“We defend civil litigation. It’s all trial work. Generally it relates to some type of insurance issue whether it’s defending people or businesses with insurance policies who have been sued or defending insurance companies that need representation,” says Richard B. Adams, Jr. founding partner of Adams Adams & Baca. The other founding partner of the firm is his brother, R. Wade Adams.
“My brother and I are fifth generation lawyers and second generation here in Miami. We have been practicing together in one form or another since 1979 and this firm is really the successor firm to firms that track back to the 1950s. The firm as it is today really began when my brother and I had an amical parting with three other partners. We’ve practiced together as Adams & Adams since 1991,” Adams says.
The addition of Jaime J. Baca as partner was a “natural progression,” he says. “He has been with us for many years and has proven himself to be a great trial lawyer. As he became a more mature lawyer it made sense for him to take on more responsibilities beyond just trying lawsuits. He is a major manager of the practice here.”
According to Adams, it’s difficult to allow yourself to delegate. “I think it’s a struggle for any litigator who basically likes to do things their way. But learning to trust the other people frees up time to do the non-legal work that needs to be done. That’s the most important part, that and my brother being my partner for more than 30 years. We have a pretty good split of who is in charge of what administrative areas and they naturally fit with our personalities.”
Although Adams Adams & Baca is a full service legal firm, the focus of its approximately 60 employees, including 22 trial lawyers, is defending all areas of tort litigation, handling insurance coverage issues, and engaging in an aggressive appellate practice in state and federal courts. The firm practices in every state court and the Southern and Middle District Federal Courts of Florida.
Trial, Error and Success “I would say that our edge in a truly competitive environment is that no one tries more cases for the defense than we do,” Adams says. “We believe we are well respected on both sides of the aisle. We feel we have a reputation for being honorable but tough.”
He says that he and his brother were faced with certain challenges in the early ’80s that led them into managing the business of a law firm earlier than he would have thought appropriate at the time. “It’s been a process of trial and error, but we’ve done it for many years now. In addition to the trial and error there has been a lot of trust. It’s been hiring a lot of people around us who are quality people in the areas we don’t know personally,” Adams says.
The firm’s management style is businesslike, open and flexible. Adams says, “I’d like my employees to work in a place I’d like to work in. It’s really a fairly easy way to go. If I don’t like it myself, I don’t think I should ask my employees to do it. I think you’d find that my brother and I don’t ask anyone to do anything that we don’t do ourselves. Also, we’re flexible. If somebody has a better idea we’re always ready to hear it. It’s not always best to think that you’re the smartest person in the room. We can tell each other that pretty straight.”
He says that the firm selects its attorneys with a focus on personal skills first and academics second. “We have surrounded ourselves with a very good group of trial lawyers – not just lawyers. We’re proud of the firm we’ve built over the years and we’re excited about the firm we’re going to be in the future. We’re ready to tackle civil trial needs for just about any occasion.”
Growing Through the Changes As a lifelong resident of Miami, Adams has seen the legal community through significant change. That perspective is an asset for the firm’s clients and for its future. Some of those clients have been with the firm for more than 60 years.
Due to the increase in population and the corresponding increase in the number of attorneys in the community, he feels the business tends to be more impersonal now. “There are more lawyers, for sure. We don’t get a chance to interact as professionals with the same number of people we used to. Twenty years ago, I would work with the same group of judges and lawyers regularly.”
He notes also the impact of changes in the way and style people communicate. “The older I get the bigger the gap between me and the social nature of the young lawyers who work for me and, basically, the young staff period. I guess getting used to the thought process of a younger generation is always a challenge.”
Adams Adams & Baca face challenges on the legal side as clients look for more efficiency from their lawyers. A successful firm must be able to evaluate the technology and try to ensure that the practice is becoming a more focused process and less of a seat-of-the-pants operation.
Adams says that instead of being overrun by change, the firm adapts and grows with it. “Clients all want it faster and more efficiently. It’s a constant battle here and it’s something we spend a lot of time evaluating. I would say on a daily basis we’re doing something, exploring more efficient ways to do things. We’re exploring more consistent ways to do things. We’re exploring quicker ways to communicate with each other and be in a position where more people know what’s going on so that more people can step in and handle jobs that need to be done.”
One efficient move is toward a paperless firm. The firm’s technological assets include a fully computerized state and federal library, computerized deposition and document retrieval, and billing software designed to accommodate the specific needs of individual clients.
“My goal is to make my file room the smallest room in the office. My original goal was to make the library the smallest and now we’ve pretty much done that,” Adams says.
A Growing Part of a Growing Community “Being a lifelong Miamian gives you the opportunity to see a lot of change, that’s for sure. Having grown up in the grove of the ’50s and watched it morph has been quite a ride,” Adams says.
Adams Adams & Baca is active with the Children’s Home Society of Florida. Adams has served on their board for almost 30 years and has served as its chairman statewide. The firm is also active with the Chapman Partnership, a support group for homeless men, women and families. Members also run in the corporate run every year. Adams says, “Even though we’re not a large firm, we’ve got a lot of sneakers in the race.”
Adams Adams & Baca is a firm built on trial and error, trust, deep roots in the community and, especially, a powerful relationship between siblings.
Adams says, “It really is unique to practice with your brother for more than 30 years. When I hear of people who don’t have a good family relationship it makes me sad because I don’t know anybody who is a better friend to me than my brother. If I have a tough day I’m knocking on the door in the other corner.”