Our guest for this podcast is a lawyer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Doctor of Law degree. He started his legal work as a litigation associate in 2012 and became a founding partner of a law firm until he eventually established his very own law firm in 2019, called MAC Legal PA.
Behind his impressive professional background is his deep spirituality and devotion to work and family. His grit and determination are the links to his success as a lawyer and a family man.
Let us get to know more about my friend who happens to have the same name as mine - the Founder-Managing Partner-Solutions Provider of MAC Legal PA, Michael A. Citron.
Tell me about your current job.
In our law firm, we deal with areas of law such as mass tort law, class action, personal injury, complex business litigation, civil litigation, consumer law, and eminent domain. We also do property insurance and other areas of conflict.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
The turning point in my becoming a lawyer was my father. During those days I was not succeeding in law school in the way that I was hoping to succeed. One day in December, my father took me for a drive in Miami Beach. We drove through the narrow streets where we saw beautiful multi-million-dollar homes, mansions, and yachts. He told me that I was going to have one of these and that I can have these in my life. I had different desires in life, but my father was very instrumental in guiding me and he is still my guiding light.
What law school did you go to and what are the experiences you had?
I studied at Florida International University. It was a fairly new university at that time.
In law school, I worked for the government and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as an investigative intern and clerked for a number of judges. I also joined the Joint Task Force for Mindfulness in The Law For the 11th Judicial Circuit, which was for Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, for which I am still an active participant in that movement. I got to sit on the panel with numerous judges and preeminent lawyers in the field.
After you graduated, what happened next?
After graduating from law school, I took the bar exam, and twice I did not reach a certain score for me to pass, so I told myself that maybe this is a sign that it is not for me and I should give up. But my father stepped in and told me that I was going to pass on the third try, and I did. I passed the bar exam in September 2013, and I was so grateful that my father pushed me through that.
Tell me more about your experience as a clerk.
In clerking, your task is researching and writing, and providing information to the people you are working for. You can clerk for a judge, which is a traditional track. You can also do it for an organization, and for a law firm.
I became a clerk for both a judge and an organization. To get my career started, I took a clerkship for a small law firm in Broward County. The lawyer who headed the law firm handled consumer finance litigation issues under the rubric of foreclosure law.
In this job, we fought against banking institutions to help keep people in their homes, not foreclosure per se, but utilizing the skills God gave me to help people fight against multi-billion-dollar corporations.
What was the inspiration that made you decide to open up your own law firm?
Initially, I was working for a law firm. I worked first as a clerk, then I was hired as an attorney when I passed the bar exams. I was happy with my job and my pay had been raised. In my mind, I knew that I wanted to be involved in trial practice.
Then I met this guy who is called the guru of trial practice. I went for an interview with the firm and got to work for him. My pay was considerably lower than what I was receiving in my previous job, but I didn’t mind it that time because I knew that I could learn more from him than from anybody else. I did very well as a practitioner in this firm.
However, I was not doing well myself. It was difficult for me, I had a wife and kids to support, and I had liabilities to deal with. That triggered my desire to break off and start my own business.
I sought the help of a friend who had a close connection with a rabbi. I am a firm believer that if you ask a rabbi a question, you have to live or die by the answer, whatever it may be. I asked the rabbi for help and he advised me to start my own business.
How did I do it with zero money? My father supported my decision and helped me by giving me a loan. So, I took the loan and started my business.
How did you go about starting your own business?
I was blessed to have my first client on the same day that I left my last job. He called me up and told me he was dissatisfied with his lawyer and was asking God to help him. He was my first client.
I also had the experience to meet Joseph Gold, who changed my life by helping me in this business. He is really a brilliant man.
I started my business by renting a space at a friend’s office. Realizing that I could not afford the rent even if I moved to a space at the back part of the office, I was asked to move out of the place, and so I moved the business to my house. I continued to work every single day, going to hearings in different courthouses in different parts of the city using public transport.
What were some of the big challenges that you had, and how did you deal with them?
There were many challenges along the way but they just motivated me to not give up. I had a belief that the day will get better; whatever failures we have today, tomorrow is another chance to be better.
In any business that you are going to start, you have to be understanding enough. You have to be mentally tough to realize that things will get better. There is no time to stop and lick your wounds.
I don’t deal with negative energy and negative people because I am already battling them back the whole day. If you have an employee that is fostering negativity in a company, no matter what he’s going to produce for you, you have to cut him.
How do you manage your time for your family and outside of work?
A lot of people have this mindset: I will make my millions and then I will be there for my family. Then you are going to be very busy and when you have a million, you want two, you want four – like it is never enough.
