Who would have thought that employment law is crucial when it comes to running a business? Not only does it contribute towards the success of your business, but it also protects it from any potential risks that can significantly hurt it. Diane Perez is a lawyer who specializes in employment law. Therefore, she not only looks after the needs of employers but also entrepreneurs. Ensuring that all businesses are protected from the inside out when it comes to any legal issues is her specialty. This week, she took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some very important questions that we believe can benefit all of you. Read up to see how she can help you with the legal side of your business. #BossBabe
BWR: What inspired you to become a lawyer?
Diane: My grandmother was one of less than a handful of women in her graduating law school class in Havana, Cuba, which was a huge accomplishment. She sacrificed the ability to practice law in order to provide a better life for her family. She is the reason I became an attorney.
BWR: What does a typical workday look like for you?
Diane: When I wake up, I create a “to-do list” of the top five things I must accomplish at work that day. Then, I journal for five minutes on the Five Minute Journal. Once I journal, I exercise and then head to court for hearings or to the office. When I arrive at the office, I drink a cup of coffee (kid-free and in silence), read the local business paper for a few minutes, and spend most of my day either in meetings, calls, depositions or drafting motions and other legal documents. If there are no networking events I need to attend at the end of the day, I head home to spend time with my children.
BWR: You specialize in employment law. What would you say is one of the most common cases/scenarios you come across?
Diane: We see discrimination, retaliation, unpaid wages, overtime and minimum wage claims, among others. However, the most common are discrimination claims brought by employees who feel they have been treated differently than others. It is usually an employee who has been fired for deficient performance or a violation of company policies, without prior notice, even though other employees with similar performance issues or policy violations remain employed. Annual performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and progressive disciplinary policies are all important for employers seeking to avoid these types of claims.
BWR: What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Diane: The most challenging part of my job is managing client expectations about their claims/defenses, the litigation process, the judge and juries, settlements, and the very high costs (including time) associated with litigation. I may buy a shirt that reads “please don’t kill the messenger” to wear under my suits.
BWR: How important do you believe is employment law when it comes to the success of a business?
Diane: A business IS its employees. Most employees who are compensated correctly and treated fairly and respectfully will strive to work hard toward the success of a business. While laws are narrower than what one may consider “correct,” “fair” or “respectful,” all of those play an important role in making a business successful.
Employment litigation impacts a business in many ways. Litigation is costly and time-consuming. Lawyers are expensive. Managers and employees are often deposed, taking valuable time from the business’ operations. Complying with employment laws and treating employees correctly, fairly and respectfully is key for the success of any business.
BWR: Lawyers are known for punching in many hours per week and rarely have time for a personal life. How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Diane: Luckily, as the owner of my firm, I do not have billable hour requirements. The billable hour requirement was one of the reasons why I left a large firm life and opened my own firm almost 8 years ago. I had difficulties managing those requirements and partner and client expectations while being the mother of an 18-month old.
Professional and personal life balance is very important especially in a career like law where so many lawyers suffer from anxiety and depression. Few people at the end of their lives say, “I wish I would have worked longer hours,” but many do say, “I wish I would have spent more time with loved ones.” I mentor young lawyers to try to find that balance when possible even if it may require working at smaller firms and making less money but living happier lives.
BWR: What are you most proud of? What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your professional life?
Diane: I am most proud of the fact I am board certified in labor and employment law. Compared to how many attorneys practice labor and employment law state-wide, not many are board-certified. It took a lot of hard work to obtain it, and I consider it one of my biggest accomplishments.
BWR: Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
Diane: My mother is my biggest inspiration. She married and had me at a young age. Although she worked full time during the day and attended college in the evenings, she eventually received her bachelor’s degree and passed her CPA exam. She later had three other children and always made sure she was there for the four of us even though she worked outside of the home. She truly is and continues to be a rock star and my biggest inspiration.
What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Diane: Now that my children are older, I hope to grow my law firm, staffing it with some of the best local labor and employment law attorneys, who will focus on providing the best legal work and client service.