Wicker Smith: 70 Years of Unparalleled Service
With 70 years of outstanding leadership and a talented team of attorneys, Wicker Smith has set a standard within Florida’s legal communities to which others aspire. Growing from a partnership between Idus Q. Wicker and James A. Smith formed in 1952, this celebrated firm has grown substantially in both the number of skilled attorneys and staff members as well as geographic locations. Now, with 16 offices and more than 250 attorneys, Wicker Smith is one of the largest and most notable firms based in Florida.
Some 21 years after this original partnership formed, the firm began expansion with the addition of three new named partners, changing the official name of the firm to Wicker, Smith, Pyszka, Blomqvist and Davant. In 1975, the firm opened its second location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The firm name was officially changed to Wicker, Smith, O’Hara, McCoy & Ford, P.A. on May 3, 2007.
Today, Wicker Smith has expanded to 16 locations with 12 Florida locations in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Palmetto Bay, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Key Largo, as well as Phoenix, Arizona; Atlanta, Georgia; Brunswick, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee.
Attorney at Law Magazine had the opportunity to speak with the four Wicker Smith managing partners. Richards “Dick” Ford, Nicholas “Nick” Christin, Oscar Cabanas, and Richard “Rick” Ramsey all shared their experiences with the firm and what they see for the future.
I think the biggest change is how the firm has embraced diversity. I’m a perfect example being Cuban American. And we will continue to be a leader in the movement toward greater diversity.
Perhaps one of the most notable and telling aspects of this established firm is the high retention rate of their attorneys. In fact, Wicker Smith holds the distinction of being one of those rare firms whose attorneys and support staff seem to be there for the long haul. Unlike the popular trend of moving from firm to firm, those at Wicker Smith share a loyalty that translates into long-term employment.
According to these managing partners there are good reasons for that loyalty. Dick Ford from the Orlando office explains it this way, “If you’re looking for a place where you can grow professionally and become a polished trial lawyer, we offer the experience and foundation for that. If you have a desire to do more, have a higher calling to further explore whatever specialty you’re involved in, this is the place where you can do all that.”
Rick Ramsey has similar thoughts, addressing the uniqueness of this long-term loyalty. “It’s an interesting concept in this day and age when there’s so much jumping around from job to job. We have junior and senior partners that have been here for literally decades. I think there’s a culture in the firm that breeds that kind of loyalty. If you have talents, this is the place for you because no one is going to get in your way or throw up roadblocks. You’re going to get the opportunity to have as much client interaction as you like and try as many cases as you want and be rewarded for it. I think that’s why I’ve stayed and why so many other people have stayed too.”
“If you’re looking for a place where you can grow professionally and become a polished trial lawyer, we offer the experience and foundation for that. If you have a desire to do more, have a higher calling to further explore whatever specialty you’re involved in, this is the place where you can do all that.”
Nick Christin, who has been with Wicker Smith since 1997 when he was brought on as a managing partner, has been very instrumental in the firm’s growth and expansion.
“When I first became a managing partner, we primarily worked on just medical malpractice and nursing homes cases. I changed that. I thought we should diversify into more areas of litigation and into more areas of the state. As we grew, we chose to subscribe to a philosophy of transferring our own people to open new offices rather than acquiring offices in various cities and using that staff. Everyone told me it couldn’t be done, but it has worked beautifully. All you have to do is look at Dick Ford who moved from Miami to Orlando, to see how successful this plan has worked.”
The firm has grown in other ways as well, including becoming more diversified and inclusive, a move that began long before it became the popular trend.
“The changes I’ve seen in the culture of the firm seems to have evolved with the times,” says Oscar Cabanas. “It used to be very old-school where everyone wore a suit every day, now it’s a more casual atmosphere. Of course, we’ve also embraced technology and learned to really utilize all the advances to better serve our clients.
“I think the biggest change is how the firm has embraced diversity. I’m a perfect example being Cuban American. And we will continue to be a leader in the movement toward greater diversity.”
“Since I joined the firm, I have personally pressed for more diversity and the inclusion of women,” says Christin. “AmLaw studies the top 500 firms as far as how many women are not only on staff, but who also hold management positions. On the 2021 scorecard we were ranked 19th in the country and we’re very proud of that.”
Wicker Smith is a name synonymous with individualized service and the promise of working with some of the best legal minds in the country. Built on a powerful foundation of trust and consistency, the individual offices are all unique as they have adapted and effortlessly become integral members of their communities. Forging strong ties and meaningful relationships within their individual communities, the office cultures reflect these differences.
“I’m in Miami, but each office has its own personality,” says Cabanas. “I think Miami is a laid-back eclectic office. Generally, I believe that’s the tone of most offices but each one has its own personality and relates to the community where they are located.”
Located in Jacksonville, Ramsey describes his office as very collaborative. “We are a collaborative group and freely mentor and teach the younger attorneys,” he says. “We’re pretty flexible, some attorneys work from home, but we try to socialize and get together for dinners and trivia nights.”
“Above all else, we are a trial firm,” says Christin. “And we are well-known for our accomplishments in court in multiple jurisdictions and practice areas.”
Like a large, supportive family, the attorneys throughout the firm collaborate and support one another. No one is in it alone, but rather, backed by the large team of attorneys regardless of where they might be located. Mentorship, whether in a formal capacity or a more organic relationship between senior attorneys and those new to the firm, has played an important role in the success of the firm as well.
“I just recently sent an email to my primary mentor, Dick Ford, specifically regarding the help he has given me throughout the years,” says Ramsey. “I came here as a three-year lawyer from another firm, and I’ve been here for 32-plus years. I’ve worked with him the whole time. He was a fantastic mentor and I thank him all the time because he had a tremendous impact on my career. He taught me an awful lot, both about the practice of law as well as running an office.”
As most attorneys will attest, long hours are a common aspect of practicing law and serving your clients, but it can play havoc with family life. However, according to Ford, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“It can be challenging maintaining a good balance, but I think if you look at the partners who have succeeded in the firm, they have developed a good work/life balance,” he says. “It’s not like a big law culture where we’re asking people to spend 18 hours a day the first 10 years so that you get the golden ring. We have many lawyers who have been here for multiple decades who have not only a great professional life but also a great family life.”
Now entering their 71st year, Wicker Smith has consistently proven they are worthy of the high regard they enjoy amongst their peers. Their impressive history of handling complex litigation in both state and federal courts is just one of the reasons they are the first choice among many national corporations to serve as national counsel. Despite their growth over the years, the firm has retained their original commitment in providing personalized service and quality representation.
“We are proud to celebrate this milestone anniversary,” says Ford, “The growth and success of Wicker Smith are the results of our exceptional attorneys and staff and their commitment to our clients and each other. So many exciting things have happened over the past 70+ years, and we are very proud to reach this milestone. It continues to be our privilege to help our clients rise to their most complicated challenges, and we are both proud of the firm’s past and excited for its future.”
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