Welcome to another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. This is the 2022 version, which, frankly, feels a lot like 2021. I’m not sure what has changed. One thing that hasn’t changed is the reason we do this show. I’m David Heffernan, I’ve been practicing personal injury law in South Florida for about 30 years now. The goal behind the show as it was uttered in the 15th century by Shakespeare, yes, we can all be open to interpretation. But bottom line is people laughed. And some people still feel like it’s a good idea to kill all the lawyers. My goal is to bring in local South Florida lawyers and lawyers from all around actually, and maybe one by one, educate people on what they do who they are. We have realized the quality of the lawyers that we’ve got in this community and one by one, we can take them off to the kill list. My guest this morning is going to be easy to take off kill list is because not only is he a great lawyer, and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. But he’s one of the most active people I know in the community, Florida Bar, a guy who really gives something back. Roland Sanchez from Medina. Raleigh, welcome, my friend.
Thank you, David. I said, once again, I apologize for all the technical issues, man.
Like, like I said, 2022, much like 2021. We just we just deal with it, we pivot and we roll. So let’s start with you. Let’s start with law school. Why did you go to law school? What was what was the driving? Was it a goal to be a lawyer? What did you want to do?
Well, you know, it’s interesting, we have a typical immigrant story. As an immigrant, the first thing comes to mind is to feed your family, you know, and there’s certain professions in the, in the Cuban culture, that, you know, are sort of tried and true ways of, you know, feeding for your feeding your family, right, you’re a calling doctor, doctors, lawyers, and that was sort of I was ushered in that way. And then, by the time I finished University of Miami like you did, it just seemed to be the natural course. And the natural next step for me, in terms of vocation,
and the vocation you were starting on, was as a tax lawyer, which I guess if you want security, because taxes are going to be around forever, but you start in the world of tax, what was that appeal? And then let’s talk about how that you sort of shifted off that a little bit.
You know, I really, you’re a litigator, and David, you know, I mean, you worry about things like evidence and other stuff, and things of that nature, or pleadings, and I just had zero interest in any event, in fact, if I had to do what you do, I don’t know that I’d still be practicing law.
Because I had to do tax, I’d have hung myself a long time ago.
I really gravitated towards that and in law school, it’s only thing I really liked was the corporate classes, the security transaction, the tax courses, my undergraduate degrees in finance, and economics. And so it seemed to be once again, really the one thing that I liked the most, as I was trying to get my JD.
Alright, so you come out, you start kind of that big, firm track, I think it would national firms and everything else, kind of get your feet wet, I’m sure and get that experience, then you decide to do I guess, the great American dream that we all have, you know, start your own firm. Tell me about that. And how is it you got this group of friends together and decided to take that leap?
You know, I spent about 15 or 16 years, at, you know, large, large firms haul the night, McDermott will and Emery, where I became a partner. And, you know, I had given it 15 years and still wasn’t particularly happy. And day in and day out basis, nothing against the big firms. It was just sort of, you know, the things that I liked the most, and maybe it was a little more entrepreneurial. And because of that, I just decided that after 15 years, you learned you learn a thing or two, just by just by showing up, right? And, you know, it wasn’t an easy decision, I you know, that the decision to delete, sort of a nice certain paycheck is not for everybody. But, you know, frankly, for me, it made all the difference in the world. You know, just being able to do my own thing. Work with the people I want to work with, you know, the practice of Lies can be tedious, it’s certainly the intensity of it is relentless. And so, sort of who’s the people that I’m going to be working with the kind of the kind of stuff that that I wouldn’t be doing? Really pretty Jimmy made all the difference in the world in terms of providing some happiness. And because of that, I decided to start my own firm.
So you start and you’ve got a collective group of friends, how was it decided? This is going to be the group.
