Attorney at LAw MAgazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Craig Goldenfarb to discuss his firm and what he hopes to accomplish in the future.
AALM: When did you first know you wanted to become an attorney? What drew you to this career?
Goldenfarb: I knew I wanted to be an attorney when I was very young. My mother was a criminal defense attorney in the 1970s and I was fascinated by her job. I loved that law was never about a right or wrong answer; it focused on the analysis of the issue.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way?
Goldenfarb: My mentor is my father-in-law. He is a personal injury attorney in Miami and owns a large firm. He took a risk on me and hired me when I graduated from law school, when I was merely dating his daughter. He taught me how to be a trial lawyer and how to run a successful business. I married his daughter, and he has been my good friend and mentor for 22 years.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Goldenfarb: I love to fail. Thomas Edison, when looking for a filament for the light bulb, considered a day a success if he found out 100 substances that did not work as a filament. That way, he could cross 100 possibilities off his list. He ultimately discovered the right substance. Likewise, when I try new procedures, marketing strategies or other things that fail, I know I can cross those attempts off my list.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about your practice?
Goldenfarb: My practice is extremely rewarding because I truly care about my employees’ experience and my clients’ experience. The mission of my law firm is to create happy employees, which will create satisfied clients. I love running my business and I love separating insurance companies from their money.
AALM: What do you find particularly challenging about your practice? How to you overcome these challenges?
Goldenfarb: The most challenging part of my practice is maintaining a healthy balance between leadership and micromanagement. I have a type A personality, which leads to a tendency to want to do everything myself. However, part of leadership of a large law firm is hiring people who I trust, and being able to step aside and let them do their jobs.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional?
Goldenfarb: I think the number one trait that makes an attorney exceptional is the ability to lead and motivate others. In my office, I have seven department heads, and my goal is to train each of them to be leaders within their department. We spend a great deal of time talking about leadership skills and skill sets. A good attorney is a competent legal technician. A great attorney is a leader.
AALM: What compelled you to start your own practice?
Goldenfarb: I started my law firm more than 15 years ago. My desire to lead a strong group of talented people led me to want to have my own firm and be my own boss. Now, I have more than 50 employees, who are all vested in the success of the firm, in many ways. I provide incentives and measurable goals for every department in my law firm, so that each person feels that they are accountable, and part of something larger than themselves.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
Goldenfarb: The culture of my firm is excellent. I have an amazing office administrator who trained at Disney World. Her mission is to provide as close to a drama-free office as possible, with more than 50 employees, which is certainly a challenge. We want each employee to feel like they are cared about and valued. I go to lunch with every employee after their 90-day probation period to get to know them. This goes a long way in helping build a culture of caring about others.
AALM: Tell us about your fellow attorneys at the firm? How do you work together?
Goldenfarb: I have five lawyers beside myself at my law firm – four litigators and one pre-suit lawyer. We each have consistent measurable goals we have to reach, in order for the firm to be successful. We are competitive, but it helps us hold each other accountable. When the group succeeds, we all succeed.This leads to a very healthy relationship between us all.
AALM: What case most defined or redefined your practice?
Goldenfarb: The case that most defined my practice was a wrongful death case I settled a few years ago for a significant sum. My client, a tow truck driver, was killed by a commercial vehicle driver who was on drugs at the time of the accident. At mediation, when I presented a video of my client playing with his three children the Christmas before he died, the whole room was in tears, including me. As a father, that case took a lot out of me and made me appreciate my family.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Goldenfarb: The accomplishment I am most proud of achieving is the development of my ability to build a large law firm through simply learning how to lead. I have taken numerous courses in business management and in how to run a law firm, but I have found that the most important skill is leadership. I have now started to coach other personal injury attorneys as a side business, which is very rewarding, and may turn into my semi-retirement plan, when I get older.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Goldenfarb: Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my wife and two teenaged daughters. I still play soccer, and I coach both of my girls in soccer. I am very active physically, and so is my family. We love to go on several vacations per year, and we seem to gravitate to the national parks, where we can truly detox.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future? Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10?
Goldenfarb: What I want to accomplish in the future is to keep my firm the same size, but to continue to perfect my policies and procedures. Every successful organization is not run by its people, but by its structure. I want to be able to have a perfect law firm structure, which is a challenging goal. In five or 10 years, I want to be slowing down a bit and coaching other lawyers how to build their practices.
AALM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Goldenfarb: I have succeeded through the help of many other people. I had a mentor when I graduated from law school who taught me how to build a law firm. I have taken courses in life management, law firm building and many other life related and business related topics. I have found that success is built on having an insatiable desire to learn. I have dedicated myself to being a student of success. I believe I will always be a student, which will always be fun for me. I love my job.