Kristina Alexander: A Determined Leader Fostering Excellence & Empowering Future Generations in Law

The Most Influential People in Legal Services to Watch in 2024

When asked how Kristina defines success, the definition that currently comes to her mind is much more simplistic and less materialistic than at prior stages in life. Currently, her definition of success is simply “happiness.” While her definition of success seems on its face rather personal, she explains that it’s both internal and external happiness she is referring to. How happy her clients are with her work, how happy she is to go to work each day, how happy her employees are to come to work, and how happy she makes her family and community.

Forging a Path from Humble Beginnings to Legal Leadership

From a young age Kristina was a leader. She was the oldest of three children all raised by a single mother. She was forced to take on added responsibilities including caring for her younger siblings. Having been the product of a broken family, and later a child of a deceased father, she knew that depending on a man to provide was not an option that every woman could depend on. Thus, she was determined to succeed so that she would not have to rely on the income and support of a man. She worked hard to obtain good grades, participated in many extracurricular activities at school including sports as well as international clubs and even was a member of People to People which took her on a 5-country educational tour of Europe going into her freshman year. The world opened up to her and she no longer felt glued to her smalltown home.

She took of a leap of faith and attended college at Texas A&M University, thousands of miles from her family and anyone she knew. Thereafter, she made another big move to Florida, again, thousands of miles from family and friends. Despite the challenges, these experiences were a catalyst to her independence, drive and motivation for success.

Before committing to a career in law, she sought a job in the legal field. She enjoyed Florida and decided to grassroot her career there and began laying the foundation for a rewarding career. She started her career as a legal assistant working for her current co-founding Partner, Frank Sioli, at the then named firm of Valle, Craig, Sioli & Lynott.

Her commitment to networking and relationship-building paid off, leading to her first job after law school with her now partner, Frank. After an insignificant amount of time, the idea of breaking ground on their own law firm was born.

Navigating Career Shifts from Diverse Interests to Legal Certainty

Reflecting on her career journey, Kristina shares that her initial career goals were not always centered around the law industry. In high school, she considered journalism, broadcasting, and theater, and even pursued marine biology at Texas A&M in Galveston. Her interest in the law began to emerge during a summer internship at the District Attorney’s office in Oneida County, where she was exposed to criminal law.

When asked if being an attorney was always her career goal, Kristina firmly expressed that it was not the case. She elaborates on her diverse interests in high school, including speech and debate, student government, and various extracurricular activities. Despite not immediately pursuing a legal path, the theatrical aspects of law and trials always intrigued her. Ultimately, she decided to go to law school after her experiences in college and high school.

As the conversation delves into Kristina’s current satisfaction with being an attorney, she expresses certainty about her chosen path. She emphasizes that being an attorney feels like the right fit for her, aligning with her interests and capabilities. When asked about the potential of delving into another industry, Kristina strongly asserts that she was unequivocally destined to be an attorney.

The Opportunity to Build a Better Legal Culture

Kristina recalls that starting her own law firm was extremely challenging and scary. She wasn’t sure if any clients were going to come with her. Leaving a bigger firm and stability, with partner track aspirations, for the unknown created a Jerry Maguire-ish situation. There was a period when no money was coming in, making the beginning of the law firm quite challenging. The uncertainty of whether they would make it or not, wondering if they would have money coming in the next month to pay bills—those were significant concerns.

What led Kristina to start partnering with Sioli Alexander Pino was her belief that it was an opportunity to create a better culture and environment for attorneys. Even to this day, many law firms have a demanding and difficult culture, focusing more on profit than fulfillment and work-life balance. It was also an opportunity to bring diversity and inclusion, with a commitment to having many women in the firm.

The driving factors were the belief that they could do it better—no need for a certain, stuffy way of doing things. Unhappiness with certain aspects of the prior firm led them to take a leap of faith to make things better. The result was a phenomenal work culture, with events like firm picnics, holiday parties, happy hours and trick or treating in the office around Halloween for employee’s children.

Delving into the company and how it has redefined the law industry, considering the competitive nature of the field, Kristina believes the focus shouldn’t be solely on what others are doing. “Rather than focusing on the competition and what others are doing, we forge our own path and spend our energy on ensuring excellent work product,” she asserts.