Um, you know, happenstance. One of them is Peter Gonzalez who’s a commercial litigator, Peter and I are just we’re in addition to be law partners, we’re very good friends. Very similar in many ways. There’s another lawyer public Assata that the three of us really started, you know, what is now SMG que De Santis Medina, obviously, is an M, and G is Gonzalez, Nikki was Kosala. And Pablos wife, Amelia Kursaal, is also a partner. And so she part of the key really is, is, obviously is her surname as well, too. And so it was really it was people that I liked, they all came from big firms as well. You know, as much as you know, we big firms get criticism, the truth of the matter is, especially for you know, what I do transactional law, you know, there’s no better place to get that experience, you know, so the first few years, first 567 years, I mean, I was working, you know, not even a 10s of millions, but hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions. And so you don’t you I wouldn’t have got that experience anywhere else. And so from that, in that regard, you know, I call him out, you know, 15 years at a big firm, you know, seems like 45 years
ago, watching some other things on your way out at that point. Right. So I actually 4545 years of work. So same thing.
Yeah, no, I mean, if you look at the time sheet, that’s correct, the numbers add up to about 45 years. But it was just, it was time, like, I mean, I was if I was ever going to do it, after about 15 years, it was just, it was opportunity. And then you know, Lord, you don’t you know, this, we’re risk averse, generally. And so, it was either do it now or never do it. And, and like I said, I had a couple friends, Pablo, and Peter, that really made the decision significantly easier in order for me to take that step.
So, tell me about the firm now. I mean, because you pretty broad, what you do. I mean, you’ve sort of got this boutique firm, but you offer a lot of the services that the big firms offer. And tell me about sort of the practices that are there, and what’s the philosophy behind your firm?
Yeah, no. And, and so at our firm, you know, we’ve been we’ve been growing just by finding lawyers that we’d like personally. But also, you know, there’s two requirements, you have to be a good person, you have got to be a good lawyer. Right. And so, we have a wide array of services. You know, we have Lesley eagle, who’s, you know, one of the best entertainment lawyers in the southeast. We have David Pena, who’s an immigration attorney. You know, we obviously have commercial litigators, Peter Gonzalez, and then we get solid. Mitch manlier. I mean, Carlos Garcia, Perez, I mean, we, you know, we could offer a whole, like, a whole team of litigators. We have transactional guys, Joe Gomez, who was a partner at David voices forum at Boys. Boys. Schiller, thank you very much. And like I said, for us if it made a lot of sense that it’s going to pick up lawyers in different practice groups, right. And so, it didn’t, you know, do we really need another corporate lawyer, a real estate lawyer? No, we really don’t, you know, we do need a good entertainment lawyer, good immigration lawyer, good health care attorney. And so, from our perspective, once we sort of got the, you know, the basics, you can set transactional, and litigation, it became important to pick up little groups, you know, tax, you know, tax lawyers, estate planning attorneys. And that’s really that’s really how the growth comes. But if you know if any of those sort of core group and there’s six of us approximately, well, no, there is six, you know, if somebody does, if you don’t like them, or you had issues with that particular attorney, then you know, we’re not even having that conversation. Right. And so, it really is a you know, there’s not a lot of administration in our firm I mean, you know, we been at big firms where there’s multiple layers of administration we literally have one right and so
it’s nice when six guys sit down behind the door and go look, we’re going to agree on this one way or the other.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, I mean listening and like I said, from the perspective of growth, literally, you know, one day is all that needs to happen to Nick somebody and so yeah, we in you know, this David, we spend so much time in the office and so the people around you, you just have to have a certain a friendship and confidence and trust. And if you don’t have that people to your left and to your right, that he can make sort of he can make work already, which is like, you know, as we discussed pretty tough. For me makes it even. it aggravates everything, frankly.
Well, I’ve noticed one of the things that I was looking at stuff on your firm is, is yes, while you’re sort of this boutique firm, it hasn’t limited you to South Florida, I see that you do transactions, Latin America and all of these other countries. So, kind of talk about the evolution of how you continue to grow that aspect of the practice.
I think that’s really client base. Right. And so, we have clients. The nice thing about the nice, even though I don’t know, I think by 2827 28, lawyers, it’s a decent size. And you know, our roster of clients, you know, you know, knocking on wood is, is wide and varied and sort of if we have clients that are doing deals, and you know, I’m working on a deal in Chile, in Santiago, Chile, because it’s a, it’s a Chilean group that that’s making an investment, you know, we’ll do that. And so, it really, what really gave birth to that was some nice clients, who have very expansive business relationships, and do business all over the United States. And, frankly, in South America, and a little bit in Europe, too. I mean, we had a client, who’s based in Belgium was here for a couple of weeks. And we, you know, we did a lot of the stuff that he needed to be done. You know, that like anybody else, nobody’s been traveling. But now, but now it’s starting to pick up again, and you see more and more of the of the work that national work and international work.
That’s fantastic. I’ve always respected you, as a lawyer, a lot of admiration for what you and your firm do. But I want to pivot for a minute and talk about, I think one of the things that has really struck me about you over the years, is you’re giving back in in two ways. You’re very, very actively involved in the Florida bar, or to Governor’s and other organizations throughout that. And you’re very involved in the community. And I think I see that sort of throughout your firm. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Why is it important for you to be so proactive in the Florida Bar? And sort of help with all lawyers?
Well, I mean, I and I’ll, I’ll promote a couple of both of our high schools’ blanches or preferent, Christopher Columbus High School, I mean, they’re their schools. And maybe you don’t realize it as a younger man. But there are schools that really preach giving back to the community. And, you know, like I said, you know, Berlin and Columbus have been a little rivalry, although it’s not really a rivalry in football.
Until you beat us, it can’t be a rivalry. But right, right, right. Away, obviously, we’ve got lots of mutual friends. And as much as there’s fun jostling back and forth, there is a ton of mutual respect between Columbus and Berlin.
That’s correct. And like I said, I, I have a lot of Columbus clients, and it’s important that we get to give back to the community. And like I said, I, I’ve always believed that that’s something that’s really preached by the kind of schools that we’ve gotten to the religious background. I mean, they, you know, like I said, whether you’re paying attention or not, they’re really there is incumbent upon their students to give back to the community. And, you know, as I said, you that just becomes part of your DNA. And I really enjoyed it. The I started out with keeping up with bar stuff in the Cuban American Bar Association, where I was president, and that organization really helped me. I mean, I mean, I’ll tell you, it helped me grow as a person as a lawyer. You know, you become president of the Cuban American Bar Association in Miami, you know, you gotta raise your game, you know?
and so, tiny organization, yeah, no, and,
and I found that I really mean, I think I found that I really enjoyed it and gave me an opportunity to, I’m a big fan of lawyers. I mean, your, your, I mean, the name of the show, and, you know, obviously lawyers get a lot of criticism, some of it deserved much of it, not, in my opinion. I mean, I love I love, you know, lawyers, they give back to the community, they contribute to causes. I mean, they make sure things are done, well done correctly. And so, I’m a big fan of lawyers, and they gave me opportunities to interact with more lawyers. And so, after the Cuban American Bar Association, just happened to be an opening in the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar. And I joined the organization and you know, and because I’m an ambitious, you know, um, you know, when I was younger, maybe more ambitious, but, you know, I guess still ambitious. And so I, what I found was, I really, I enjoyed the work. I mean, I thought that you make life a little bit easier for lawyers, you know, that that was attractive to me. And so, the, the Florida and the Board of Governors, I mean, it’s just an amazing group of people I 53 people from across the state that are they’re typically very well accomplished shores, but also, you know, it’s important for them to get back to community it’s important for them to try to, like I said, Make lives make the professional lives of lawyers better, you know, wholeness, wholeness, health, health and wellness is a big issue, obviously, for Lori’s has been for several years. Now, obviously, the pandemic really aggravated the situation. And so you know, we were trying to make efforts to do what we can and make the daily life of water much easier. And people are just phenomenal. And I deal quite a bit obviously with the staff, the Florida bar staff in Tallahassee, the executive director going to Josh Doyle. And I mean, he’s really one of the best people that I’ve ever met. And just a fantastic guy smart. It’s I truly enjoy working with Josh and his team of people. I guess I didn’t know that I know anybody better. And so, the whole staff of the Florida Bar is just fantastic. They, they’re professional, they’re, they’re, they’re good people. The Florida Bar is actually, you know, is one of this is one of the leading bars in the United States of America, not only not only in size, obviously, but in terms of projects and cutting edge stuff. And, you know, the executive director of the Florida Bar is one of the most, one of the most respected if not the most respected executive director of a bar organization in the United States. So I said it, it’s a lot of work. And you know, some people think it’s a little bit of a boondoggle, but it’s not, I mean, we sort of pay for everything. And so it, you know, it’s a, it’s not for everybody, because it can be expensive, traveling across the state for the meetings and taking time away from, from your practice and from your families. But, so I, I really enjoyed it, I it’s, I’ve been fortunate to be able to be a part of it.
Well, I’m grateful as a lawyer to have people like you, on that board of governors, because we have, we’ve seen it personally and through other friends. The stress of being a lawyer is hard enough, and now you had the pandemic, which has impacted everybody, obviously, but being isolated, I think you’re seeing levels of depression and the whole aspect of, of kind of working together to get through this, as a legal profession and as a community, I think is extraordinarily important.
And, you know, and the thing is, you know, lawyers need, you know, no one likes to see their lawyer other than being Superman or Superwoman. Right. And the truth of matter is, we’re not I mean, we, you know, that’s not something we can maintain 24/7 And so, you know, lawyers in particular have to show you know, strength and courage and passion and, you know, it fill in the blanks, and, and we’re obviously still human beings. But you know, we can’t we can never show any weakness, we can never show that we’re tired that, you know, we’re stressed out, etc., as the case may be. And, and the pandemic is only aggravated those situations, because in the middle of this, he said, just bizarre, horrible situation, you know, you David Halford, and you still got to carry the same caseload, you still have to solve all our problems, you still have to respond to all our calls and respond to all your emails and deadlines, etc. And I mean, you’re only human David. I mean, there’s only so much you can do and yeah, no, no, the pandemic is, is, is really, it’s a, it’s been a difficult time, I think, for lawyers in many different levels. But I think, frankly, I think 2022 is going to be a great year for all lawyers, and I think we’re going to finally get to some level of, you know, whatever normal is going to be, but it but it’s, I think it’s on the cusp, I’m hoping, by the end of January, this sort of variants gotten, you know, it’s gotten past and beyond it, it’s, you know, you don’t have 50% of the office out of, you know, people out of the office, because they have the new variants. So, but I’m really optimistic that, you know, things are sort of stabilizing a little bit forwards.
God, let’s hope so, because I think he could have said the same thing last year at the same time. But let’s, let’s hope we’re heading there. You talk about passion quickly. One of the other things I know you’re passionate about, and obviously it shows and we cross over on some of these things. But not only the legal community, you’re passionate about South Florida and giving back to South Florida. And I think again, I see that echoed throughout your firm of what your partners do and what you do. But, you know, we’re on the orange ball committee together. I see you’re on the school board, Chamber of Commerce, okay. All of these type things. So why is it important for you to give back to South Florida in a non legal basis?
You know, I like you I have children, right. And the more I invest in South Florida, the more the better place that it becomes, the more likely my children stay here. My friends do my family stays here. I mean, I you know, where we’re invested in Miami, I’m not going to be going anywhere. I mean, I really and this place is it’s a special place. I really do believe that with all my heart. And, you know, I mean, things like the Orange Bowl committee gives me an opportunity. You know, although we’re litigator I will No, no, not run into But through the Orange Bowl committee, I get to spend some time with David Heffernan and, you know, catch up, do a little bit get into community showcase South Florida for what a wonderful area is. And I mean, I said, it’s, I couldn’t think of doing anything else. But that is part of my DNA, you know, just waking up, although, and I can You can attest to that. It’s not easy. I mean, I know, it’s, you’re juggling a lot of balls. I mean, you, I mean, you, you’ve been on the arms about 20 longer than I have, and you’ve been a stalwart and that and you know, your, your name carries significant credibility, and with the Orange Book Company, like, so I might, what you did what you still do for the orange book, but I mean, I love it. It’s the same thing as the Florida Bar, by the way to David, it gives me you know, give me opportunity to work with people like you, right. I mean, that’s, you know, good work can be a grind. But working in the Orange Bowl committee, people meeting people like you, that are as passionate about South Florida want to do some good. And at the same time, you know, have a little bit of fun. I mean, you know, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Good stuff. Good stuff, for sure. We got a few minutes left, and I want to talk about one last thing that we could do an entire show in multiple shows about, but that I know is a passion of yours passion of your firm’s. Also with the Orange Bowl, but diversity. I know, it’s extraordinarily important to you, that your firm and your client telling me represent the people of what South Florida looks like what South Florida is, and the legal profession is one that trust me. I mean, I’m an old white guy. So you know, we were, we were the face of it. But to see that change, and again, not just as it goes organically, but being proactive to say, we’re going to make sure that we’re getting the quality people that represent what South Florida is. So why is diversity so important to you and your firm?
Well, let me say this, David Everett, and as part of the solution, okay, part of that part of the problem, and you know, you said you’re obviously a white man, but David Heffernan, his party, that’s part of the solution. I mean, the way you think, your contributions, I mean, like I said, I wish everyone was, was like David Heffernan, um, you know, I mean, listen to it, you know, people need to be engaged, and it just can’t be sort of the same kind of person being engaged. You know, you. The other day, I walked through the Miami Dade County Bar Association, and then the first 30 or 40 pictures were just white man. Right, right. And so from my perspective, it’s really unique, because, you know, Miami needs to be among the most diverse places. A lot perspective, a business perspective, every perspective, because we are such a diverse community. And, you know, they let people know that there are opportunities, you know, let’s, you know, I was born in Cuba, I mean, so I mean, I I’m so grateful for this country for everything that it’s done for me. But it’s, you know, it, you know, when someone like me can, can be get on the Board of Governors can you know, maybe one day, you know, ball, things work out, well become president of the Florida Bar, it lets people know that, hey, man, even though there’s not, let’s say, a natural road for me to get to the top, there is an opportunity if you work hard, if you stay engaged, if you know, if you’re if you’re authentic, and I always tell people, you know, be who they are. And so I think it’s important for people to know, of every of every gender of every race and every ethnicity, that, you know, every opportunity to be the president, the Chairman, on the committee and a board of governors on our school committee, for them to know that, you know, I think it’s a great message for that we send to the community, to be involved, to be engaged, you know, and you can do some good in the community, and you can be a leader in the process. And I think that’s important. But I think South Florida has really matured and evolved in a wonderful way, in so many different ways. Like, I think you see that on the bench, right? I mean, it used to be many years that, you know, if you had a if you had, if you had a z if you had a z in your surname that you get you get elected, but I like I really believe that the community has evolved that, you know, the best person will when the person gets their message out for it for judicial races, for example. It’s not just a Hispanic surname is going to be is going to be the winner of a judicial election. So I think that diversity, like I said, it just helps a community entirely. And it is important, like I said, all the organization that we’re involved in, it’s extremely important for all those organizations as well, too.
Well, I’m ready and I’m flexible because I do a lot of cycling and there’s a ride in Orlando called torta Latino and it supports Latino community, businesses and everything else. So the guys that I ride with, many of them are Hispanic and I joked He said with them well, is it going to be okay if I ride in it? They said, Yeah, just register as David Fernandez. So I got an alias I can go by just in case I need it. Yeah, but here’s the simple thing you clearly have my vote if and when you run for Florida, president and Florida Bar, I think you do an outstanding job. And I think you’ve got a vote of all our viewers that we can take you off the kill list. Roland Sanchez Medina, phenomenal lawyer, great firm. But more importantly, better human being guy that cares about South Florida cares about this community. More importantly, I’m glad somebody can call my friend, Roland, thanks for being with us.
Thank you, David and the opportunity. I said, I feel honored for this opportunity to be on your show, man. Thank you very much.
Well, I appreciate it. We’ll see you soon. And that’s it for this episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. We’ll see you guys next next!
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