I invest my time by being there for my family. I wake up early to do household chores so my wife can have more time to sleep, knowing that she needs that extra strength. They say the early bird gets the worm, so every day I ask myself, what worm am I chasing?
My friend and I recently started learning Torah in the mornings before we go to work. Our purpose in life is to strengthen our belief in God. I heard a story from a rabbi in New York, about a very successful businessman who had the habit of not answering his phone while attending class in a learning center. It was such a wonderful story that I am also doing it now. Whenever I am spending time with my wife and kids, I would not touch or look at my phone.
How do you deal with work-life balance?
They call it a balance because you have a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I think the better question is, “Where do I put my priorities?”
My family and my business are both important to me. I want my business to be more widely successful than I can ever imagine. I want to be invested in the business. I think about my business, but that does not mean I am always into it. I invest in my team. I believe that God puts me to lead these people who are doing work for me.
I had a hard time when my father passed away. By Jewish law, I had to sign away from my business for a period of mourning. That was very challenging for me because I had to sign a contract that I cannot engage in business at all during that time. It would have been impossible for me to do that without my wife and my children. I could not achieve anything without them.
I make time for my kids and my wife because they are everything to me. My time stops for them. I could not achieve anything if not for them. I care that my wife and children feel secure, and part of that security is knowing that I can be there. I invest in my family because they are the ones who are investing back in me. I have to make time for them.
How do you invest in your team?
At work, it is important for me to know my team, which is why I make sure that we have regular meetings every week to talk about our business strategies, what is going on externally and what is going on inside them internally. I invest in my team and I try to emphasize their success.
I love my team; they are good and honest people. We put their families first and make sure they are paid first, and their needs are taken care of.
Why would someone hire a lawyer?
There are proactive and reactive reasons for hiring a lawyer. Someone would hire a lawyer if he is in legal trouble – that is a reactive reason.
I think every business needs a lawyer to work with – whether for business concepts or other types of consultation. Being in the service industry, there are business lawyers that help form your business by doing all the paperwork. You need a lawyer to make sure that you are navigating properly in the business that you are in.
How would you describe a relationship between a lawyer and a client?
I believe that all business interactions are like marriages – it is dependent on the people. You need to have a good relationship with the people you are working with. They need to see you as someone that is a good person and someone they are willing to work with.
Lawyers are not just called lawyers; they are also called counselors. Our communications with our clients are so confidential because we practice in this safe zone that as long as you are not in the commission of a crime or doing harm to someone or yourself, no one will ever know about it.
We provide clients with the ability to understand as we have to tell you things that you may not want to hear. As lawyers, we have to see things unemotionally, something that we cannot do if we are involved in the situation.
In closing a deal with clients, it is important to tell them that they have a choice of any two of these three things. They can have either cheap; they can have it fast; or they can have it good. Whatever two things they choose, it is important to choose wisely.
How do you deal with difficult clients?
As I have said earlier, I don’t have time for negativity. I try to remove myself from any negative situation. I terminate my relationship with that client no matter the amount of money I would lose.
I can’t waste business resources, my skills, and my time. As lawyers, we are selling time, and it is a commodity that can never be returned. Time is much more valuable than money. You can never buy back time, that is why I am not willing to waste it on difficult clients.
What is one challenge that you live with that keeps presenting itself?
For me, the biggest challenge is faith in God. Lack of patience, anger, sadness, and doubt - all come down to a lack of faith. I have to be ready because the test will always come and challenge me.
Any achievements that I make are not necessarily because I am great and I am amazing. It is because God granted me that achievement because I put my efforts into it. I was granted results because God decided to grant me the results. Anyone else could have put in the same effort and not gotten the results.
If you could go back seven years before, what are some things that you would tell yourself?
Maybe I would tell myself to enjoy and to take more time for myself. I would still do the same things I am doing, but I would enjoy the process.
What is Get on the M.A.T.T.?
I started a program called Get on the MATT (Mental Awareness Through Training), a program that seeks to help lawyers alleviate the stress brought about by the nature of their work. In Florida, it was a big issue where attorneys were either taking their lives or destroying their lives through substance abuse.
I teamed up with Jim Alers, an incredible Brazilian jui-jitsu coach, and we developed this mental awareness training for lawyers. This can help them clear their mind to avoid mental struggles. Jui-jitsu helps in triggering thoughtfulness and mindfulness and breath control. It teaches a level of discipline such that you have to remain calm in the most difficult scenarios.
For lawyers in the state of Florida, if you feel the stress weighing on you brought about by personal and professional challenges, contact us and our team will come to you.