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Law School to Career: My Job As A Partner In Construction Litigation

By September 25, 2020Alumni, Law School, STU News

At St. Thomas University, we are committed to our students’ success inside and outside of the classroom. Our Law School to Career series will feature and celebrate STU Law alumni and job experiences. Get to know STU Law alumna, Agnieszka Nicole Kwapisz, and her job experience as a Partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP in the Construction Litigation Practice Group.

1. Name:

Agnieszka Nicole Kwapisz. Everybody calls me Nicole.

2. J.D./ LL.M/ Concentration/ Certificates:

J.D., Saint Thomas University School of Law

3. Graduation Year:

2012

4. Where do your work and what is your title?

I am a partner in the Miami office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP in the Construction Litigation Practice Group.

5. Did you always know you would be pursuing this line of work?

In a way, yes. I received my bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies, which provided me with a good understanding of the American legal system. Following my graduation, I worked as a litigation paralegal. As a paralegal I was assigned to complex commercial and construction cases. Given my education and employment background, law school was a logical next step for me. After law school, I practiced in the areas of general liability, commercial litigation, employment, and probate law. A couple of years later, I was presented with an opportunity to handle construction cases and I never looked back. Today I have a privilege to represent clients in a variety of construction-related matters, from contract negotiations through trial.

6. What does a day at work look like?

As a construction litigator my daily tasks include preparing for and attending hearings, depositions, and mediations My work used to include a fair amount of travel, but during the pandemic most of the undertakings have been conducted via video conferencing. I work closely with my clients who include developers, architects, engineers, general contractors, and sub-contractors. This involves frequent communications with clients to discuss the current status of the pending matters, litigation tactics, and best defense strategies. I retain and confer with experts who assist with specific issues, such as code compliance, design standards, and construction methods. I also attend site inspections of the properties that are the subject of pre-suits investigations and litigation. The construction industry embraces technology and we often use drones and other technology to investigate properties. The type of cases I am involved with varies, which allows me to learn new things and create unique solutions to construction disputes.

7. What’s your favorite part about your job?

I enjoy the fast-pace and challenging nature of my job. It requires flexibility, critical thinking, and most importantly patience. There is no script. I also truly enjoy collaborating with my co-workers on some of the larger construction cases, which often involve multiple parties and complex legal and factual issues. Working with my clients, opposing counsel and their clients to create individual solutions is the most rewarding part of my job.

8. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

When I graduated from law school in 2012, which happened during an ongoing recession, it took me a while to find my niche. I worked hard and took on assignments that others turned down to gain more experience. This included extensive travels around Florida. I was fortunate that during my early days as a practicing lawyer, I was provided a lot of opportunities to gain “hands on” litigation experience, including trials, evidentiary hearings, depositions, and settlement negotiations. Ultimately, the perseverance paid off and led me to become a construction litigator, which is a perfect fit for me.

9. How does your job connect back to your coursework and extracurricular activities at STU?

STU Law provided invaluable opportunities to sharpen my critical thinking skills and allowed me to try new things. In addition, I have learned the value of building lasting interpersonal relationships, which has been instrumental in my daily life as a lawyer.

I was in the “spring L” class at STU Law. That means, I graduated in two and-a-half years instead of three. For practical purposes, I had a shorter period to accomplish all my goals which included serving as the articles editor for St. Thomas Law Review, competing and coaching moot court, research assistant positions, federal and appellate courts’ internships, publishing two law review articles (notes), and pro bono work. My STU Law activities provided invaluable learning experience, which has helped me greatly in my law practice.

10. What advice do you have for Bobcats that are interested in following in your career footsteps?

Stay focused and engaged in your studies and extracurricular work. Try different things and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. In addition to coursework, take advantage of the many opportunities that STU has to offer, including internships, externships, and extracurricular activities. These activities will enrich your experience and prepare you better for the professional life. In addition, they may lead you to job opportunities that would otherwise not be available to you. However, remember to always balance work and fun.

If you are struggling with a subject or need clarification, talk to your professors. Based on my own experience, they love to help and are generous with their time and knowledge. Do not get discouraged and do not compare yourself to others. Remember to breathe and find a form of exercise that you will enjoy. Hard work will pay off.

11. Describe your job in a GIF? (Provide a link to GIF)

12. Anything you would like to add, that we did not cover?

I have been a member of the two Florida Bar standing committees, The Annual Convention and Technology. This year marked the first time the Florida Bar Annual Convention was conducted 100% remotely, and the Annual Convention Committee assisted in converting from an in-person to online format within a short period of time. We accomplished that goal and the first Virtual Convention was a great success. The Technology Committee has been involved in providing and reviewing relevant content and resources for lawyers in light of the ongoing changes. Work on the Committees takes time, but it is very rewarding, and I highly recommend law students to get involved in the local and state bar organizations.

As a final note, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mentors at STU Law and in legal profession, who have helped me on the path to becoming a lawyer. Their help and guidance have been invaluable.

Learn more about how STU Law’s Career Development can help you find the right internship or job for you! If you’re interested in sharing your internship or job experience with STU News? Reach out to Yamile Rodriguez at yamilerodriguez@stu.edu.

Yamile Rodriguez

Author Yamile Rodriguez

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