Miguel A. Pozo
Miguel A. Pozo, a litigation partner at Lowenstein Sandler PC in Roseland specializing in brand protection issues, is the new president-elect of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HSBA). His election is the latest development in a career already chock full of service to the community and his profession. Pozo, a New York native and member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, originally planned to return to New York after graduating from Rutgers School of Law. Instead he stayed at Lowenstein, where he had worked as a summer associate. “We have a tremendous sense of humanity here,” says Pozo, 40, a former president of the state’s Hispanic Bar Association. “We’re guided by the concept that it’s important not only to be good at your craft, but to make a difference in society.”
Q. You once told an interviewer you wanted to be a lawyer since the age of seven. Why?
A. I can’t point to any one reason. My parents emigrated here from the Dominican Republic. We really didn’t know any lawyers. My father, who was an engineer and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a contractor, would take me to work on Saturdays. One of those Saturday afternoons, we were having our box lunch and one of the other men asked what me I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a lawyer. They all looked at me, obviously wondering where I got the idea from.
Q. Soon after that your parents separated, causing you to move around a lot. Did that get in the way of your goal?
A. I was always the new kid on the block, and I resented it. But as I got older I realized that it gave me the chance to really learn how to adapt to different environments and different people. As a lawyer, that has allowed me to deal easily with people from all backgrounds. So far as school went, I was always focused on doing well academically.
Q. You got an academic scholarship to Hofstra and majored in political science, with a minor in communications. Were you thinking of going into politics?
A. No. I have to be honest. I really don’t like politics per se. I’m more interested in policy.
Q. How strong is your identity as a Latino?
A. Look, I’m an American. I’m what they call Afro-Latino, but I don’t carry that on my sleeve. It doesn’t make me what I am. I think people have a tendency to paint Latinos with a broad brush. There’s a tremendous diaspora. I chose the Hispanic bars as a vehicle to do some good work in the community. As a minority partner at a law firm, I have unique obligations. I’m not going to just sit in my ivory tower and make a lot of money.
Q. How long have you had this sense of mission?
A. When I was nine my grandmother sat me in her lap. She said “When you become a lawyer, and I have no doubt you will, promise me two things. Promise that you’ll never forget where you came from, and that you’ll never stop helping people get where they’re going.” She died in 2005. I became a partner in 2006, on her birthday. She wasn’t alive to see it, but I know she was there in spirit.
Q. What are your goals as president of the HNBA?
A. First, I’m going to shore up our finances by creating opportunities for sponsors to partner with us on programs they can put their names on – long-term relationships. Right now we have three major sponsors. I want to go to 10. This will benefit three new initiatives. One assists Latino homeowners at risk of losing their homes. The second is designed to assist small business owners to grow their business. The last targets Latino high school students.
Q. Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the U.S. Are their numbers reflected in the number of attorneys in New Jersey and nationally?
A. No. We have a pipeline problem, unfortunately. The number of Latino lawyers is woefully low. One of the things the association is trying to do is to address the issue.
Q. When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
A. I love, love, love to travel. I also enjoy jazz music – I played trumpet as a kid, and I’m learning how to play the piano now. I love to play golf. I’m a foodie; I really enjoy all kinds of fine food. The reason I can do that is that I’m a workout fanatic. I get up every day at five and work out.