of my parish, Church of the Little Flower.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Ruiz: A good attorney is prepared, professional, persuasive, and passionate. However, to reach an exceptional level, it is critical to have a strong work ethic and always act with integrity. I believe an exceptional attorney is a true problem solver who tackles challenges with grit and grace, and demonstrates consistent reliability and dedication.