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December 01, 2023

The Lawyer As… Legislator

Karin Paparelli

The Lawyer As . . . is an editorial series created to illuminate, explore and applaud the diverse roles lawyers hold from litigator to legislator, from advocate to agent. It is our goal here at the ILN to introduce to you, our readers, legal professionals from varying backgrounds, educations, and career paths from all around the world in an effort to better understand and appreciate the vibrant mosaic of opportunities a career in law has to offer.

The fall 2023 edition of ILN is proud to shine the spotlight on Daniel Alvarez, Sr., our Lawyer as Legislator.

We asked Mr. Alvarez to kindly provide our readership with answers to the following questions with the hope that his responses will illuminate the life of a freshman legislator in the United States. Newly minted attorneys are encouraged to explore the possibility of a career as a future legislator and the editorial team here at the International Law News join with our esteemed colleagues around the globe in applauding you, Daniel, as you passionately pursue your career goals by serving the State of Florida and your constituency. 

Q: Mr. Alvarez, would you please provide a definition/explanation of your role as a State Legislator:

I am a freshman Florida State House Representative from Hillsborough County District 69. I represent almost 180,000 individuals. The district is made up of a strong agricultural community along with long-established suburban communities in the fastest growing part of one of the largest Counties in Florida. 

I am about to enter my second session where I was asked to become a committee whip for the State Affairs Committee and all of its sub-committees. I am also privileged to be on Select Committee on Health InnovationWays & Means CommitteeAgriculture, Conservation & Resiliency SubcommitteeEducation Quality SubcommitteeEnergy, Communications & Cybersecurity SubcommitteePreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

Q: Would you please provide your personal history achieving this role? Danny, what is your story? 

For many years I was asked to run for this office, and I avoided it like the plague. I was not drawn to it because of having my name in lights. As the son of Cuban refugees who arrived here in 1959, I take fundamental rights pretty seriously and what I witnessed happening to those rights during Covid shocked my conscience. I saw my parents lose their Country to a regime that whittled their rights away and I refused to stand by and do nothing when I felt like the same thing was happening here. Our system is not perfect and I don’t pretend to have all the fixes but as a State Rep I have a louder voice and a vote and that matters to me.

Q: Where are you based, what is your geographic location?

The District is made up of the South Eastern portion of Hillsborough County, Florida and is partially made up of the communities of Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Fishhawk, Balm, Bloomingdale and Ft. Lonesome.

Q: What would you say is the ease of entry into your current role?

This was not an easy thing to accomplish but we understood that coming into the task. After winning a primary, we were facing a strong incumbent who was popular among his peers and constituents. This came down to reaching out to voters by going door-to-door. As a team we knocked on over 21,000 doors to accomplish just that.

Q: How long have you served in this role?

1 year

Q: What would you say is the difficulty of the workload on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being easiest and 10 being most difficult)?

First, no one is allowed to complain about this job. It is service. You don’t do it for the accolades or the money…you do it because your fellow man needs you and you answered that call. It is an honor to be here, and I work under the load that reminds me that this will all be gone someday, and I should cherish every moment. That said, if you are doing this job correctly, the workload is a bear.

In Florida and on paper, this is supposed to be a part-time position with two months of session and a couple of weeks of committee meetings leading up to it. The reality is that this becomes your full-time commitment, and you try not to drown balancing your primary income job and the needs of your family with it. For example, from the day I was elected last November through the first week in May of this year I was home only three full weeks. For my primary job, I run a private practice focusing on Family Law and then I am the general counsel to the Tampa Police union. I am finding it so hard to focus on my private practice and deliver the service that I know my clients need, that I am essentially shutting it down.

Q: Would you share with us what the pay scale is compared to that of other legal roles? Choose one of the following or add your own: pro-bono, almost pro-bono, modest, robust, exceptional? 

A legislator makes approximately $29,700 a year.

Q: Do you find competitiveness is a factor in this role?

YES…It is very competitive, and you have to run for re-election every two years. You face possible competition from your own party and then from the general electorate around every corner!

Q: How would you describe your overall career satisfaction in this role?

It is VERY satisfying, and I would gladly do it all again.

Q: Work/life balance - is there any? 

This one is hard to answer. Technically we are home when we are not in session or committee weeks, but we are anything but idle. From the moment you get home, your calendar is full of constituent meetings and problem solving, speaking requests and educational/policy visits with businesses, agencies, groups and individuals. If you do not learn to regulate it, you will have every night and every day full of District commitments and you will not see your family or do your other job. I make it an absolute priority to carve time to spend time with my family and children. While it is hard to say no to District work, my family is the fuel that allows me to do everything else. Without them in balance for me, nothing else works. Additionally, I work out a lot in order to maintain the physical and mental health that the stress of balancing this job with everything else requires. I’ll be up most days at 5 a.m. and in the gym, and that especially includes when we are in Session away from home.

Q: Finally: What advice would you offer for someone interested in this area of law?

GET INVOLVED! Younger Folks always ask me what they need to do to get here. I am always very leery of people that seek power. My answer – stop wanting it! Get in your community, solve their issues without credit, be a resource for change and help move your local society forward. Run your business. Work your job. Raise your family. Learn to live life. THEN…. when it is time, your call to service will come and you will be uniquely prepared to help lead. If you rush that process, you risk lacking an experience base and sense of perspective that is necessary when balancing whether a law is necessary or whether restraint in governance is the proper measure.

If there is anything else you'd like to add please do so. This is our template, but every interview will be unique. 

I am only one of three lawyers in my freshman class of 30 and that offers a unique perspective. I completely believe that my legal training is an absolute benefit when on this side of the fence. I’ll admit that I loved that part of law school where we talked legal theory and debated systems and process. I rely on my legal education daily when working on policy and law that I know will likely hit statute books. Creating the laws that I know will become part of the fabric of this State is something that is not only amazing to me but the honor of a lifetime.

      Karin Paparelli

      Attorney

      Karin Paparelli is an active member of the New York, Florida and Tennessee Bars, admitted to the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York and the Federal Court Middle District of Tennessee. She is active in leadership in the ABA and serves as an arbitrator for the Financial Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for greater Nashville, TN.

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