While they keep an eye on competitors through platforms like LinkedIn and discuss strategies in meetings, the emphasis is on maintaining their own standards. “We need to make sure that we are doing approximately the same thing or more, but also at the same time carving out our little niche.” The approach involves not being overly fixated on competition but instead concentrating on day-to-day operations. “We focus on the day-to-day operations and take each case one step at a time. We also make excellent communication with our clients a priority. It is important to not only obtain favorable results for our clients, but to ensure we are doing so via client approved methods and practices,” she points out.

Sioli Alexander Pino recognizes the importance of growth and hiring but acknowledges the need to balance it with attention to existing clients and cases. “We also need to make sure that our current clients and the current cases that we do have are not being neglected,” says Kristina. Despite being in the industry for over 20 years, with almost 15 as an attorney, she stresses the significance of maintaining focus on both existing and potential clients.

Navigating Leadership Challenges and Fostering Diversity

Was it challenging for Kristina to succeed as a woman in a leadership role in this industry? One might say that women are at a bit of a disadvantage, but that’s something she takes pride in. “I feel proud to be a leader to other young women, professionals, both attorney and non-attorney women, and to be in this role. It is inspiring, I guess you could say, to some, and motivating to others in the sense that if I can do it, so can they,” she observes.

Kristina also serves as a mentor to several women attorneys in the firm, some of whom have small children, two years old and under, that they’ve had while working there. “I show them that I have two children, three and five, and that it can be done,” she states. She emphasizes the point that women can encourage and lead other women perhaps better than a man could, given the societal differences in expectations for women in leadership roles compared to men who are fathers and have important careers.

Reflecting on her journey as a leader, Kristina considers her greatest achievements to be moments of positive feedback from clients and associates. “When I have positive feedback from clients and commentary from associates that I have mentored them or that I have somehow had a positive influence on their career is what motivates me.” These instances serve as proud moments for Kristina in her role as a leader.

When discussing the evolving landscape of the law industry, Kristina observes significant growth and increased opportunities for inclusion. “I just see so many more opportunities for inclusion and more women being able to stay in the legal industry.” Reflecting on an article she read about five years ago, she notes a positive shift, particularly for women over 50. Historically, the legal industry witnessed a decline in women’s representation at that point, possibly due to the challenges of raising children and industry pressures.

Kristina emphasizes the importance of having diversity in leadership positions. “We have different perspectives and we have different values to add to the legal industry that having women in these positions of leadership is very important.” She observes a positive change, with more women opting to stay in the legal industry rather than leaving for other pursuits. Kristina believes this shift is not solely attributed to her efforts but reflects a broader trend of women finding a balance between a successful career and family life.

As for diversity and inclusion, Kristina acknowledges a positive shift in the industry’s receptiveness. “I do see that shift. Absolutely.” She notes the success of her women attorney friends who excel in both family and career. While uncertain about the future, Kristina emphasizes the need to continue progressing in the direction of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “I think that’s the direction that we need to continue to go.”

The Transformative Role of Technology and Innovation in the Legal Industry

Kristina reflects on the significance of technology and innovation in the legal industry. “Oh, it’s very significant. I mean, at every conference I go to, AI is a hot topic as well as technology,  and cyber law.”

Anticipating an increase in cyber-attacks, Kristina acknowledges the susceptibility brought about by the rise of AI and technology. Looking ahead, she notes discussions about the potential replacement of paralegals, law clerks, and legal assistants by certain technologies, though she hopes this won’t happen and that it does not extend to attorneys. “But I think they could, rather than replace them, add value in a sense to make the job more efficient.”

Kristina envisions technologies assisting in tasks like manufacturing data quickly, summarizing medical reports, and generating insights for case strategy. “We could save the client’s money with these types of programs if you’re having AI assist on those types of things.” This, she believes, would allow legal professionals to focus more on research, writing, and presenting compelling arguments, rather than being bogged down by the details of case facts.

Navigating the Dual Realms at the Intersection of Law and Business Management

Discussing Kristina’s roles and responsibilities as director and shareholder at Sioli Alexander Pino, her regular workday encompasses a mix of legal tasks and business management. “Responding to emails, reviewing reports, phone calls with clients—so obviously a lot of the regular typical lawyering.” In addition to legal duties, she manages an office with approximately 80 people, facing the challenges that come with such responsibilities.

