Civil Rights Activist High-profile Personal Injury Attorney Rubenstein & Rynecki
What was your first impression of Kingston?
It struck me as the perfect example of a leading Caribbean city the first time that I came, and I saw that there is so much potential as well for it to be more. I felt a kinship; I knew the trip wouldn't be my last and it made me start thinking about how I can get more people like me - corporate professionals from overseas - here to visit. I am very interested in Jamaica, because you really can't be from New York and not know a Jamaican... they love their island, and I have had a lot of Jamaican clients. There are many Jamaicans in New York, and a lot of them do very well. We even have a Jamaican congresswoman.
I think it's really important for Jamaicans in the Diaspora to support their country, lift it up. I must say, though, that I really love it here. There is a vibrant energy and the people are always so warm and friendly. I look forward to coming back.
And what brings you to Kingston this time?
Saint International's StyleWeek Jamaica event. I am very happy to support this very important venture because I really believe that Jamaica is a fashion leader in the Caribbean. I think it's a great initiative and I'm happy to see corporate sponsors locally getting on board. It's very important for events like this, demonstrating that Jamaica is a good place to do business, and I think fashion can really help to boost the economy. I would love to see if I can get some corporate companies in New York interested as well, because there's a wealth of talented designers and models here who are ready for the world stage, and a lot of people like myself --friends of Jamaica who fell in love with the island and who need to get involved in something here -- to give the economy the boost that it needs.
What has been your most memorable meal in Kingston?
I'm staying at the Spanish Court Hotel this time around, and I must say I had a wonderful piece of salmon for dinner. I really enjoyed it.
Which places would you recommend as must-visit locations to a first-time visitor to Kingston?
I actually have not seen much, but I had an opportunity to drive around and see a bit of Kingston, so I am planning to come back for a vacation where I can really get to know the place. I did realise, though, that a lot of Jamaicans seem to live in Portmore, I'm now wondering if there are more people living there than there are in Kingston. Oh, I've got it... go to Spanish Court for the salmon.
What is your beverage of choice?
Water. I'm very conscious about my health and I've been spending a lot of time in the gym lately, two hours a day, so I have to stay hydrated. I only drink water in glass bottles, no plastic. Those are healthier.
Share the title of the last book you read.
I actually just re-read Profiles in Courage with quotes by John F Kennedy... very good book, so inspiring!
Share a few places in your travel black book.
I've been all over... The Middle East, Africa, South America, China and others. I consider myself a citizen of the world.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a lawyer?
I have to go back to high school. I remember being asked to write down what I wanted to be and for some reason I wrote 'lawyer', but at the time, I had no idea what that meant. I grew up in the projects and my parents were very determined to get out of there, so they worked extremely hard and saved up for years to get us out. When they finally did, they got a lawyer to help them and they bought the most inexpensive house they could possibly find in an upscale area. I distinctly remember the trust, faith and confidence that they had in this complete stranger. They really respected him, and were so happy when he got them the house and I remember thinking as a young 14-year-old 'I want to make people feel like that'.
That really encouraged me to look at the profession as something to do in the future. Still, I didn't pursue law at first. I did my first degree in law, and then did an MBA, and at the age of 23 I realised that I really wanted to be a lawyer, so I made up my mind and went to law school at night for four years, worked during the days as a public school teacher. I was 28 when I started practising, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. I couldn't have chosen a more interesting, exciting and rewarding job... I never dreamed I would reach this level of recognition and become a leading lawyer in America. To have been Reverend Al Sharpton's counsel, he was the first to call me a civil rights lawyer and I've really become that. It's a joy to have helped so many people gain justice and I'm proud of that.
What drives you?
Representing real people who are victims, people who have been wronged, whether it is police brutality or something done to them by a powerful corporation. Being able to right that wrong and give them that compensation for their suffering is very rewarding. For instance, I recently got an $18-million-dollar settlement for a lady from the state, who had to have her arms and legs amputated because she wasn't attended to in time by doctors. I know I can't give her the arms and legs back, but the economic security for the rest of her life really helps. When I see that look of appreciation, hear that sigh of relief and gratefulness, that's what keeps me going.
What is your life philosophy?
Seize the moment, whenever opportunity comes, don't wait... take it and run with it. You only have one life, grab it by the horns.