Latoya Brown Latoya Brown., Colson Hicks Eidson. Photo: J. Albert Diaz

Latoya Brown isn’t shy about wearing her heart on her sleeve. The Colson Hicks Eidson associate readily concedes she isn’t sure if she could have pursued a career in criminal law in light of her tendency to bring cases home with her.

“I am emotional if you can’t tell by now,” she joked in an interview. Brown, who specializes in commercial litigation, mass torts, class actions and general civil suits, singled out family law as one area she’s especially reluctant to wade into.

“I empathize so much that I think it would take too much of an emotional toll,” she said. “Civil is the best route where I can still do some good and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Although Brown’s passion for her cases may limit her areas of specialty, it’s those same qualities that have propelled her success. Since graduating from Florida International University College of Law in 2013, Brown has distinguished herself in the legal community through her work in and out of the courtroom.

Besides handling high-profile matters such as the multidistrict litigation over Takata Corp.’s recalled air bags, she’s also left an impression with her charitable initiatives such as the Dade County Bar Association’s annual Back to School Drive.

Brown began the initiative in 2015, and with the help of donations solicited from the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, the Dade County Bar Association and friends in the business community, she has led the effort to provide personalized school supplies and backpacks for underprivileged children in Miami-Dade County public schools. She calls the sight of young people “getting everything they need” and the resulting smiles her “happy spot.”

“That is what really makes me happy in life, to know that I can give back and help those that are less fortunate,” Brown said. “I consider myself to be blessed and fortunate to be where I am today, and I want to do what I can to invest in tomorrow’s generation as well.”

PEOPLE SKILLS

Brown didn’t gain her ability to affect change by happenstance. While enrolled at FIU, where she graduated magna cum laude as both an undergraduate and law student, Brown held down a job.

“I had to work hard to put myself through school,” Brown said, adding she “had no interest in coming out with a super high debt that I had to repay.” She attributes much of her people skills to the intimacy of her FIU courses and  the inevitable trials and tribulations of life in retail positions.

“Working retail … you meet all sorts of customers,” she said. “You meet the nice ones, the not-so-nice ones. But that was the first training ground for me to … deal with people and not let others affect your emotions or the way you treat them.”

The Jamaica-born attorney cited the resourcefulness and altruism of her mother as a prime example.

“My mother is a very generous soul. We weren’t rich, and we didn’t have much, but she was always giving to people,” she said. “If we had five slices of bread left in the house and a neighbor came by and they didn’t have anything to eat or to feed their children, my mother would make it work.”

The tenacity that’s coursed through Brown’s life left her well-equipped to confront some of the institutional challenges in her chosen profession.

“I am a black woman,” she said. “You don’t have a lot of my kind — female or black — higher up the chain and in our profession.”

“And it’s not just our profession. If you think of corporate America, it’s probably the same thing,” Brown said. “For me to end up here really is a testament to not only my hard work, but those who have helped me and those who hired me.”

The nature of her cases means Brown travels often, sometimes taking her to legal communities that are less diverse than Miami. ”When I walk in a room, you can sometimes see on faces that puzzled look,” she said.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said. “I take it, I hold my head high, and I’m very proud of the fact that I am there and … outperforming many of these attorneys. Because at the end of the day it’s really not your gender and it’s not your color. We all are born with natural potential. … But even with the same opportunities each person will prove him or herself worthy.”

Looking to the future, Brown believes she has ”not even scratched the surface” of what her career holds.

“The horizon seems endless … and I’m humbled,” she said. “I do not take it for granted because I also know as quickly as you can rise, so quickly you can fall.” Noting her job isn’t always glamorous, she cherishes the work she puts in to benefit her clients and community.

“One of the main appeals for me is that I can make a difference in the lives of so many. You can never fully compensate somebody whose loved one has died because of a defendant’s wrongdoing or who suffered personal injury,” Brown said. “But just knowing that we could get something for them, some amount of money that they can put toward the process of rebuilding their lives … those are the reasons that I practice law.”

Latoya C. Brown

Born: September 1986, St. Ann Parish, Jamaica

Education: Florida International University, J.D., 2013; B.A., 2008

Experience: Associate, Colson Hicks Eidson, 2013-present; Legal intern, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2012; Summer Associate, Rivero Mestre, 2012