By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read December 2019 — A greater number of law firms in the Tampa Bay market may be a concern to some but for firms in the Tampa Bay region, these new legal-focused businesses are welcomed. Bill Schifino, the managing shareholder for Gunster’s Tampa Office, believes there is plenty of work for quality law firms throughout the region and that the collaborative environment between the various firms in Tampa Bay is a benefit to both his office’s practice and its clients.
Do you believe there is enough work to meet the increased supply of law firms in the region?
There is plenty of legal work in Tampa Bay for quality law firms and competent lawyers. I have been in this marketplace for 33 years, and the way law firms interact with one another has relatively remained the same. The law firms in this region play well together, and we refer work back and forth to one another because we sometimes have inherent conflicts in our cases. For example, if there is a business litigation case that involves multiple parties and the lawyer can’t represent them all, that lawyer will call other lawyers who may have been on the other side in a similar case in the past but who are capable and competent. So while I may have a case where I’ll see a credible law firm on the other side, one day they may be joining with me to help defend another group on a different case.
How does Gunster’s statewide presence benefit your clients?
One of Gunster’s attractions for me was the fact that I can offer my clients statewide coverage in all of the key markets. When I have a client with an issue, whether it be in Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Jacksonville, we can make sure they are covered because we have 200-plus lawyers around the state. It also helps that we have some of the best and brightest lawyers Florida has to offer. If I have a client with an issue-based question, and I do not have the talent here in Tampa to address it, I can consult someone from one of our other offices who has expertise in this area. This is how we handle all of our clients’ needs. Gunster also is a big believer in their lawyers serving their community, which is why you will see the firm extremely active in our respective markets.
How important is being a steward of one’s community to the success of a law firm?
A law firm cannot attract the right talent without a commitment to community service, service to the profession and pro bono work. It is critically important that we as professionals give back to those less fortunate. Within the Florida Bar, a big focus is access to justice. In the criminal justice system, if you’re indigent then you are constitutionally entitled to a public defender, but what if you are someone that just really cannot afford a lawyer and are on the cusp of being below the poverty level? What happens if that person all of a sudden has a traumatic event in their life, and cannot get free legal service? We need to address how we as a profession can make certain that those people are being taken care of. The Florida Bar works extremely hard at addressing this issue, along with lawyers providing millions of dollars in pro bono hours to those in need throughout their community.
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