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Ariella J. Gutman of Haber Law: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Attorney

It is never too early to start networking and thinking about career/business development. In the past five years of my career I have focused on this, but the reality is that law is a business, and you are your brand, so on the sooner you understand this, you are ahead of many of your contemporaries. I have realized this and try to network while doing things I enjoy.

As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariella J. Gutman.

Ariella J. Gutman’s practice focuses on all types of litigation matters including contractual disputes for all types of businesses and at all stages of their life cycle, complex commercial cases, business fraud, real estate litigation, employment claims, partnership disputes, and litigation specific to issues within the hospitality industry. She also focuses on drafting and negotiating construction agreements representing owners, developers, general contractors and/or subcontractors for both residential and commercial projects.

As a Miami native, Ariella has close ties to her community and is invested in the growth of Miami as an international business hub. Her main goal is to provide clients with zealous, but efficient and thoughtful advocacy to achieve favorable results. She holds leadership roles in the Miami Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women’s Lawyers and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation as a Member of the Women’s Initiative Committee awards grants to local organizations that inspire and empower women and girls through their programing.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?

As early as I can remember, maybe as young as third grade, I was always able to see both sides of a situation and found it easy to relate to different people. I have also always been a consistent advocate for my position, whether I was negotiating what outfit to wear to school or what my family should eat for dinner. This strong will, my enjoyment of public speaking, and the ability build bridges with others led me to want to become a lawyer. In high school I participated in speech and debate team and also took an introduction to law class where I was in a mock trial competition. Although I did not realize it yet, both of these experiences allowed me to get my feet wet from an advocacy standpoint. I majored in public relations at the University of Florida and interned in New York and Miami for various firms, which rounded out my capacity to understand how to convey a message to a variety of audiences. This skill has stuck with me today as I think about “themes” and connecting with a judge, a jury, or the opposing side in my cases. Finally, as the first in my family to attend college, I knew I wanted to have a professional title. I also always associated being an attorney with being highly successful and accomplished, and thankfully, it’s turned out to be proven true.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?

Early on in my career, I was part of a team of lawyers representing a landmark hotel on Miami Beach. The hotel went through a renovation but had to stick with its identity and architecturally comply with the municipal codes in that regard. You had a historic property operating in the current market, making the operations very complex. From nightclub operations, contracts for events and conferences, risk management, lobbying and shaping laws that would impact the hotel, licensing, rental of commercial space, construction and employee training, the variety made it one of the most interesting clients I have ever worked with.

That hotel has a very popular and trendy nightclub and there were times that I frequented the club as their attorney, observing or going to the club during daytime hours. It was fun and interesting to see the operations behind the scenes!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Outside of the everyday part of my job in litigating cases, I am a member of the Miami Dade Florida Association of Women Lawyers (MDFAWL). I also serve as MDFAWL’s co-chairperson for the Business Development Committee. This project is dear to my heart and fascinating because it is a committee in charge of creating programming to foster business development by assisting female attorneys in cultivating business, developing their professional brand and expanding their network. For every attorney, the journey to acquire new business is different, and this Committee supports creativity, growth, and forward-thinking for the female attorneys of Miami-Dade County.

What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?

I am currently working on a case against the City of Miami Beach and challenging its city-wide ordinance governing the operations of its sidewalk cafes. The City’s iconic sidewalk cafés are inextricably woven into the fabric of its economy and culture. These are issues that affect me personally as I visit many outdoor restaurants and it is a way of life in Miami both from an entertainment perspective as well as an economic perspective. The ability to eat outdoors is a marquee quality to the experience of visiting Miami. I am also engaged in litigation over issues stemming from the purchase and sale of a very famous, historic Miami attraction which has a variety of interesting legal issues involving the municipalities in which it is located at the city and county level. Finally, I am also engaged in the issues revolving around the Fort Lauderdale Boat show and ground leases, development and the evolution of that huge event.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I can’t not give her a shoutout, she is the greatest champion of women lawyers.

