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A rough start couldn’t keep this Florida Registered Paralegal from achieving great things

Senior Editor Top Stories

Holland & Knight’s Caldeira wins Florida Registered Paralegal Award

Luigi Caldeira

Luigi Caldeira

Miami paralegal Luigi Caldeira was 16, struggling with English, and cleaning law offices in New Jersey with his mother when he convinced a managing partner to take him on as a file clerk.

It was a risky proposition for both.

“I could barely string the words together, but she gave me a chance,” Caldeira recalls. “My first day was really hard, I had no idea where anything went.”

Fifteen years after leaving a drug infested neighborhood in Brazil, and earning a high school diploma, a paralegal certificate, a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Caldeira, 31, has become the first recipient of the Florida Registered Paralegal Award.

“I’m definitely humbled by this selection,” he said. “I was born and raised in Brazil, and I’ve worked really hard, so it’s a big deal.”

Fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, Caldeira is a paralegal with Holland & Knight’s Litigation South Florida Practice Group, where his duties include assisting multiple attorneys handling complex commercial and multi-district litigation.

Caldeira has maintained the same work ethic and friendly demeanor that impressed the managing partner who gave him his start, according to nominations submitted to the Florida Registered Paralegal Enrichment Committee.

“Luigi works well under pressure and always has a positive attitude,” wrote one attorney. “I can count on him at any time to be responsive, and to always produce high-quality work. We trust him with any task.”

Committee Chair Margo Valenti, CEO of Tampa-based Law Office Support Services, says Caldeira stood out because he received more than a half-dozen nominations, some from fellow FRPs who credited him with inspiring their career choice.

“We couldn’t have asked for someone better to be our first recipient,” Valenti said. “He’s the poster child for professionalism that we want paralegals to embrace.”

Valenti will present the award to Caldeira June 11 in a virtual ceremony during the Annual Convention. Veteran board member Wayne Smith, a liaison to the committee, will introduce Caldeira, Valenti said.

The committee is hoping to raise the visibility of the 5,000-member program, which each month draws some 1,000 attendees to its CLE programs, Valenti said.

The public has a hazy understanding of a paralegal’s role and often confuses paralegals with legal assistants. When he’s asked what a paralegal is, Caldeira doesn’t get defensive.

“I don’t mind, because I see it as an opportunity for me to educate and advocate,” he said.

The Florida Registered Paralegal Program puts Florida ahead of most other states, Caldeira said. Becoming an FRP made him more attractive to large law firms, he said.

“When I’m working on cases, it’s usually a plus for lawyers to know that I’m a Florida Registered Paralegal because it adds value, especially on motions for attorney fees,” he said.

Sharing his story at the awards ceremony shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, Caldeira says.

At age 13, he became a media sensation in his home state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil when he published a book about the devastating toll drugs and crime were taking on his impoverished neighborhood.

He published another book years later that recounts his experience following his mother to the United States and becoming the first in his family to earn a college degree.

“It talks about the little things in life that people don’t appreciate,” he said. “To a certain extent, her American dream solidified in me, for everything that I accomplished in the U.S.”

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