Corali Lopez-Castro, Managing Partner, Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A.
How long have you been working for your current company?
22 years. I relocated to Cleveland, Ohio with my husband from 1995-1997 and worked with Hahn Loeser & Parks, LLP during that time.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I graduated from law school in 1990 and was lucky to find a job with my current firm, Kozyak, Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A. When I joined the firm I thought my practice would be 50% commercial litigation and 50% bankruptcy. However, an associate in the bankruptcy department moved to another city right before I joined the firm and therefore, a need was created. I believe this was an opportunity for me as I was able to practice in bankruptcy court before the same three judges. Appearing on a frequent basis before the same judges enables one to establish credibility as a young lawyer.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
My proudest achievement was being elected the President of the Cuban American Bar Association, the largest voluntary bar association in Florida. Being President of CABA gave me the opportunity to understand the role of diversity in the law and promote diversity in the law including the judiciary. It was fascinating and gratifying.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
As managing partner of my firm, I try to motivate my partners to work smarter, underwrite cases carefully and mentor associates, our most valuable asset. This is difficult with an active practice. Additionally, lawyers are smart and sometimes it is difficult to convince them to change.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Attaining work-life balance is always a challenge. I am lucky to be a working mother who really enjoys the practice of law and can also be a “real” parent to three girls. My husband, who is also a lawyer, is my partner in this endeavor. He and I negotiate and navigate the demanding responsibilities we both have as lawyers and parents. In addition, I am on a reduced schedule so I am able to devote time to business development. I truly believe having my own clients is the key to the work-life dilemma facing lawyers.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
I have had three mentors in my career – John W. Kozyak, Charles (“Chuck”) W. Throckmorton and Harley S. Tropin, and each has taught me something different. John taught me how to get and keep clients. Chuck taught me how to write persuasively. Harley taught me how to present a case. I consider them the best examples of what lawyers should aspire to be.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I do not consider corporate diversity initiatives effective. I am not sure which are most effective, as I have not seen an effective program to date.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I have felt at a disadvantage landing the client as a young female. Sometimes clients want a man with grey hair. When that happens, I have to work extra hard to convince the client that I have the experience to handle the matter even after practicing for 22 years.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
The most significant changes in the legal industry have been the increase in the number of female judges. Diversity in the judiciary is important because everyone who comes before the court (litigants, judges, and observers) should feel represented.