By: María José Granados-Godoy
My journey to becoming the owner of an award-winning US law firm recognized for innovation, and being a “Rockstar” in the legal industry, started in Colombia. While I was growing up there in the 90s it was going through a difficult and violent transition. We lived in constant fear, and as a young girl, I couldn’t even go to the park to play.
My parents decided to move us all to the US for a year, to let the turmoil settle in Colombia. My dad set up a gas station, the same business he ran in Colombia, and we realized how much more free we were. I could actually ride my bike to school, and we could all breathe more easily. That plan to stay for a year changed to staying permanently.
My dad knew the gas station business. He had been a very successful owner back in Colombia, and recognized as one of the top owners in the industry. But what he didn’t understand was the US legal system. He started his business in Doral without proper counsel, and without knowing where to find it. The attorneys and accountants he did find took advantage of his lack of knowledge of the U.S. system. Their prolonged billing practices and narrowly-focused advice nearly killed my dad’s U.S. business and with it, our American dream. There were many times my dad was left feeling what so many entrepreneurs feel – lonely and vulnerable.
Fortunately, things did eventually turn around, but it was out of that experience that a deep-seated need formed in me to help others avoid those unnecessary struggles. I didn’t fully understand it until later, but life ultimately led to me becoming a lawyer and owning my own law firm so I could be the kind of lawyer my father needed all those years ago. The kind of lawyer that gives advice with the big-picture in mind, provides the tools needed to enter the American market with strength, and who measures her success by her clients’ success.
Of course, the path has not been easy for me, either. Over the last 14 years, I’ve experienced many of the same ups and downs that my clients face every day. Sales, marketing, operations, human resources… I know what my clients are going through because I’ve not only been in their shoes, I’m still in them today. And as their lawyer, I’ve had to learn how to use the system to propel my business, instead of drag me down.
That’s why I knew SimplyLegal had to be a different kind of law firm, even at a great cost. We went from being one of the fastest-growing firms in the country with strong revenues to starting over from scratch when my former partner and I decided to part ways. I just could not operate in the “traditional” law firm model any longer.
I refuse for our firm to just be a group of experts that our clients are afraid to call because they’re being billed in 6-minute increments. We are dedicated to building relationships based on trust, an abundance of communication, and a mutual desire to provide strategic legal advice tailored to their specific company so they can grow as quickly, and securely, as possible. And that’s all done within a system designed to simplify the processes for my clients in every way we can. That’s why we are SimplyLegal.
Ultimately, it is my heritage as a Colombian immigrant that drives me every day to make sure my clients aren’t being taken advantage of, and have the level of freedom in their business they deserve. And it is my experience pursuing that same freedom in my own firm that allows me to not only be my client’s lawyer, but to be their trusted advisor, dedicated to giving innovative entrepreneurs the legal foundations to build their dreams.