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To the surprise of no one, the April jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed massive employment losses, totaling over 20 million positions for the month, and legal jobs were no exception.
The legal sector showed a net loss of 64,000 jobs—a decline dozens of times larger than the fluctuations normally seen by the industry. The overall unemployment rate across industries stands at 14.7%, according to BLS data, higher than any time since the Great Depression.
The report on Friday showed 1,097,006 people working in the legal industry, including attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and others. The figure is down by 50,000 jobs from this point last year.
Updated numbers for the prior month saw the overall job market lose over 700,000 jobs in March, with the legal industry showing a loss of 1,700 jobs.
But that was before COVID-19 had a full month of stay-at-home restrictions to bolster its devastating economic effects.
Pandemic-related cost-cutting measures at major legal employers—big law firms most prominently—have been accelerating since they began in March, with April and early May bringing increasing reports of furloughs and layoffs.
Some large firms, such as Mayer Brown and Hogan Lovells, have managed to get by thus far with pay cuts and dividend deferrals. But others, such as Nixon Peabody, Goodwin Procter and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, have all made substantial staff cuts to go along with pay reductions for attorneys and staff.
The last time the legal industry went through an acute economic crisis, during the Great Recession, layoffs were the norm. For now, many large firms are still opting, when they can, to enact pay cuts, hour reductions and furloughs instead.
Unlike during the Great Recession, though, the direct impacts of the pandemic are spread across every industry, the flurry of austerity measures has happened quickly, and there isn’t a clear path forward to recovery.
Mixed messages at the federal level, differing local situations in states and municipalities and the possibility of months or more of uncertainty over economic conditions put businesses, including law firms, in the unenviable position of trying to plan for something they can’t see.
Many of the geographic areas in the U.S. that were hit hardest initially by COVID-19, such as New York, Detroit and Seattle, have seen success in slowing new cases, but they are rising elsewhere. That could drive major regional variations in when demand will ramp back up and whether a return to the office is possible. With regard to the latter, it doesn’t seem firms are in that much of a hurry.
Other findings in Friday’s jobs report include:
- Unemployment overall rose by 10.3% in April, the largest monthly increase since records started being kept in January of 1948.
- Workers who identify as white had an unemployment rate of 14.2%; those who identify as Asian were at 14.5%; those who identify as black were at 16.7%; and those who identify as Hispanic were at 18.9%. With the exception of those who identify as black, the numbers are all record highs.
- Those who were on a temporary layoff increased by a factor of 10 to more than 18 million.
- Labor force participation rate fell 2.5% to 60.2%, the lowest recorded level since 1973, when the rate was at 60%.
- Leisure and hospitality lost 7.7 million jobs, or 47% of the workforce.
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Yesterday, 4/19, President Trump issued an Executive Order on National Emergency Authority to Temporarily Extend Deadlines for Certain Estimated Payments which authorizes the Secretary of Treasury to “temporarily extend deadlines, for importers suffering significant financial hardship due to COVID-19, for the estimated payments.”
By postponing the deadline to deposit certain duties, taxes, and fees for 90 days, we are providing much-needed relief to affected businesses,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “This will protect American jobs and help these businesses get through this time.”
You can review the details of the scope of the relief here: CSMS #42423171 – COVID-19 – 90 Day Postponement of Payment for the Deposit of Certain Estimated Duties, Taxes, and Fees. “Significant financial hardship” is defined as:
“If the operation of such importer is fully or partially suspended during March 2020 or April 2020 due to orders from a competent governmental authority limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19, and as a result of such suspension, the gross receipts of such importer for March 13-31, 2020 or April 2020 are less than 60 percent of the gross receipts for the comparable period in 2019.”
It will be necessary to provide CBP with documentation supporting a request for duty deferral demonstrating that one meets the significant financial hardship criteria mentioned above. The 90-day deferral of duties extends to a limited number of circumstances: formal entries of merchandise entered, or withdrawn from a warehouse, for consumption (including entries for consumption from a Foreign Trade Zone) in March 2020 or April 2020.
The deferral does not apply to the majority of imported goods subject to:
- Antidumping duties,
- Countervailing duties,
- Duties assessed pursuant to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962,
- Duties assessed pursuant to Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, and
- Duties assessed pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
For specific filing instructions, please see CSMS #42421561 – COVID-19 – Payment Instructions for 90-Day Postponement of Payment for the Deposit of Certain Estimated Duties, Taxes, and Fees.
Note: If a company has a product subject to section 301 duties, but received an exclusion from 301 duties, these entries are not eligible for the 90-day deferral.