Her day includes numerous meetings, such as the weekly business development meetings to strategize the firm’s direction. “At noon every Monday, we have a business development meeting to discuss where we’re taking the firm and what we need to do to achieve our firm goals.” The agenda covers topics like upcoming conferences, social media posts, and other outward-facing aspects.

Kristina also engages in weekly HR meetings, addressing administrative tasks and completing employee reviews. “There’s a lot of administrative tasks that I do day-to-day to address these things.” Alongside the broader business activities, she remains hands-on in case management.

Her schedule involves various legal proceedings, from depositions to mediations and hearings. As the company grows, Kristina notes an increase in business management responsibilities. “It seems like the bigger we are, the more of the business management side of things are added to my plate.”

A Balancing Act Juggling Personal and Professional Life

In navigating the demands of a busy professional life, Kristina prioritizes balance and diligently manages her calendar. “I make balance a priority and ensure that every day I look at my calendar and start there..” Her strategy involves tackling deadlines first, allowing for dedicated family time in the evenings if completed and time allows. The level of engagement with family life varies, with some days fully devoted to it, while others may require additional work before or after family activities.

Maintaining this balance requires a conscious effort, with Kristina setting clear boundaries. “You just really have to, you know, say, ‘OK, today’s a hard cut off at X time and then I’m going to spend and dedicate the rest of that time with my family.'” While exceptions arise during crucial work periods, she ensures a reinvestment of time with family once those demands ease.

Motivation for Kristina and her team stems from personal fulfillment, family, and being a positive role model. ” I have a daughter and am making both my husband and daughter proud by ensuring I am a good role model for my daughter, so she knows there are no barriers she cannot break herself.” The desire to demonstrate that women can balance family and a successful career drives Kristina’s motivation.

“I don’t want to rely on somebody else. I want to be independent and self-sufficient, and that motivates me to know that I’m secure in that.” Positive feedback, happy clients, and achieving good results also contribute to sustaining motivation. “Because none of it matters if I’m not doing a good job,” she affirms.

Beyond Dreams, Leading Growth, and Fostering Excellence in Law

In hindsight, Kristina acknowledges exceeding her initial dreams and expresses humility about her achievements. “Yes, actually, I’ve achieved beyond what I thought I could. I am very proud. I’m very humbled, and I don’t take any of it for granted. And I don’t think I’m special in any way, shape, or form, but I’m definitely where I would want to be at this point.”

Regarding the future of the company and her personal goals as a leader, Kristina sees the need to address growing pains while ensuring the professional development of associates. “So, I guess the next goal would be to bring the associates up that I’ve been mentoring and have them be as successful or more successful than I am.” Her aim is for these individuals to achieve significant growth and personal fulfillment.

Looking at the company’s future, Kristina emphasizes the importance of continuous growth and fostering relationships with new clients. ” As for her plans for the future of the company, she outlines the ongoing efforts in hiring, vetting, interviewing, and calculated expansion to accommodate the increased workload. The firm’s strategy involves expanding into various areas of law and leveraging lateral partners who bring valuable expertise. Kristina envisions the firm continuing to diversify its legal services, hiring the best talent to uphold its standards of excellence.

Pioneering Change and Empowering Future Generations

When asked about influencing change in the current generation, Kristina envisions leading by example, being visible, being out there, showing up to the conferences, and maintaining and building those current relationships that she does have.

Her approach involves actively participating in conferences, establishing and nurturing relationships, and serving as a role model for young attorneys both within her firm and in other professional settings. Addressing aspiring leaders or professionals in the legal industry, Kristina’s message is one of empowerment.

“I think my message would be that if I can do it, you can do it.” She emphasizes the importance of hard work, determination, and making the right connections. “There was nothing special about my background or upbringing. It is just a lot of hard work, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Kristina encourages individuals to pursue their goals with determination, acknowledging that not everyone needs to follow the same path, but can achieve success through hard work, determination, and self-value.

Kristina’s journey from humble beginnings to legal leadership is a testament to resilience and vision. As she forges ahead, Kristina prioritizes client satisfaction, embraces technology, and champions diversity. Her commitment to empowering future generations and redefining the legal landscape makes her a trailblazer in the industry.