2 min read September 2023 — Invest: was joined by Hala Sandridge, shareholder and Tampa office head of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, to discuss how the firm has aligned with South Florida’s growth and how its reputation has led to more diverse opportunities. “Our firm wants to make sure we have the talent and associated skills to support that growth and the new industries coming into town,” she said.
What have been your key takeaways from the past year?
One of the obvious key events for the firm is Florida’s explosion as a hub for technology and mergers and acquisitions, which has corresponded with the growth of all our offices in Tampa, Miami, Tallahassee, and Fort Lauderdale. The significant growth in this region reaffirms why Florida is a key strategic region for growth for our national firm.
What is your assessment of Florida’s economic growth right now?
Our growth reflects Florida’s growth. Our mergers and acquisitions team has grown dramatically over the past five years in Tampa, and we’ve just hired a new M&A attorney, Richard Montes de Oca in Miami, who has an international client base. Anything connected with real estate, land development and the growth of Florida’s infrastructure is also booming. I represent many developers throughout the state; my most rewarding work over the past few years has been assisting large developers with their litigation throughout Florida. Watching Florida grow and the firm’s expansion here has been exciting for us because it has been a strategic focus for the firm. I’m proud that our teams here have helped Florida businesses achieve more success.
How is your firm thinking outside the box when serving clients?
If there is one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that talented attorneys can be anywhere in the U.S. and still service clients well. There used to be a great reluctance to use attorneys from another office or state on local matters, but no one thinks that way anymore. At Buchanan, we work across practice areas and our 15 different offices to ensure that we have a team that deeply understands the client’s industry and the legal needs of that industry. For example, when it comes to privacy class actions, I work very closely with Jennifer Oliver, an attorney in our San Diego office, who brings deep experience in that particular practice area that is valuable to our clients.
What are some regulations and legislation you’re currently monitoring?
There are two broad areas. Number one is land development. We are in growth mode in Florida and the legislature has enacted helpful legislation to encourage continued growth. We expect there to be some efforts to undo that legislation, so we will continue to work with our clients to mitigate their risk and protect their businesses.
SB250 is an important development. The legislation prevents local governments who are within 100 miles of Hurricane Ian and Nicole from enacting any laws that make it more restrictive or burdensome to develop a property. The state’s goal is to reduce impediments to residents and businesses for rebuilding. It puts the brakes on local governments within these hurricane zones from enacting any new code or ordinances that would impede, restrict and cause burdens to rebuild a home or bring a business back.
Number two is privacy and technology. We are witnessing a significant increase in class action lawsuits aimed at hospitals, businesses and industries allegedly disclosing personal information. The plaintiffs’ bar has become very creative citing statutes that were not meant to address this scenario, but have filed many lawsuits, nonetheless. This may be resolved in the court system, but I see some legislative fixes on the horizon and I would expect that various industry groups will get together to insist the legislature take action on this.
Session will be in January 2024, with committee meetings starting in September, so we are already working with clients to determine what help they need legislatively with our impressive Government Relations team in our Tallahassee office. We are coordinating with our clients to figure out what’s important to them and how recent legislative fixes have worked for them. We’ll continue to work closely with them to help them achieve their goals.
What are some significant challenges the legal industry is tackling right now?
There is a lot of diversity in the industries around Tampa. Our firm seeks to ensure we have the talent and associated skills to support that growth and the new industries moving into town. Our big challenge will be finding all that talent to serve this boom we are experiencing in the Tampa Bay area.
Is there a significant backlog in the courts since the pandemic?
The pandemic caused many issues and the judiciary experienced delays, stoppages, etc., just like every other industry. But the Florida Supreme Court and various task forces have ensured the legal system is moving faster and resolving cases. While I’ve heard of some places where it’s supposedly difficult to obtain a timely hearing date, I’m finding that not to be the case here in Florida. So, lawsuits are moving quickly now because judges want to clear their dockets and provide timely justice.
What is your assessment of Tampa Bay’s overall growth?
It was only five years ago that Tampa Bay was one of Florida’s best kept secrets. As the city grows, both opportunities and problems will increase. For example, we’re balancing increased job opportunities bringing more people to the city with increased prices in the residential rental market. And although we are bringing in new companies and industries with higher paying jobs, we still have to consider how Tampanians can feasibly build and most importantly, sustain a life here. Overall, it is a time of great opportunity, and it has been exciting to be a part of it with our clients in the region.
What is your outlook over the next few years?
It’s rosy. Our firm is in the right city, at the right time, with the right mix of talent. I’m most excited that our firm and office has such a great reputation for collaboration. I’m proud of that because collaboration is one of the greatest recipes for success in the legal field, versus firms where attorneys work in silos. To hear attorneys that I interview tell me that’s our reputation, it really makes my day.
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