James Gonzalez recently formed Cobb & Gonzalez PA with his law partner, Christopher Cobb. The firm specializes in business and construction law.
Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My father was my motivating factor. He and I would watch hours of the old black-and-white Perry Mason television shows and constantly watch legal movies. Jokingly, he would always comment on my desire to argue with him. Yet, we would spend most of the time discussing the intricacies of my argument before he ultimately denied my request. Most of all, he inspired me to work hard and be the best at whatever I endeavored. He was the epitome of “lead by example.”
Someone, other than my spouse, who inspires me: Even 16 years after his passing, my father continues to inspire me daily. He taught life lessons, provided the framework for fatherhood and instilled values that I live by to this day. But for my father, I would not be the person I am today.
How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I received a degree in business finance from the University of South Florida. My degree was the culmination of business course studies at five different colleges over the course of 4½ years. As I moved to a different school each year, I was able to learn from new professors, work with cutting-edge businesses and develop new and lasting friendships with classmates. Today, I am fortunate to work with clients from various commercial, financial, business and construction industries. I draw on the constantly changing environment that enveloped my undergraduate career and the dynamic in constantly meeting new people from varying backgrounds to assist me in understanding my clients’ positions and provide thorough legal recommendations.
How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? During my undergraduate years, one of my best friends offered me a job working in the construction industry, installing electrical finishings for new homes. As he ascended through the ranks of various large home builders, I went to law school. During that time, we discussed the challenges he faced in the construction industry and the strategies upper management implemented to remain relevant in a fast-paced and competitive market. I enjoyed the industry so much that I turned my legal focus to business and construction law.
What has been the biggest change in your practice area since you passed the Bar? Moving from a paper-intensive industry to a digital industry. The cloud has revolutionized the practice of law. Now, like never before, lawyers have the ability to easily access information to assist and collaborate with clients as well as address most litigation processes from a variety of mobile devices. It has made our practice area much more efficient.
What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? Design-builds are becoming more prevalent. This method incorporates both the design and construction of a project into one-stop shopping for the owner/developer. The design-build method of construction has proven to reduce overall costs and completion times.
If I could change anything in the legal system, I would: Continue to improve technologies relating to privacy and data security and the ESI discovery process.
What community service have you pursued and why that? Many years ago, my father lost his life to pancreatic cancer. Since moving to Jacksonville in 2009, I have tried to be as actively involved in the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network as time would permit. Founded in 1999, the nonprofit is dedicated to fighting the world’s toughest cancer. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., killing more people than breast cancer. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network strives to attack pancreatic cancer on all fronts; via research, clinical initiatives, patient services and advocacy. I have assisted in planning the organization’s annual 5K fundraiser, the Jacksonville PurpleStride. I have also sat as the organization’s North Florida affiliate chair. Most importantly, I have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside some amazing people. The fight to find a cure is an uphill battle. However, given the dedication, courage and work ethic displayed by the Jacksonville affiliate and the rest of the organization, it is only a matter of time before we end this terrible disease.
What’s your advice for new lawyers? Grab as much knowledge as you can from your colleagues. Also, try to find a good mentor. They are worth their weight in legal, business and life advice.