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Tax Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has already had widespread effects on the U.S. economy. Demand for many goods and services has stalled. Unemployment claims have skyrocketed. And many schools and businesses are operating online — if at all. Life has changed dramatically across the country.
The federal government has been working on various relief measures to help individuals and small businesses cope with the situation, including tax relief provisions. Here are the tax changes that have been finalized so far.
Even more relief measures are underway. As of this writing, Congress is working on a huge new COVID-19 relief bill that will surely include a massive economic stimulus package and probably lots of tax changes. Contact your tax pro for the latest developments.
Guidance on Federal Income Tax Deadline Deferrals
On March 20, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Twitter that the April 15 federal income tax filing deadlines will be extended until July 15. His tweet says, “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.” It’s unclear at this point whether the extension will apply to the tax return filing deadlines for federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes) owed by employers or for federal estate and gift taxes.
In addition, on March 21, the IRS issued Notice 2020-18, which clarifies that individual taxpayers and corporations can defer until July 15 federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15. (Normally, when you file an extension, you must still make a good-faith estimate of your tax liability and, by the normal filing deadline, pay the full amount estimated to be due. This relief measure is an exception to the general rule.)
Specifics under Notice 2020-18 are as follows:
For individuals. Individual taxpayers can defer payment of federal income tax (including any self-employment tax) owed for the 2019 tax year from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15. They can also defer their initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year (including any self-employment tax) from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15.
Individuals who have non-salary income — such as self-employed people, investors and rental property owners — must normally make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid an IRS interest charge penalty.
Individuals can defer their tax payments until July 15, with no interest or penalties, “regardless of the amount owed.” (Earlier IRS guidance imposed a $1 million limit, but that limit was eliminated by Notice 2020-18.)
For corporations. Corporations that use the calendar year for tax purposes can defer until July 15 any amount of federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15 with no interest or penalties. This relief covers the amount owed for the 2019 tax year and the amount due for the first quarterly estimated tax payment for the 2020 tax year. Both of those amounts would otherwise be due on April 15. (Earlier IRS guidance imposed a $10 million limit, but that limit was eliminated by Notice 2020-18.)
For trusts and estates. Trusts and estates pay federal income taxes, too. Federal income tax payments for the 2019 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes are due on April 15. The initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes are also due on April 15.
Notice 2020-18 clarifies that trusts and estates can defer any amount of the aforementioned tax payments from April 15 to July 15 with no interest or penalties.
Important: Notice 2020-18 offers no relief for paying federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes) owed by employers — or federal estate and gift taxes. But additional relief measures may be under construction in Congress.
Tax Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, President Trump signed into law a COVID-19 relief bill. It’s called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The new law mandates paid leave benefits for small business employees affected by the COVID-19 emergency and establish related tax credits and Social Security and Medicare (FICA) tax relief for their employers.
Tax credits for emergency leave payments to employees. The new law grants tax credits to small employers to cover payments to eligible employees while they take time off under the mandatory emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave and paid family leave provisions. These provisions apply to employers with less than 500 employees.
Emergency paid sick leave under the new law is limited to $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) for an employee who’s in COVID-19 quarantine or seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis. An employee can also receive emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave of up to $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a child whose school or childcare location has been closed or whose childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19.
In addition, the law gives an employee the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave if the employee or a family member is in COVID-19 quarantine or if the school or childcare location of the employee’s child is closed due to the outbreak. The employer must pay at least two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day, subject to an overall maximum of $10,000 in total family leave payments.
To help employers cover these now-mandatory emergency leave payments, the law allows a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages and family and medical leave wages paid by the employer.
The credit applies only to eligible leave payments made during the period beginning on a date specified by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and ending on December 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of March 18, 2020.
The new law increases the credit to cover a portion of an employer’s qualified health plan expenses that are allocable to emergency sick leave wages and emergency family leave wages.
The credit is first used to offset the Social Security tax component of the employer’s FICA tax bill. Any excess credit is refundable, meaning the government will issue a check to the employer for the excess.
Important: The credit isn’t available to employers that are already receiving the pre-existing credit for paid family and medical leave under Internal Revenue Code Section 45S.
Employer FICA tax relief. Qualified sick leave and family leave payments mandated by the new law are exempt from the 6.2% Social Security tax component of the employer FICA tax on wages. Employers must pay the 1.45% Medicare tax component of the FICA tax on qualified sick leave and family leave payments, but they can claim a credit for that outlay.