Also, Jackie Kennedy Onassis for her unconditional devotion to her children, grace and amazing style while handling so many challenges and big roles in her life.

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?

Go to law school because you actually want to be there, not because you don’t know what else to do with your future. Also, your professional reputation is with you from the beginning and starts in law school. Preserve it and make decisions to maintain a positive one.

If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?

  1. More female attorneys arguing big hearings in Court;
  2. Streamline or somehow shorten/minimize the discovery/investigation of facts process of a case as litigants use many tactics in protracted discovery to increase expenditures and hide the ball, which makes civil litigation a burden as opposed to a right; and
  3. Continue to embrace virtual hearings. A necessity during the pandemic, they were surprisingly effective.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

With each client I meet, case I am a part of, or young attorney I mentor, I do it with kindness, honesty and respect. I preach that and believe there is a way to win a case while maintaining professionalism and grace. I try to make that value the backbone of my practice and make practicing law more pleasant, since it gets a bad wrap sometimes. I will always provide advice to those who ask without necessarily being retained to spread trust in the process and facilitate business without a burden of formally “lawyering up,” and do pro bono work on occasion for those who cannot afford representation or have smaller issues that need attention.

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

Being in Miami! This city is thriving in every aspect. So many people have joined us from other parts of the world and the shift in industry because of the pandemic is palpable. Being a part of the transformation is what drives me. I am a Miami native, so helping local Florida residents and businesses thrive and address their legal issues or consult on their strategies drives me to be a strong advocate on their behalf.

I am interested so many types of enterprise such as real estate, development, tech, and shipping/logistics that make up a lot of the business that gets done in Miami, so it is fun to be a part of that. I care about the community, its growth as an international business hub, and having the ability to impact it and cultivate it in some way during this exciting time for the city is what drives me.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. It is never too early to start networking and thinking about career/business development. In the past five years of my career I have focused on this, but the reality is that law is a business, and you are your brand, so on the sooner you understand this, you are ahead of many of your contemporaries. I have realized this and try to network while doing things I enjoy.
  2. Stand up for yourself. I learned early on in my career that it was essential to vocalize what was working for me in my job and what was not. With solid communication, you can work with your supervisors to find a way to address any issues. Employers cannot read your mind and you should bring up concerns; however, try to have proposed solutions when doing so. When I was a young attorney, I was working at a firm with a location in two counties. I lived in Miami but worked in Fort Lauderdale. I was also in a different area of litigating working with different clients than those that were of interest to me. After expressing the change I wanted and the fact that I knew there were openings in Miami, I brought this up to the partnership and advocated for my transfers, which was agreed upon and done almost immediately. Had I not spoken up for myself, I can only imagine the hundreds of hours of commuting that would’ve continued to add up and impact my quality of life.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up trying to complete everything on your to do list. There is always going to be work to finish. As a young attorney, I think you have to work hard to learn as much as you can and be an asset to your firm, but if you burn out (which is true in any job) you are not an asset because your work product suffers and your personal well-being may suffer, as well. And really, who wants that?
  4. You are not going to go to trial on every case regularly and be like the attorneys portrayed on television or in movies. Being a lawyer is about being a counsel for your clients, helping them solve problems in an efficient manner and a lot of the time it means saving them from themselves and facilitating a settlement to put issues behind them. I do this every day! People want to go HAM in court, but that is not always the best or only way to get results.
  5. Make yourself indispensable. If your boss can trust you and give you responsibility to an extent that they cannot function without you, then you are in a good place. Also, if you have a great personality that cannot be replicated or cultivates a good dynamic with all members of the team, that also helps in proving that your contributions cannot be replicated.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

Sheryl Sandberg, Michelle Obama, or Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens and formerly the COO of Starbucks. All of them are strong women who have been successful in different capacities. Having a conversation with any one of them would be insightful, inspiring, and may lead me to think differently about some aspects of my life/career. They each would surely have immeasurable amounts of valuable insight to share that would mean a lot to me.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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