Mary Beth Monzingo, with more than three decades working on the administrative and marketing side for law firms, sensed an industry comeback in 2010.
It was a counterintuitive belief. Legal services, like the overall economy, was in the dumps. Big law firms nationwide faced pressure on multiple fronts, from new pricing models to increased competition. But Monzingo particularly believed small and mid-size firms would soon look to add attorneys.
Monzingo started part time, while she handled marketing for Bradenton-based Blalock Walters, one of the oldest law firms in Manatee County. She went full time in 2013, and over the last year or so the Lakewood Ranch-based firm, Monzingo | Legal, has grown into a thriving enterprise. Monzingo now has clients in 14 states, from Florida to Texas to California.
“There's more work than I can handle,” says Monzingo, who isn't an attorney. “I'm at a turning point. I either need to hire someone or turn business away. I feel very blessed.”
Monzingo, who started her legal career in administration at a law firm in her native Houston in the 1980s, believes doing both marketing and recruiting is a natural fit. Says Monzingo: “I want to help small firms build a practice, find the right people and keep the right people.”
Monzingo has since picked up some valuable insights into what attorneys, especially young ones, seek in a job. It's intel that could apply to many other fields. “The No. 1 thing you need to find out is what motivates (the candidate) to succeed?” Monzingo says. “If you figure that out, and he or she has the right credentials, then you really can't lose.”
Another big factor when hiring lawyers: Young attorneys, like some of their under-30 brethren in other professions, aren't only in it for money or a title, Monzingo says. They crave feedback and mentors. They want to make an impact. Now.
“They don't want to sit in a room in the back and go through discovery boxes,” says Monzingo. “They want a reason for the long hours and a sense of belonging. They want to make a difference, not spin their wheels for three years.”
One challenge Monzingo faces is to convince older-generation attorneys — the ones who do the hiring in many cases — that this is the new reality to hire top-notch talent. “Paying your dues,” she says, “is somewhat lost.”
Monzingo says although that's a shift, it's not all bad. Newer attorneys, for example, are more mission-driven than ever before. They are also more willing to try new things, like marketing.
Monzingo finds the bulk of her clients from word-of-mouth referrals. She does some networking, especially in the wealth planning area, where the need for legal services is always high. “Law firms are ready to expand and grow,” says Monzingo. “There is a big opportunity out there.”
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Mary Beth Monzingo, who helps law firms recruit and retain attorneys, sees one mistake made repeatedly when practices need more lawyers: internal inertia.
Monzingo says the hiring process for attorneys could be three months, so delays represent a significant hindrance to growth. Like in any other field, the best plan is to plan for expansion. “They wait until they are desperate to hire,” says Monzingo, who runs Lakewood Ranch-based Monzingo | Legal. “And when you are desperate, you tend to hire too quickly.”