Credits for self-employed people. For a self-employed individual who’s affected by the COVID-19 emergency, the new law allows a comparable refundable credit against the individual’s federal income tax bill. If the credit exceeds the individual’s federal income tax bill (including the self-employment tax), the excess will be refunded via a check from the government. The credit equals:
- 100% of the self-employed person’s sick-leave equivalent amount, or
- 67% of the person’s sick-leave equivalent amount for taking care of a sick family member or taking care of the individual’s child following the closing of the child’s school or childcare location.
The sick-leave equivalent amount equals the lesser of:
- The individual’s average daily self-employment (SE) income, or
- $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) to care for the individual or $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a sick family member or a child following the closing of the child’s school or childcare location.
In addition, a self-employed individual could receive a family leave credit for up to 50 days. The credit amount would equal the number of leave days multiplied by the lesser of:
- $200, or
- The individual’s average daily SE income.
The maximum total family leave credit would be $10,000 (50 days x $200 per day).
Credits for self-employed individuals are only allowed for days during the period beginning on a date specified by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and ending on December 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of March 18, 2020.
Important: To properly claim the credit, self-employed individuals must maintain whatever documentation the IRS requires in future guidance. Contact your tax professional for details.
This article only covers some of the COVID-19-related tax changes that have already been finalized. Other types of non-tax federal relief have also been made available and many states have announced their own COVID-19 relief. More federal measures and additional guidance are expected soon. Contact your tax professional to discuss financial relief measures that apply in your specific situation.
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William Phillips, was selected as Employment Discrimination Lawyer of the Year by Leaders in Law Global Awards 2020. He is the managing partner of Phillips & Associates. The firm has represented clients in thousands of employment cases, including those involving sexual harassment, race discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, and disability discrimination. Our New York City employment lawyers have worked hard to obtain the best possible results for employees in Manhattan and the other boroughs of NYC. We have obtained tremendous success in securing millions of dollars in settlements and damages awards.
Mr. Phillips previously has been recognized as one of the 10 Best Labor and Employment Attorneys in New York by the American Institute of Legal Counsel and as a Top 100 Labor & Employment Lawyer in New York by the American Society of Legal Advocates. He has been selected as a member of Lawyers of Distinction in Employment and Labor Law. He belongs to the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum, as do three other employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates.
Phillips & Associates has 18 workplace discrimination attorneys at our Manhattan office. Thus, we possess the resources to level the playing field for an employee who has been wronged. We are one of the largest workplace discrimination and sexual harassment law firms in the country, representing workers in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
New York City employees face a huge disadvantage in the workplace, and the disparity in power between employees and employers only intensifies when an employee experiences discrimination or sexual harassment. Our firm takes a personalized and compassionate approach to representing each of our clients.
Employees face substantial hurdles during litigation, so it is important to be represented by a seasoned employment lawyer like the attorneys at Phillips & Associates. More than 75% of employees lose before getting to trial, according to a federal judicial study of the summary judgment stage. Often, when a company in Manhattan or elsewhere is sued for discrimination, its attorneys file a motion for summary judgment or another dispositive motion. When an employer is successful on its summary judgment motion, the case is over before it even gets to a jury. Getting skilled legal counsel on your side at the very beginning of your case can help make sure that your claim survives these initial challenges.
An employee should make sure to retain a law firm with the knowledge and experience to decide whether it makes sense to settle a case or to take it to trial. We apply a risk/reward analysis to each case that we handle, and we continue to apply this analysis throughout the litigation. Sometimes the situation changes as a lawsuit unfolds, based on information or testimony that emerges. Our firm is conscientious about advising our clients when it is wise to settle and when it is appropriate to take the risk of going to trial.
Our goal is to secure a favorable resolution that provides our clients with closure and a definitive outcome. This often means a settlement, but sometimes an employer does not offer fair settlement terms. When this happens, our experience and skill allow us to take your case all the way through trial, vigorously defending your rights before a judge or jury.
Retain an Experienced Employment Attorney in NYC
To discuss your case with an experienced employment discrimination attorney, contact the law firm of Phillips & Associates by calling (212) 248-7431 or completing our online form. We offer a free consultation because we understand that our clients often are facing financial difficulties. Also, we represent clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not collect attorneys’ fees unless we successfully secure a settlement or verdict on your behalf. We represent employees in Manhattan and throughout New York City, as well as in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Our firm also handles employment litigation in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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In a special session on Sunday the Iraqi Parliament approved a resolution that calls for the Iraqi government to end the presence of foreign forces in the country.
