3 min read May 2023 — Foley Mansfield is a national defense law firm that provides legal expertise, creative solutions and extensive trial experience across multiple jurisdictions. Invest: spoke with Timothy Ferguson, the managing partner of the firm’s Miami office, about how the firm is navigating today’s market conditions, changes in the legal sector and his outlook for the near term.
What have been some key issues the legal sector has been grappling with?
There have been changes recently to tort reform that the legal field has to adapt to and this has led to a large increase in filings to beat the deadlines. There have been changes around the statute of limitation issues on personal injury. We have seen a massive number of filings to beat the deadline of when the bill went into effect. There have been some major plaintiff’s law firms reacting to the passage of the new law and who have vowed to take on the defense firms and insurance lobby, all of which may be impacting individual businesses as well. The bill first originated as a way to tackle the property insurance issue, by capping the attorney’s fees that were considered by some to be the driving force behind litigation for filing lawsuits. The push on that legislation expanded into an all-encompassing bill that now involves medical damages that can be claimed and has shortened the statute of limitations from four to two years, among other things. The bill has been put in place and there’s been a great reaction by the plaintiff’s bar to some of these caps that cut into the recovery that their clients can get and will be interesting to see how this impact settlement negotiations going forward.
Where does Foley Mansfield see the greatest demand for its practice areas?
The cannabis industry is exciting and I do see potential growth there, although I do see some limiting actions, unfortunately, by the agricultural secretary and commissioners, such as the reinterpretation of the definition hemp. People in the marketplace are concerned about that and how we’re rolling back our progress on hemp and cannabis legislation.
I also head up the product liability and toxic tort division for the Miami office. As part of that, I represent several talc clients. Talc has been integrated into so many products and the large spectrum that covers talc litigation is ever-evolving. This is the next big wave of asbestos litigation because the argument by the plaintiff’s counsel is that there are veins of talc mines that are contaminated with asbestos, which results in mesothelioma, which is denied by the defendants. Cosmetic manufacturers, retailers, distributors, suppliers and everyone across the chain are concerned about these lawsuits and the large verdicts that result from them.
How have you seen the legal sector change and grow?
The way we do business has changed a lot. Now, all hearings are online via Zoom. We did have Zoom trials before and now we are finally back to live trials. It’s also changed the way we employ people, as employees are looking for work-from-home. Our firm is a hybrid system and we are saving money because we don’t need the large office space anymore and even going to a system of hoteling for certain individuals who only come in when they need to. It also allows to cast a broader net for talent. For instance, my paralegal is out of Indianapolis, so we are able to take advantage of her talents and still work very effectively because we’re completely online, and getting ready for trial is just a matter of working out the logistics. Some firms have gone back to the traditional way of doing things but the traditional model is not sustainable because people are going to want to be on Zoom or working at home. The real challenge is maintaining the connection with my team. We have weekly team meetings and quarterly get-togethers to maintain culture. This allows our team to work from home but still maintain that connection and has allowed us to retain great talent and also attract new talent as well.
How have you seen that cultural theme manifest in terms of the professional development of the new generation?
It comes down to essentially picking your people. In our firm, we like to hold ourselves out as being different from your typical defense firm. We’re very family and employee-oriented. But what does that take? You need to make sure you find people with the same priorities and ethos that your firm has. This has been the same story for every generation and even though we’re retreading old ground where we keep saying the younger generation doesn’t understand, I don’t necessarily think that’s true. It just means that there has to be a different way to communicate and motivate them. The younger attorneys coming in want to provide and still do a great job. But they also have reprioritized lifestyles and mental health. The myth of saying that younger folks are not as engaged is not right. It’s a matter of finding what motivates people. Once you tap into that, the rest will fall into place.
What is the general outlook for your firm and for the Miami region over the next two to three years?
What makes my work so much better is the team that I have and any success that our firm has is only attributable to the people that we surround ourselves with. For me, I just want to say thank you to my firm and team for being so very supportive.
Overall, the future of Miami is bright. We still have some infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. I used to work for a firm in Brickell and we would have unacceptable flooding issues there. Going forward, if we’re going to get and maintain businesses here in Florida, we need to invest in infrastructure. In the short term though, Miami is going to do well. I’m very optimistic about the city and I don’t see the growth slowing down as long as there is no creation of laws that could impair growth and peoples’ ability to work. Plenty of people of moving to Miami each day. There’s a reason why — it’s a wonderful place to work and live.
For more information, visit: