Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Ken Eulo, a criminal defense lawyer in Central Florida’s Smith & Eulo Law Firm. Eulo has a strong commitment to supporting domestic violence survivors through access to legal services, as well as supporting feminist movements as a male ally.
1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?
I wish I had known that my law career would involve advocating for my clients’ rights against the very justice systems sworn to protect them. I consider my first real-life foray into criminal law as having occurred when I went on several “ride-alongs” with Los Angeles’ local police. I was an undergrad studying Criminal Justice and Pre-Law at University of Central Florida at the time, and these experiences with cops in my hometown allowed me to see criminal procedures up close and personal.
In the two decades since these experiences, America has seen national uproar after uproar concerning the blatantly biased violence of our law enforcement officers, on top of multiple stories suggesting that the American institutions in which we place our trust, health, and wellbeing are innately corrupt and unjust.
My professional experiences have taught me that pursuing justice for my clients means navigating these systems and recognizing the innate bias they may experience in a courtroom because of their race, gender, religion, age, and more. I wish that when I was starting out, I knew that I would not only need to be educated on the law, but that I must also be intuitively aware of the inherent flaws in our justice institutions–and work to change them.
2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?
Turning off. With today’s advancements in technology, combined with a lawyer’s already demanding hours, it can be difficult to switch out of work mode. Of course, it’s necessary that our clients be able to contact us whenever they need help, and it’s our normal to be working long hours when we’re involved with a case. In this regard, the current technology has done wonders. However, smartphones and personal computers have raised expectations, so that now the assumption is that we’re available 24/7 and that it’s normal for clients and coworkers to expect replies within minutes after sending a text or an email.
This standard means we have to be ready to work on our supposed days off, working on holidays, on vacation, you name it. It’s a commitment that my team and I have willingly made, but it can be a challenge to juggle our personal responsibilities with our professional lives. These boundaries are further challenged when considering the lawyer-saturated market in which we work; it’s well-known that the amount of lawyers vastly outnumbers the amount of work available for lawyers to complete. This means that we have to stay sharp, stay available, and continue meeting and exceeding the demands of our clients.
3. What inspires you most about your work?
What inspires me the most is my team’s ability to advocate for change. When things are going terribly wrong, I have the ability to make a difference.
At the start of 2020, my co-founding partner for Smith & Eulo, Darryl Smith, was part of the legal team for a six-year-old girl in Orlando, Florida. She was arrested after a sleep-deprived temper tantrum ended with her kicking the Assistant Principal at her school. Footage of her sobbing in the back of a police car as an officer placed zip-ties around her wrists can be seen in news coverage of the incident. This six-year-old was then taken to the police station where she had her mugshot taken and was fingerprinted.
Undoubtedly, this was an abhorrent situation, that we worked diligently to improve. The case concluded with the expungement of the little girl’s records, policy changes in the Orlando Police Department, and the charges against her were dropped. Clearly, there is still much to be done, but to borrow my partner’s own words, “…We hope that this incident creates public awareness and inspires policy changes that will prevent what happened to [her] from happening to other children in the future at the hands of law enforcement.”
4. How does your gender identity inform your work?
I identify as a cisgender male. As a man, operating in an institutional structure that directly benefits me based on my gender, I recognize that my gender has allowed me space in places where women, people who are transgender, and non-binary people do not have equal footing. I try to use this security to advocate for my clients and make space for those who have a disadvantage based purely on some innate factor.
5. Do you think your gender identity has affected your career?
In legal spaces, male is considered the default. Because of this bias, I don’t experience the inequities that women do on a daily basis, nor were my educational and professional opportunities negatively affected by my gender.
I know female lawyers that have been mistaken for administrative assistants and housekeepers by people who see them at their law firms or in court. I know that women face an extreme pay gap when they’re just as qualified as their male counterparts. Women are expected to spend more time on their appearance if they’re speaking before a court while I just need to put on a clean suit. I can give my opinion and lead a meeting without people questioning my authority, my merit, or my experiences.
The professional space that I occupy was made for my gender, and that’s something that I am aware of every day.
6. How can philanthropy support gender equality?
I can see that one of the many issues gender equality proponents face is how to provide opportunities for women to achieve the same–or higher–positions as men, thus evening the footing between genders and creating further positions for gender equality advocates to speak out.
Philanthropy helps remove monetary boundaries around educational pursuits and business ventures that would otherwise keep women out of certain sectors of work and life, which helps diversify the communities in which we professionally operate.
One place where philanthropy can change lives is education. Scholarships and other financial aid can make it easier for women to join traditionally male fields. Smith & Eulo’s first recipient of our legal scholarship was a bright student named Kayleigh Reneau who will be pursuing a law degree at the Belmont College of Law. While our scholarship is not geared just for women, our philosophy behind the scholarship is to help pave the way for students to obtain the credentials that will allow them more momentum in their careers and their lives.
7. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equality movements taking us?
I maintain hope that the next 10 years will see huge improvements in workplace gender equality, but I know that progress is slow considering the movement has been ongoing since the mid 1800s in America.
Practically speaking, I hope that the male members of our society will continue working to recognize the allowances that their gender privilege gives them. I hope that our recognition of privilege will then catalyze discussion about the ways in which it can be used to drive the gender equality movement forward.
About Ken Eulo: Ken Eulo grew up in Los Angeles, California. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree of Science from the University of Central Florida in 2005 with cum laude honors, Ken Eulo helped plan and run the first branch of the International Coffee Chain Testa Rosa, where he was offered advanced management training in Europe. However, he decided to return to his first love: The Law. Ken Eulo attended Florida State University College of Law, graduating in 2010. During his law school career, he performed two internships, one with the Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Appeals Bureau, and the other with the Public Defender’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orlando, Florida.
Upon graduating from FSU Law in 2010, he accepted the opportunity to work as a Criminal Defense Attorney for the Public Defender’s Office in Orlando, Florida. During his tenure with the Public Defender’s Office, Ken Eulo handled every aspect of Criminal Law Practice, including: Initial Appearances, Violations of Probation, Juvenile Delinquency Court, County Court (Misdemeanor Crimes), and Circuit Court (Felony Crimes). Ken Eulo has litigated and resolved more than 1,000 criminal cases. He has taken over 30 criminal cases to trial, including Capital Sexual Battery, Burglary, Battery, Rape, Lewd and Lascivious Conduct, Domestic Violence, DUI, and more.
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