Lawyer Monthly - October 2021 Edition

the challenge that we were unable to raise awareness and properly introduce the collaboration to our respective networks in traditional forums ,such as networking events and lunches. How did you overcome these challenges together? To help address this challenge, we worked on new joint “Firm Values” remotely as a team. Also, when we were able, we reinstituted firm events and all-attorney lunches. We also developed a more comprehensive marketing and advertising strategy that would ensure our new firm brand and news of our collaboration was reaching potential referral sources and that our long-time friends and clients were aware of how we were working together. Our strategy included remote speaking, targeted sponsorship and ramping up our social media efforts to ensure we remained top of mind amongst our network of clients, who we know are active on social media. Now that your firms are joined, what benefits have you both experienced from the collaboration? In the year and half since we launched our collaboration, we have been able to expand our client base and increase the number of cases we have been working year over year. Having a more robust team behind both practices has allowed us to attract additional talent and grow each of our respective practices, as well as get involved in large antitrust cases – one of the goals of our collaboration. What else has changed? Have there been any drawbacks to the new arrangement? Nothing has changed, but there has been growth and strengthening of all of our collective practice areas. Tom has jumped in to handle litigation cases in several of the receivership matters the firm is involved with and has teamed up with the other partners and associates on other business litigation and personal injury cases. It has all been very positive. Melanie Damian & Tom Culmo Co-Founders and Partners Damian & Valori LLP | Culmo Trial Attorneys 1000 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1020, Miami, Florida 33131 T: +1 305-371-3960 F: +1 305-371-3965 E: / Can you tell us more about your individual journeys into law? Melanie: I always wanted to be an attorney for as long as I can remember – inspired by Perry Mason and LA Law because I did not know any actual lawyers growing up. I had this idea that I should fight for other people. The only thing that would change over the years is the type of lawyer I would be (criminal, civil, international law). When I finally had the opportunity to work as a clerk in law school it was at a business litigation firm, Bailey Hunt Jones and Busto, that does not exist anymore. But I loved it so much, I knew I had found what I wanted to do. Tom: As a lifelong athlete, I have always been drawn to competition. I always thought being a lawyer would allow me to pick a side and compete. When I took a trial advocacy class in law school, I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer. I started doing insurance defence work and after a short time knew I wanted to represent regular people who needed someone to fight for them. I was fortunate to have met a great trial lawyer who I convinced to give me that opportunity. Don Russo, who was a mentor to many very successful young trial lawyers, hired me in 1992 and the rest is history. What drove you to found your own firms? Melanie: After eight years and more than 18,000 hours of working in a midsize law firm, although an incredibly good experience for me, I realised that the business model, was not sustainable for me in the long term. I realised that if I stayed, I would not have freedom to grow into the professional I wanted to become in either my work life or my personal life. So, in July 2004, I took WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | OCT 2021 MY LEGAL LIFE - MELANIE DAMIAN & TOM CULMO About Melanie Damian & Tom Culmo... What advice would you give to firms that are considering a similar arrangement to your own? Make sure your values are aligned. Oftentimes, even if the business arrangements make sense, if the priorities or values are not aligned the collaboration will not make sense. For example, while law firms are certainly businesses if the one partner values profit over service and the other service over profit the collaboration won’t work. One early team activity was establishing our “Firm Values”. It helped us define and develop an understanding of who we are together and communicate it throughout the firm at every level. Our values are: Integrity, Graciousness, Ownership, Heart and Soul, Excellence, Loyalty and Persistence. “ In the year and half since we launched our collaboration, we have been able to expand our client base and increase the number of cases we have been working year over year. ” 30

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