February 25, 2024

Florida Law

Dealing with Change: Law firm leaders discuss challenges and the effects of technology

| 6/28/2018

Al Dotson

  Managing partner-elect, Bilzin Sumberg, Miami

 Al Dotson Al Dotson

Dotson has served on his firm’s executive committee since 2012 and also served as practice group leader of the firm’s land development and government relations practice group for years. He is managing partnerelect and will formally take over management of the firm in 2019. He succeeds John Sumberg, who has served in this capacity since the firm’s inception 20 years ago. Sumberg will assume the role of chairman.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of running a law firm today?

A: Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge for any law firm, particularly in today’s cross-generational workplace. Bilzin Sumberg places high priority on leadership development because we recognize the importance of cultivating the next generation of leaders. Our associates and junior partners work one-on-one alongside senior partners, and because of our lean staffing model, our associates are provided greater opportunities for hands-on learning. This not only leads to a more cohesive firm culture, but it makes us more responsive to the needs and concerns of our next generation.

Q: How has the practice of law changed most in the past five to 10 years?

A: Clients are willing to pay for good work but are increasingly demanding that a firm understands their business objectives and provides good and efficient legal services. More than anything, clients want predictability with their legal services and fees. We accomplish this through legal project management, which is based on principles of predictability, accountability, transparency and open communication, utilizing software platforms to increase efficiency and control costs.

Q: Has your firm’s policy on pro bono work changed through the years? If so, how?

A: We augment pro bono legal services with expansive involvement by our attorneys in community-based organizations and community initiatives as leaders. We also provide financial support to numerous non-profits. All of our employees participate through our signature volunteer program, Bilzin Sumberg Cares. An example of our community engagement is the firm’s support of the development for a new $25-million five-story facility for Lotus House Women’s Shelter in Miami. On a pro bono basis, we assisted with legal work behind the real estate, financing, zoning and environmental requirements for the project. The new facility opened earlier this year and is capable of housing nearly 450 homeless women and children — providing them essential services from housing, to medical care to skills training to re-enter the workplace.

Marie Tomassi

  Managing shareholder, Trenam Law, Tampa / St. Petersburg

 Marie Tomassi Marie Tomassi

Tomassi, who served as one of three lawyers on Trenam’s management committee for about seven years, became managing partner five years ago after a change in leadership structure created the managing shareholder role.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of running a law firm?

A: We are highly collaborative and collegial at Trenam. We want to maintain this culture while also continuing to grow our firm, which requires diligence in the growth and integration process. Making strategically smart, nimble changes can be challenging. For example, we added cybersecurity as a practice area earlier than many firms, which can be risky but, in this instance, turned out to be spot-on.

Q: How has the practice of law changed most in the past five to 10 years?

A: Technological advances have permitted much more efficiency in parts of the practice, freeing up some lawyer time to learn more about a client’s business and have an even better understanding of the context for client needs. Access to useful information is now at our fingertips. It is an exciting, fast-paced time to practice law. There also has been a record number of mergers happening during the past couple of years, leading to more large firms and more competition for client work.

Q: How has technology changed your firm’s practice?

A: We’ve streamlined many operational tasks, such as time-entry, expense-processing and new-matter opening. And we’ve been able to embark on more marketing and business development adventures with new customer relationship management software. Technology also has made the practice more of a constant presence or, as some say, a 24/7 profession. New solutions help our attorneys respond to client needs from wherever they may be, whether from home or working at night and over the weekend. Being responsive is one of the tenets of our Code of Client Commitment. Technology makes this more readily possible.

Q: What was the biggest case your firm handled successfully in the past year?

A: One of particular interest given the parties involved was Trenam’s continued successful representation of Commodores Entertainment Group, the entity behind the musical group The Commodores, in a trademark dispute with an ex-member of the group. Trenam previously had secured a court order restricting former band member Thomas McClary’s use of the name “The Commodores” and the group’s trademarks. In a January 2018 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that order.

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