The vote comes in response to a US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Suleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Despite the potential difficulties associated with the removal of US troops, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi ultimately recommended removal to the Council of Representatives. The resolution was passed unanimously by the 172 members in attendance.
US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement Sunday, “while we await further clarification on the legal nature and impact of today’s resolution, we strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries and the continued presence of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.”
While explaining the decision to target Suleimani, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a Sunday interview that the US is preparing for several risks not only “from the proxy militias in Iraq but in the region more broadly along every vector, including cyber.”
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The U.S. House of Representatives will take up impeachment charges against President Donald Trump next week after the House Judiciary Committee on Friday recommended two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, to the full chamber.
Here is what happened on Friday and likely will happen in coming days:
Friday, Dec. 13
The House Judiciary Committee passed two articles of impeachment after a bitter session and a vote on party lines.
Tuesday, Dec 17
The House Rules Committee will determine issues such as length of debate and when to vote on impeachment.
Likely Wednesday, Dec 18
House is expected to impeach Trump, the third impeachment in U.S. history. A debate and vote on party lines is expected. Some Democrats likely will defect, but not enough to endanger passage of the articles. Trump would remain in office, however, pending a trial in the Senate.
If the impeachment is approved, the House would select lawmakers known as managers to present the case against Trump at a Senate trial. House Democrats say most of the managers are likely to come from the Judiciary Committee, and possibly from the Intelligence Committee that led the investigation. The high-profile job is expected to be highly sought.
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he meets with Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Trump would face a trial in the Senate to determine whether he should be convicted and ousted from office. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell expects to take it up as soon as the lawmakers reconvene in January. The Senate is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have largely defended the president. A two-thirds majority of those present and voting in the 100-member chamber would be needed to convict Trump.
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial, House managers would present their case against Trump and the president’s legal team would respond, with the senators acting as jurors. A trial could involve testimony from witnesses and a grueling schedule in which proceedings occur six days a week for as many as six weeks.
McConnell has said the Senate could go with a shorter option by voting on the articles of impeachment after opening arguments, skipping the witnesses. But McConnell is still conferring with the White House on this.
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The United States will become the first country to leave the Paris Agreement in one year.
The Trump administration announced its decision to withdraw from the global pact two years ago but just filed the official paperwork earlier in the week.
The Paris Agreement was officially agreed to by every nation on the planet in 2015 and outlines a basic framework on how to address climate change on a global scale.
The move to withdraw is part of an ongoing effort by President Trump to appease corporate interests and financial concerns in the name of “red tape reduction”.
All of this comes at a time when scientists are urging rapid action to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. On Tuesday, 11,000 scientists officially declared a global climate emergency.
“Scientists have a moral obligation to warn humanity of any great threat,” said Dr Newsome from the School of Life and Environment Sciences. “From the data we have, it is clear we are facing a climate emergency.”
While concerns about global warming were first published in 1912, it wasn’t until the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first report in 1990 that the world’s scientists united in their warnings of danger.
The vast majority of climate scientists agree that we have roughly eleven years left to limit fossil fuel use before “untold human suffering” is unavoidable, including extreme heat waves, drought, floods, plaques, poverty, starvation, famine, and war.
While only 61% of Americans say they are concerned about climate change, 70% of Americans believe environmental protections are more important than economic growth.
Yet, the majority of Republicans in Washington are on record as skeptics of science, so the administration’s decision falls directly into the party’s orthodoxy despite the ominous warnings.
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Murray Energy Corp, one of the largest privately-held U.S. coal miners, whose founder is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, became the latest in a string of coal companies to file for bankruptcy on Tuesday as generators shift to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable energy.
As part of a restructuring, founder Robert Murray, a Trump ally and climate change denier, will step down as chief executive and a lender group will take on more than 60% of about $1.7 billion in claims.
“Although a bankruptcy filing is not an easy decision, it became necessary to access liquidity and best position Murray Energy and its affiliates for the future of our employees and customers and our long-term success,” Robert Murray said in a statement.
The bankruptcy comes even after the Trump administration weakened or eliminated dozens of environmental regulations that Murray and other executives had called burdensome for the coal industry.
Early in the Trump presidency, Murray presented the administration with a wish list of environmental regulations he wanted slashed as coal companies have struggled due to growing use of renewables and cheap natural gas.
Eight other coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the last two years as natural gas has taken over as the primary fuel for U.S. power plants, while coal’s share of generation has collapsed.
The United Mine Workers of America said its members are preparing to fight for their wages and benefits should Murray seek relief from its obligations during reorganization.
