Attorney at Law Magazine Miami Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Dori Foster- Morales to discuss her career and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become a lawyer.
Foster-Morales: Probably about two years after I graduated from law school. I really did not truly believe that I wanted to be a lawyer or that I would be a particularly good lawyer, until after I started practicing.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way? What is the best lesson they taught you.
Foster-Morales: Yes, I had some great mentors. When I was at the State Attorney’s Office, Michael Band, the first assistant, was my mentor and friend. When I began in private practice as family lawyer, Marsha Elser, was my mentor and friend. The best lesson I learned from my mentors was to think critically, not to accept conventional wisdom and to prepare diligently.
AALM: What is the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?
Foster-Morales: The best lesson I learned was to live by the “spotlight theory.” This was a theory taught by my evidence professor. She said that when making any decision about evidence, you must always act as if a spotlight was on you and the judge was watching you and your actions and if you would be embarrassed by what the judge observed, then don’t do it (whatever “it” is).
I believe that is true of all aspects of law you should act as if the judge is watching. While my communications with my client are subject to attorney-client privilege, I find that the advice I give my clients in the privacy of my office, I would comfortably give to them in the presence of opposing counsel.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most.
Foster-Morales: As a trial lawyer, the act of trying a case, is the act of learning. Trials have always been my source of education and my greatest learning experiences. The courtroom is my living classroom.
Additionally, on an emotional level, I developed greater empathy for my clients, after I attended an initial consultation for a divorce for my best friend from college. Sitting on the “other” side of the desk and getting divorce advice on the client side taught me a lot about what my clients go through when they initially meet with me.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?
Foster-Morales: It is very rewarding to help my clients through their difficult transition from married to single life. It is always my goal to leave my clients in a better place than when I found them.
AALM: What do you find particularly challenging about your practice? How do you overcome these challenges?
Foster-Morales: The parties in my cases are usually in a very difficult emotional place, especially when the proceedings commence. The emotions often inhibit good decision-making by the parties. I like to address this issue head-on and recommend a therapist to help my client begin to heal and to be a better client, better able to make rational decisions in their divorce.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional? What the difference between a good attorney and an outstanding one.
Foster-Morales: I think the ability to communicate complex issues in a simple commonsense manner is what makes an attorney exceptional.
AALM: How would you describe the culture at your firm?
Foster-Morales: Our firm operates as a team and a family. It is the thing I am most proud of, that the culture is one where we each have the other’s back. My partner and I have been close friends since law school which adds to the sense of family.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Foster-Morales: I cannot say that there is one case that defined our practice (nor would I discuss the names of my clients given the personal nature of my practice). I believe that our firm is known for being caring and well-prepared lawyers that get good and fair results for our clients. As a result, there are many cases that I am proud of and that have given us that reputation in the community. We strive earn that reputation with every case and do not rest on our laurels
AALM: What accomplishments are you most proud of achieving?
Foster-Morales: I am simply proud of being a lawyer. I think it is an honorable profession that allows us to help people solve their problems. At each stage of my practice, I have been proud of different things … trials, board certification, election to the board of governors, building of the firm, etc.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future? Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years?
Foster-Morales: I hope to be elected as president of the Florida Bar.
Since I just signed a seven-year lease, I see myself in my office continuing to be a problem solver for my client.
Ten years? A little tougher, while I love the practice of family law, I’ve practiced so many different types of law having worked at the EPA, the State Attorney’s Office, and as a family lawyer at my current firm, so in 10 years, maybe there is something else on horizon. If I continue to enjoy what I am doing, I will keep at it.
AALM: What events are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Foster-Morales: I am looking forward to working on mental health and wellness issues for the Florida Bar. I believe it is a really important issue which we need to address for the benefit of all Florida lawyers.