Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez was physically starting a new Miami law office from scratch. She didn’t have a team of employees. She didn’t have an actual office yet. From a support standpoint, however, she had a stacked deck.
Joining McDonald Hopkins LLC as its newest managing member in 2011, Rodriquez had the rich culture and resources of a firm with an 80-year history of client service success.
“So it really was very much of a start-up operation, except that I had a really good solid team supporting me all the way,” Rodriguez says.
Smart Business spoke with Rodriguez about the keys to entering a new market, starting with finding and developing a strong team of employees.
Use your network to find talent
One is to let people know that we are here through selective marketing, through interacting in the community, getting the word out, introducing the firm. The other is using my personal contacts to recruit the kinds of lawyers that we are looking for. We identify the practice areas we need, the client type, the personality set and either directly approach those lawyers or through my contacts identify who those lawyers are and then use those relationships to reach them.
Seek complementary skill sets
The biggest leadership challenge when you are expanding a firm or growing an office is being able to identify in potential [hires] the kinds of qualities that you want to reinforce in your firm while also adding capabilities that fill whatever gaps you may have.
You have to recognize that you have weaknesses because nobody is perfect, and nobody has every skill that they need for every job. Then you need to surround yourself with people who have the skills that you are lacking to compensate for them, which means that you have to be very self assure and confident rather than worried about people showing you up. You succeed by other people around you succeeding.
When you are interviewing associates or other staff as well as partners, you like to know that they have succeeded at, what they have done and know what their track record has been. You want to know that they are hard working and that they are not just going to coast. You want to look for indicia of people who always demand more from themselves.
Use interviews to find cultural matches
You work very hard at hiring people who contribute to the culture and who like the particular culture of the firm. Every firm evolves as it gets larger, but there are certain core principles in terms of how people relate to each other and the way that the firm serves its clients that cannot be compromised.
I like to know why they are speaking with us. What is it about their situation that they would like to improve on and what are their long-term personal and professional goals? I like to know about what they do in their free time when they are not being a lawyer. I like to know what their approach is to clients and practicing law.
You have to be a friendly and approachable person, but you also have to recognize that there are boundaries, particularly in the workplace. You are not there to be everybody’s best friend. You are there to lead them and help them succeed.
A critical trait is to be able to communicate your vision, your goals and your expectations very clearly. If you don’t communicate clearly, people will assume that they know what you want, and you may not get what you are expecting.
You set clear goals. You agree on timelines and then you follow up on a regular basis to make sure that you are on track.
Do your part
If people do not see you contributing the effort, they are going to feel like you are unfairly dumping work on them. It doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking hour in the office or constantly connected, because I do think that it’s important to unplug every once in a while so that you can do your strategic thinking. It does mean that you have to be willing to take on the hard work that you are asking other people to do.
How to reach: McDonald Hopkins LLC, www.mcdonaldhopkins.com or (305) 704-3990
Company Facts: McDonald Hopkins LLC
Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio
Size: more than 130 attorneys in six strategic locations, including Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, West Palm Beach and Miami
About: The company has an 80-year track record of counseling clients as a business advisory and advocacy law firm