Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez, shareholder and head of Buchanan's Miami office, was profiled as part of the recent Invest: Miami conference in an article, "Spotlight On: Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez, Shareholder & Head of the Miami Office, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney."
What role does the legal sector play in the overall economic recovery?
During the pandemic, and especially at the very beginning when we all found ourselves in uncharted territory, there was a lot of reliance on legal advisers as businesses tried to navigate the realities brought about by COVID-19. There was a lot of communication between the legal services industry and our clients and I think that will continue as we see the light at the end of the tunnel and businesses reopen. The legal services industry will continue to play a big role in that transition period as we go back to our new normal. The economy is humming and there is quite a bit of work that is being generated, whether it be for litigation, corporate or real estate lawyers. Real estate was very active, even during the pandemic, and remains active with people from the Northeast coming to Florida and buying homes. It is common for properties to go for higher than asking in all-cash deals as a result of competitive bids. The legal services industry participates in moving those transactions forward. There will be a lot that the legal sector will be involved in as communities move into the light.
Where do you see demand trends changing for legal services?
Litigation held steady during the pandemic but it has been increasing in terms of demand now that courthouses are opening again. I thought that there was going to be a little bit of a lull during the pandemic and lockdown but, instead, we saw a lot of activity in terms of filing of new cases. There was an uptick rather than a significant decrease. Corporate transactions and real estate are also very active. I believe this is directly tied to short windows of time to review contracts and offers, and contingencies being waived or modified substantially more frequently than in other times.
What makes Miami such a strategic region for legal services?
Regardless of which legal sector you are talking about, Miami is attractive. Miami tends to be an area in the country where there are pronounced trends in litigation and so we tend to see lawyers try new theories and actively bring lawsuits both in state and federal courts in South Florida. Additionally, our geographic location makes Miami unique for a whole host of other legal sectors. Routinely, Miami is seen as the gateway into the Caribbean and Latin America. As a result, Miami tends to be the locality for companies and businesses that have an interest in exploring those opportunities. That tends to give rise to transactional, IT and real estate work. Our Mayor has focused on the tech and life sciences industries. His push in this area is opening up a whole industry that we have been working toward for several years. Mayor Francis Suarez really drew the spotlight on the city and county during the pandemic and there are a lot of opportunities here that result in a need for legal services across different sectors.
How does the constant change in regulations affect your clients or your daily operations?
Our law firm is organized according to sections such as litigation, intellectual property and tax, among several others. Within those sections, we have practice groups that focus on different areas. Those practice groups take a proactive approach and monitor all of the upcoming changes in applicable laws and regulations to stay on top of the changes. We routinely issue client alerts, publish articles and host seminars for our clients and the community to highlight the changes that are important to and impact our clients' businesses. During the pandemic, we established different groups that were tasked with reviewing and staying on top of quickly evolving changes in regulations and administrative orders issued by local, state and federal governments, as well as the courts. We were in regular contact with our clients to ensure they were aware of the changes and their businesses could quickly adapt.
How is artificial intelligence playing a role in your daily operations and how will it change the way law firms do their daily tasks?
There is a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence especially in the legal industry. Overall, I think AI will assist lawyers in some of our preliminary tasks. However, I think the legal services industry is not really in the best position to utilize AI for what lawyers do. I have always said that the law, especially in litigation strategy, is an art, not a science. You can provide different lawyers with a factual scenario, ask for their legal recommendations and get several different answers. Many times, the vast majority of those answers are going to be perfectly right because there are different ways to approach problems and develop strategies. I think AI will help law firms on things like e-discovery where you have voluminous documents to go through. We are already utilizing those services to run searches in discovery and pick up on patterns in documents. However, with respect to the actual rendering of legal services, you need the human interaction and the brainstorming of ideas and theories to develop a comprehensive legal strategy – there is no substitute for that.
What strategies is your company applying to train and retain professionals?
Despite the pandemic, we onboarded several new lawyers and we have continued our growth trajectory. Dedication and commitment to onboarding and transition processes help ensure that the integration process is continual. It is not a matter of bringing people in and leaving them on their own to figure it out. I take a hands-on approach to ensure new hires are in touch with me and our management teams on a regular basis. I promise everyone that joins us that he or she will benefit from my institutional knowledge and my relationships across the firm. It takes a lot of effort, but this approach creates a culture where we really believe that everyone's individual success is the collective success of the office and the firm.This creates an environment where everyone is genuinely committed to working with others to ensure they will reach their full potential.