Walking into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables Friday morning brought back a flood of memories. The most nostalgic of which was the remembrance of coming here with my mom ten years ago when I first began weighing the decision to attend the University of Miami. Next was a strange sense of déjà vu – I had been in this same lobby two months ago for my own hearing before The Florida Board of Bar Examiners. And finally, there was the pride because I was not walking into that lobby alone. Friday, I walked into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency with someone incredibly special. That someone was not just a friend, a brother, and a counselor. That someone was my first client.
As a young lawyer, representing my first client from start to finish has been a much-needed breath of fresh air. The involved reader may meet this last phrase with confusion as I have written before about my clients. However, clients whom I represent now and have represented in the past, I have had the privilege and the honor of representing alongside Spencer Marc Aronfeld and Brandon Eric Stein of Aronfeld Trial Lawyers. It took on a different feeling and a heavier responsibility when I decided to represent my client as a favor, entirely on my own, outside of the now familiar world of personal injury law.
True confessions. When my client first contacted me, I had not even received my Bar Card yet. I had just been sworn in as a lawyer and sent my Oath to Tallahassee. I remember sitting outside my apartment on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the call came. As he finished explaining the issues he faced, still alive with the excitement of recently being sworn in as a new lawyer, I offered to zealously represent him until the end. The next day, I made my first call as a lawyer to the Florida Bar Ethics Hotline, to ensure it would be ethical for me to represent my client with the issues he was confronting seeing as how I had just been sworn in. The answer brought instant relief and not long after I was staring into the abyss of a freshly signed notice of appearance. I savored that moment; that feeling that I was now practicing law. We spent the next two months building his case until finally, the moment had arrived.
The night before my client’s hearing, I found myself back at Starbucks – the same Starbucks on 12th and Washington where there remains a doodled and coffee stained napkin. This time, I took up three tables. I laid out my client’s entire file and began reading over every page, word for word. Feverously I took notes in between sips of my delicately crafted Americano. My eyes move faster than my pen can write. Like a character from a Dostoyevsky novel, I feel myself resisting the urge to laugh out loud. I want to laugh because I am living the life of a young lawyer – “So this is what it’s like,” reverberates between pen strokes. Hours later, I awaken from my stupor, deep breathe – WE are ready. There is an extraordinary hum in the air as I walk home that night. Something tells me it is the electricity I feel in the Atlantic breeze as I finally laugh out loud.
The next day, we walk into the room and meet our makers – the panel that will question my client. This is the moment we have spent two moths preparing for. Countless hours, phone calls, and Sunday-night meetings in my South Beach apartment.
“Please state your appearances.”
I look at my client one final time before turning to The Board and responding.
“Good morning. Domenick Giovanni Lazzara, on behalf of my client…”