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Rookies, Again

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One of the biggest problems facing the legal profession is — wait for it — lawyers themselves. Several studies show there are too many vying for too few jobs.

Erin Jackson and Kevin Johnson are doing their part to remedy that problem.

The pair of veteran employment law attorneys recently left Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, P.A., in Tampa, to launch their own law firm, Johnson Jackson LLC. The new firm, in offices at 100 N. Tampa St. in downtown Tampa, opened in April. “We were both looking for professional autonomy, and we saw an opportunity that would take us in that direction,” says Jackson.

The move, which creates two potential openings for attorneys at Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing, has been a long time coming for Jackson and Johnson. They both spent their entire careers at their previous firm, and neither had ever started a business before launching Johnson Jackson LLC.

“I was there 22 years; she was there 17,” says Johnson. “So, I guess I'm a 22-year rookie at this.”

They will have some help.

Jackson and Johnson brought with them five colleagues from Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing: Christopher Bentley, LaKisha Kinsey-Sallis, Bridget McNamee, Christopher Johnson and Ashley Tinsley. Bentley and Kinsey-Sallis joined the new firm as partners, while McNamee is a senior associate and Johnson and Tinsley are associates. There are an additional six employees in supporting roles, including firm administrator Brad Jackson (Erin's husband), who handles the business affairs.

“We're very fortunate because Brad used to run an insurance agency — he was an entrepreneur himself,” Johnson says. “And he had just sold [his company], and it was a great opportunity to be able to have him help us to do this.”

The enterprise is self-financed, Johnson adds. “You go down to the bank and you talk to them, and you see how far they're willing to go out on a limb with you ... it's our capital at risk.”

Jackson, 42, and Johnson, 47, say the firm's focus will be management-side employment law, with a client list that includes national restaurant chains and manufacturing companies.

The new-firm risk is mitigated, somewhat, because the founders brought a number of clients with them when they left Thompson, Sizemore, Gonzalez & Hearing. “We were very fortunate that they trusted us and came with us in terms of a lot of clients that we had worked with for a long time,” says Johnson.

Johnson says the firm plans to embrace mobile and cloud computing technology as a way to make its mark on the legal scene and continue to attract new clients. “There are some opportunities out there for small law firms to compete with the larger law firms,” he says. “And one of the things that we'd like to focus on is technology and the ability to really use that to enhance our ability to practice away from the office and to be highly responsive to what our clients' needs are.”

Mentoring is another firm priority.

“It's a smart thing to do as a business, to focus on the development of people who are going to take care of your clients,” Johnson says. “If you want them to be there to service those clients on a long-term basis and to help, you've got to provide opportunities for them to learn and to grow, and to get to where they want to go.”

Johnson and Jackson say they've already committed to hiring another full-time lawyer in 2018, and additional hires are possible. “We're evaluating where we stand and seeing how fast it's going to grow and what our expectations are,” Johnson says. “It's tricky business making those predictions, and so you have to be careful.”


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