Attorney at Law Magazine Jacksonville Publisher Tom Brady sat down with Robert Riva to discuss mentors and what he finds rewarding about being an attorney.
AALM: Do you have any mentors or professors that encouraged you along the way?
Riva: I’ve been lucky to have both professors who served as mentors for me in law school as well as attorneys at Holland & Knight that mentored me as an associate and continue to mentor me today as a partner. Aside from the substantive legal items that attorneys need to learn as they progress in their careers, the mentors that I’ve had have helped me with understanding and appreciating some of the items that law students don’t typically learn in law school such as business development and client management.
AALM:What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school?
Riva: No matter what you do, you’re going to have to work hard if you want to succeed. The law school experience for me was a positive one. I learned that if I wanted to do well, there weren’t going to be any short cuts. Going to class every day with incredibly smart students and engaged professors made me appreciate the fact that I needed to work harder academically than I had in college to excel. That also meant being actively engaged in the readings and participation in classes.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about being an attorney?
Riva: As a transactional attorney, I enjoy seeing deals come together and then seeing the outcomes of those deals in real life. In a lot of cases, I can see a new real estate development that I helped a developer acquire, or I can see a building get constructed where I represented a bank that provided the construction financing. Generally speaking, the parties to real estate transaction have a common interest; one party wants to buy, and the other wants to sell. It can be rewarding to find a way to make a deal work from a client’s business perspective while ensuring that your client’s risks are properly managed and their rights are protected.
AALM: What first drew you to your firm? Tell us about your role there.
Riva: I was a summer associate at Holland & Knight in 2006 after my second year of law school. At the time, I didn’t know what area of the law I wanted to settle into. Given Holland & Knight’s size and geographic footprint, I knew that I would be exposed to a lot of different practices as a summer associate. I determined that the real estate and corporate transactional practice was where I wanted to focus my practice. I joined the firm as an associate in 2007 and became a partner in 2016. My roles have changed since becoming a partner, with more of my focus on business development, mentoring associates and client service. I enjoy working with my team of associates in Jacksonville, as well as in our Orlando, Atlanta and Miami offices.
AALM: How would you describe the culture of the firm?
Riva: Holland & Knight is one of the largest law firms in the country based on attorney count (about 1,100 attorneys), but despite the size I’ve always felt that the firm is collegial and team-oriented. One of the benefits of the firm size is the geographic footprint and the platform across the offices that I utilize for many of my clients. This also fosters a lot of cross-office collaboration on matters, so I work with attorneys in other offices daily. I also get to travel to other offices to work with my colleagues on various transaction. So far in 2017, in addition to the Jacksonville office, I’ve worked out of Holland & Knight’s Chicago, New York, Orlando, Atlanta and Miami offices for a variety of different transactional matters. In each instance, there is sense of team with the attorneys with a goal of providing excellent client service.
AALM: Tell us about your fellow attorneys at the firm? How do you work together?
Riva: I get the opportunity to work with my colleagues at Holland & Knight not just in Jacksonville, but across our multiple offices. I have access to incredibly smart and talented lawyers throughout the country. Working with my colleagues across different offices is seamless, and it allows us to serve our clients’ needs better. For example, I have a client that was a borrower on a multimillion-dollar construction loan facility, and needed legal opinions on the enforceability of the loan documents in Texas and Florida. I drafted the legal opinion on the matters of Florida law, and coordinated with my partner in Holland & Knight’s Dallas office to handle the Texas law matters. With clients increasingly expanding the scope of their business across state lines and internationally, the ability to utilize attorneys in other Holland & Knight offices has become more routine and critical to meet the needs of our clients.
AALM: Are there any changes coming in the future that you’re excited about?
Riva: The increased amalgamation of technology in the practice of law is intriguing for a variety of reasons. I’ve been amazed how much technology has changed my practice over the past 10 years. I can only imagine the impact it will have over the coming decades. Although it can be easy to get stuck in old ways, client demands have driven some of the changes. Technology tends to add efficiencies, so it will be interesting to see how the legal field responds. So far, I believe the impact has been seen more on the litigation practice than the transactional practice, but I suspect it is only a matter of time before we start to see more of an impact on the transactional side.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
Riva: Professionally, the accomplishment I am most proud of thus far in my career is making partner at Holland & Knight. I’ve been blessed and am lucky to have joined a firm that fostered my development as an attorney to the point where I was elevated to partner. Holland & Knight’s partnership track is eight years, so it’s a significant time commitment, but the attorneys and leadership at the firm greatly assisted my successes and professional development. As part of becoming partner, I’ve also made a point to support and help advance the younger associates with their careers and development, much the same as I had mentors at Holland & Knight work with me in that regard.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Riva: Over two years ago, I joined a Crucible CrossFit and that has become my primary outlet for working out and fitness, which has become very important both mentally and physically. Often, attorneys can neglect their mental and physical health given the stress and demands of our jobs, but I’ve tried my best to make a point to take time out of my day to work out. In addition, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Caroline, and our 2-year-old daughter, Morgan. We are all big Penn State football fans, so Saturdays are spent watching college football. We also like to travel and to go to the beach.