Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Stephanie Granda of the Law Offices of Granda & Associates PA in the 2020 Women in Law special issue to discuss her career and her aspirations.
AALM: When did you decide to become a lawyer and why?
Granda: Becoming an attorney had always been a childhood dream of mine, but it wasn’t until I participated in a mock trial as an attorney in high school, that the dream was solidified as an internal desire. It truly became a life-altering moment for me, where the drive to argue, litigate and defend would become a true passion.
Once I shared my desire to become an attorney with my family, they full-heartedly supported and believed in me. They created very high expectations for me and there was no turning back, I honestly didn’t even have a back-up career path.
AALM: What do you find rewarding about being an attorney? What do you find challenging about your practice? How do you overcome those challenges?
Granda: Winning a case is the all-time reward for any attorney, and equally for me would have to be: (1) the feeling of resolving a case where the parties reach an agreement on their own; (2) guiding my clients to develop their own terms and work together to come to a decision, especially in family law; and (3) helping them come to a positive resolution from what started as a not-so-happy family situation.
The on-going challenge is not taking your client’s burdens home with you. It is a balancing act. Being a present parent whenever possible is my number one priority.
AALM: What was the beginning of your career like?
Granda: Establishing credibility amongst my clients and peers as a young 23-year-old attorney was a challenge I had to overcome. I worked harder to prove that I was confident in my ability. I fearlessly advocated for my clients and have built a reputation as a fighter and respected attorney in my now 13 years as a practicing attorney.
AALM: How is your career different today than you envisioned in law school?
Granda: I have always envisioned owning a medium sized law firm. Early on in my career, at 22 years of age I worked for a medium-sized litigation law firm during my second year of law school and I experienced sexism firsthand. After graduating from law school, I worked as an in-house corporate attorney and I knew that the corporate setting was not for me. That is when I decided that I wanted to build my own empire and branch out independently. I wanted to have a family and children all while practicing family and real estate law, which would allow me the flexibility to have both.
Thankfully, I am living what I envisioned, which included having a staff and adding associates to my firm. I always had a passion for family and real estate law, which are the two primary areas of practice my firm concentrates in.
AALM: Did you have any mentors or professors who helped you develop your career?
Granda: Early on in law school Leonard Pertnoy, my professor in professional responsibility at St. Thomas University School of Law engrained the necessity of ethics and professionalism and embracing that overall outlook in my law practice.
Real estate attorney Arnold Brown, from Bilzin Sumberg was also instrumental in guiding me to be a meticulous attorney and taught me everything I needed to know about real estate law from beginning to end.
I am thankful to both of my mentors for taking me under their wing, sharing their nuggets of wisdom and helping me grow as a new practicing attorney.
AALM: How welcoming do you think the South Florida legal community is to women practitioners? How do you personally try to help women following in your career path?
Granda: The South Florida community is very open to women practitioners particularly in the family field. I have found women practitioners to be more sympathetic and compassionate, at the same time advocating very strongly on their client’s behalf.
I strive to hire interns in law school or recent graduates and provide them with the opportunity to train them into the attorneys that they want to be and provide the foundation of experiencing the ins and outs of Family law. I extend that opportunity to all in my firm free of sexism and ageism.
AALM: Do you find that as a woman you face any challenges that men don’t?
Granda: In my experience gender challenges are a very personal issue based on client preference. There are clients that may prefer to work with a specific gender for their family case. The challenges I have faced are age bias and more experience based due to the years of practice I have. I have had past clients that have chosen to retain a more experienced attorney only to then return and seek my counsel.
AALM: Tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn.
Granda: I played varsity volleyball in high school and despite my short stature, I was very competitive, receiving Most Valuable Player accolades every year. I excelled tremendously in that sport and it taught me how to lead and be a team player.
As a setter, I would receive the ball and then set the ball up to my teammate. This is a great analogy as to how I view my role as an attorney, which is to set up my clients to succeed and have a winning resolution.
AALM: How do you balance your home life and work life?
Granda: I find balance in that I am there for my children first and then work. I make it a priority to be physically present at every function my children have. At the same token as an owner of a firm, I am also responsible for my employees and my client’s needs. Every day is different, and I just roll with the punches. I am very thankful for my support system (my family and my team) which affords me with the flexibility to balance both, it takes a village.
AALM: How are you involved in the legal community and the local community?
Granda: I am a very proud supporter of Kidside, a nonprofit which directly funds professional positions at Family Court Services which provide vital resources and referral services to children and families. Additionally, KidSide has provided upgrades to facilities at the courthouse to assure the safety of children and enhance parent/ child interaction.
I provide pro bono services annually to the Dade Legal Aid Put Something Back Program, which provides comprehensive legal services impacting over 10,000 needy clients, families and the community. Additionally, in the Family Court, I have been appointed as a guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of children and provide my legal services to the South Florida community.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Granda: My greatest accomplishment is being a mom. Professionally, what I am most proud of is that no matter what the adversity or how many obstacles I have experienced throughout the years, I have overcome them and come out on the other side all while growing my client base with positive results, receiving numerous awards and recognition of achievements. Most importantly, helping clients learn to co-parent and work together for the life-long benefit of their children.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Granda: A paternity case in 2016 that went to trial, where I was able to successfully win my client equal timesharing despite the opposing client’s repeated efforts of alienation and ending a two-year litigation. It was a very defining moment, which created numerous opportunities for my firm.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future? Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?
Granda: I would like to become a certified family attorney within the next five years and increase the number of attorneys in the firm. In 10 years, I am hoping to have my eldest daughter working at my firm and training her to take the reigns of Granda & Associates in the future.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What’s the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one?
Granda: One of the traits I believe we lack at times in South Florida is the professionalism and candor of an attorney. Upholding ethical professional standards make an exceptional attorney in these emotionally depleting times and is the difference between good and outstanding. Doing what is always right, creating reasonable expectations for the client and maintaining the ethical mantra of the law are my firm’s mission and objectives.
AALM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Granda: I would like to thank Attorney at Law Magazine for featuring me and I am thrilled to be partnering with them and being a woman figure and face for women in the field.