“We have seen this sad act too many times before,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “But that does not mean we will sit idly by and let the company and the court dictate what happens to our members and our retirees.”
West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said an additional 14,000 miners were at risk of losing their healthcare benefits and 82,000 pensions are under threat, which “underscores the urgent need” for Congress to pass legislation to protect miners’ benefits.
Coal’s share of U.S. power generation is expected to fall to 22% in 2020, compared with roughly 25% this year. As recently as 2003, coal accounted for half of the country’s electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
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Standing at 5’9″ in flats or bare feet, with shoulder length long blonde hair and bluish green eyes, American attorney Kelly Hyman may come across as someone who is about to walk the red carpet more than someone you would meet in a courtroom
After being discovered by Charlton Heston and landing the role of Loretta on “The Young and the Restless” – Attorney Kelly Hyman set her sights on becoming the next Eric Brokovich.
Standing at 5’9” in flats or bare feet, with shoulder length long blonde hair and bluish green eyes, American attorney Kelly Hyman may come across as someone who is about to walk the red carpet more than someone you would meet in a courtroom. That’s probably because before she went on to receive accolades like receiving the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell three years in a row (the highest possible rating for attorneys), and before being named one of the top 25 class action trial lawyers in her home state of Colorado, Kelly Hyman was enjoying a successful career as a child actor.
Born in Miami Beach, Florida and then raised by her single mother, first in Southern California, and later moving to New York City, Kelly Hyman is probably most known for her role as Loretta on the iconic daytime television program “The Young and The Restless” as well as lending her voice to the now infamous “Gimme a break” commercial for Kit Kat. Her Hollywood looks and ability to navigate the screen continue to serve her now in her prominent legal career. Leveraging her legal skills and her background as a performer, she now appears as a regular legal contributor and voice of reason on difficult and controversial topics like the nationally covered Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax case, voters’ rights, free speech and key concerns among today’s working women.
You grew up in California and had a successful career as a child actor. How did you get into acting, and what were some of your favorite projects?
My mother was a single mother who was struggling financially. She was however a tennis pro and was teaching Charleston Heston tennis lessons in southern California. My mom asked Mr. Heston if he could help get me an agent and he did. I started doing commercials at age 5. One of my favorite projects that I worked on was a movie called “Doin’ Time on Planet Earth” with Adam West from Batman. I remember my first day on the set and Adam West was dressed up as a police officer and not knowing who he was, my mother, who was born in Australia, approached him and said, officer, and he smiled and said yes, my mom then asked him for the location of where I needed to check in for my day on the set, and Adam, pointed to the direction where I needed to go and told her to keep walking straight and it will be on the left side. My mother smiled and stated, thank you officer, and he, playing the role of the police officer, smiled, and stated that it was his pleasure. It was an experience I will always cherish and never forget. I always smile when I think about it.
How did you transition from acting to law?
I knew that I always wanted to go to law school, and one of my dear friends from college suggested that I apply. I realized that I reached a point in my acting career where I wanted to take a break and go to law school.
What made you pursue consumer protection law?
I have always wanted to make a difference in this world and help people. Protecting people and fighting for their rights enables me to help them, and therefore have a positive effect on their lives. Having a positive impact on people is my biggest motivation.
You have been called “a Modern Day Erin Brokovich” by the media, how do you feel when you hear that? Was she an inspiration to you?
It is great to hear that people consider me a modern-day Erin Brockovich, she is truly an inspirational female role model, and it is incredibly humbling to be compared to someone that has created the kind of legacy that she has. She has fought for and helped so many people and continues to help people and have a positive effect on people’s lives even to this day.
She is an inspiration to me because she wants to make a difference in people’s lives and truly help them. Justice works when people stand up for what they believe in.
What would you consider to be your most interesting case that you fought and won?
When I worked at a law firm in Florida, I worked on tobacco litigation and mass tort litigation where I represented people that were harmed by medical devices and drugs. These cases were interesting because I knew that my clients were harmed, and I wanted to help them. I represented women that had transvaginal mesh implanted and they had serious complications because of it. Knowing that I was helping undo a wrong and make a positive impact on these women’s lives is something that I will always truly cherish. Knowing that they received justice for their harm is something that I am most proud of in my legal career. Knowing that I was helping people and making a positive difference in their life is one of the things that I’m so thankful for every day. Knowing that I am helping people get justice for their harm.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Follow your dreams. You can achieve everything that you want. The only limitations that you have are the ones that you put on yourself. Be brave, be bold and be you.
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