Lessons Learned: Christina Gonzales’s Work is Fueled by Her Clients’ Trust
Christina Gonzales’s passion for the law is rooted in her desire to help others.
“It really is not a level playing field” in society, Christina said. “Having a knowledge of the law can be used to help other people, and you really have the ability to change people’s lives and help solve their problems.”
Starting her career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, inequality was something Christina dealt with daily as she witnessed a disproportionate number of people from vulnerable populations being treated unfairly by the criminal justice system.
Though she is now a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Law practice group, Christina has never forgotten the lessons learned as a public defender, which she described as “the most rewarding life experience I’ve ever had, but also the hardest.”
That’s why, even after she transitioned from criminal to civil law, she didn’t hesitate to accept an invitation to become a founding member of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, which works to combat racial and economic injustices in the criminal justice system.
“As a board member,” she said, “it’s my job to help spread awareness about these issues.”
Something else Christina has never forgotten from her days as a public defender is the deep trust placed in her by those whom she represents. In fact, it motivates her in her work to this day at Goldberg Segalla.
“My clients hire me for a reason and it’s because they need help. When people get sued, it’s a really stressful, awful situation and my clients have entrusted me with the honor and the responsibility of helping them,” Christina said. “I don’t take that lightly. So that fuels my work every day. I’m here for a reason.”
Christina has been with Goldberg Segalla since December 2018. And, she said, what she finds unique is that “unlike so many other firms that I was familiar with, Goldberg Segalla figured out how to be a successful firm and deliver excellent representation, while at the same time treat their attorneys as real people, not just workhorses. That is the main reason I joined.”
Aside from her defense work, Christina is also a member of Goldberg Segalla’s Diversity Task Force, which strives to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs and provide those from underrepresented communities a voice in decision-making at the highest level.
“It’s more than simply hiring diverse attorneys. It’s providing sufficient mentorship, offering clear paths to promotion and that support has to come from the top down,” she said of employing diversity, equity and inclusion programs in the legal profession. “It must come from the highest levels of leadership in the law firms. It’s actually walking the walk, not just talking about it.”
As a woman of color, Christina has observed some progress in the DEI arena during her time as an attorney, but she believes there is still much work to be done.
“For so long, and still sometimes in my day-to-day work life, I walk into a room, or I log onto a meeting, I go to a deposition, and I’m the only person that looks like me and that can be very difficult. As lawyers, we need to lead by example because we know better. We know the law and we know the ramifications of the law and we know the history, and if I can do anything to help with that, of course I’m going to do that.”
As a mentor now to younger attorneys, Christina finds it easier to cheer on others than it was to do so for herself when she was starting out, adding that it’s invaluable when those new to the profession have access to senior attorneys who’ve undergone similar experiences and can serve as a source of inspiration, information, or simply a listening ear.
“I think we could all use someone to cheer us on, and that is one thing that I love doing. You sometimes need an outsider to remind you of everything great that you can do, and everything you’ve got going. Sometimes you just need an outsider to objectively kind of lay things out for you. The benefits of mentorship are priceless,” Christina said.
“I’ve had an interesting career and if some of the good things, and some of the bad things, that I’ve been through can help somebody else, then, it’s not all been in vain.”