SMGQ Law (Sanchez-Medina, Gonzalez, Quesada, Lage, Gomez & Machado LLP) is one of Florida’s most highly regarded law firms providing expertise in a wide range of practice areas. Although the firm is based in South Florida, its reach extends globally representing regional, national, and international clients with business interests and legal matters throughout the world.
Established well over a decade ago in January of 2007, SMGQ Law was born from a very real desire to bring together a tight-knit group of talented professionals who could offer the highest-caliber “big firm” legal representation at more competitive rates with a commitment to delivering superior client service with a focus on results.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Roland Sanchez-Medina Jr., a founding partner who focuses his practice in the areas of corporate and securities law, recalls how it all began. “Peter Gonzalez, Pablo Quesada and I all worked at very large firms,” he says. “Pablo and I were in practice together and Peter and I became good friends. The three of us saw expanded opportunities if we worked together, joined forces to practice law, and hopefully have fun along the way. We shared our ideas on how to build a firm we’d want to work for and from that, we grew into the SMGQ firm that exists today.”
“We have that big firm experience but offer that expertise at much more reasonable rates. We also believe in being engaged in the community whether that’s with judges and local politics or with various charities we believe in. All of us are involved in various ways, the Orange Bowl Committee, the Cuban-American Bar Association, Leadership Florida or dozens of other civic-minded organizations.”
“We’re very proud of growing the firm and getting to where we are right now,” says founding partner Pablo Quesada, who concentrates in both domestic and international corporate and transactional matters. “A full-service law firm that is well-regarded and widely recognized for its legal talent and great results on tough lawsuits and difficult, complex transactions. I think we are a firm that ‘punches well above its weight’. Generally, we go toe-to-toe with much larger firms in transactional and litigation work in Florida, New York and elsewhere. However, none of that would make a bit of difference if it weren’t coupled with an environment as warm as ours is.”
Founding partner Peter A. González, whose litigation practice covers a wide range of areas, agrees that SMGQ is unique in its work environment and top-shelf service to clients.
“Roland, Pablo and I have grown the firm by adding top quality lawyers who are experts in their chosen areas,” he says. “We want professionals who not only effectively resolve important issues for our clients but are good people with which we can all get along. You might be the smartest lawyer in town, but if you’re not someone we respect and would want to spend time with or have lunch with every day, then you aren’t right for SMGQ. The key is to attract great lawyers who are also great people. We’ve managed to grow to 30 excellent lawyers with that criteria in mind.”
Partner Carlos M. Machado agrees.
“Obviously, we’re looking for attorneys who have a strong work ethic and a good record of performance,” he says, “but, a lot of it comes down to how they fit in with our culture. Everyone respects each other, respects boundaries, that’s the key. Everyone gets along and works collaboratively instead of trying to outdo each other.”
Machado, whose practice focuses on real estate transactions, also agrees that SMGQ is unique in how its structured and operates. “I would also point out our flexibility. Because we are not a huge firm, we’re able to respond quickly and effectively. Unlike much larger firms, we don’t have to clear a lot of red-tape or several levels of approval to make a decision for our clients.”
Dedicated to building strong client relationships and delivering superior client services, the professionals of SMGQ have created a culture centered around communication, respect and collaboration. Their universal pledge to devote time and resources to meeting and surpassing their clients’ needs seems to go hand-in-hand with a positive work environment.
The apparent congeniality seems to not only make for a positive workplace but also attracts others to the firm. Such is the case with Deborah Baker, a partner in the litigation practice group. Baker, who focuses her law practice in the area of commercial litigation, with significant emphasis in
the areas of business and real estate litigation, has this to say:
“I worked in one of the big, Wall Street law firms right out of law school and then moved to Florida in 2001. I left a large Florida-based national firm to join SMGQ in 2019. I wanted the opportunity to be more entrepreneurial and have control over my practice. The work environment is very appealing as well. SMGQ is really a happy place. I’ve never seen any issue arise among colleagues, and it’s great to work among professionals who are friendly, engage in quiet, calm conversations in an atmosphere that’s drama-free.”
Partner Augusto R. Lopez seems to agree. Lopez who focuses his practice on commercial litigation, civil litigation, and intellectual property matters describes the SMGQ culture as, “Supportive and collaborative; even with respect to attorneys whose practice areas are distinct from my own, we can always count on other partners’ skill, expertise, and insight with respect to any professional matter that may come up. We are a true team.”
“Highly professional yet very family like,” is how partner Gus Suarez who also is chair of the firm’s Health Care Practice Group describes it. “It’s a great environment. At SMGQ family always comes first.”
Family is a term that we hear repeatedly from virtually everyone at SMGQ describing the prevalent aura of the firm. Partner Mitchell W. Mandler, with 40 years of experience and specializing in Business Litigation, not only confirms this view but asks a rhetorical question.
“I’d say our culture is easy going,” he says. “Everyone enjoys each other. There are no difficult people to work with. But we take our jobs very seriously. Who says you can’t be good lawyers and still enjoy working together?”
Mandler goes on to elaborate on the firm’s philosophy with regard to balancing work and personal lives. “I think it’s good. We want our attorneys and staff to take care of themselves, to enjoy their time off and spend time with their families. We don’t have a minimum billing requirement for the associates as long as they can get their work done and be responsive to our clients.”
This sentiment is echoed by other partners including Lopez. “The firm understands and appreciates that life is a delicate balance, and that our lives outside the office are critical to our well-being and growth as individuals,” he says. “It is perhaps for this reason that all members of our firm dedicate themselves so fiercely to their professional endeavors, comforted in the knowledge that the firm will always support them and ‘have their backs’ were they to encounter any setbacks in their personal lives.”
David Peña, a partner that heads the firm’s immigration and naturalization law practice group, agrees with Lopez. Mr. Peña, who formerly served as special counsel to the Florida International Affairs Commission, counsel to the Mexican and Colombian Embassies in Washington, D.C., as well as to the Mexican Consulate in Miami, knows that he can call on other lawyers of the firm at the drop of a hat.
“Knowing that I can quickly have my partner Gus Lage, a former prosecutor and head of our criminal defense practice, help a client that may be under criminal investigation, or have Peter Gonzalez defend a foreign client in a big business dispute anywhere in the U.S., helps expand the range of challenges that we can resolve for my clients. My partners got my back.”
Founding partner González confirms that he can always rely on others at SMGQ to tackle thorny issues that can come up at any time, almost anywhere.
“One of my clients calls me with a serious, time-sensitive problem in São Paulo or Hong Kong. I quickly get Larry Evans, who started his career over 40 years ago at the largest law firm in Latin America in Brazil, before joining Curtis,
Mallet-Prevost, Colt and Mosely in New York, Larry travels to Brazil and Hong Kong often, he speaks Portuguese fluently and has the knowledge and relationships in Brazil, as well as in Hong Kong, to connect with the right people to remedy the situation,” he said. “Or I can bring Joe Gomez into a corporate dispute over the ownership and control of a limited liability company, knowing that Joe is second to none on the Florida LLC Act. Joe was a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP when he joined us ten years ago, and we’ve gone to war together many times since then in high-stakes ‘bet the company’ litigation against worthy adversaries, and no one has ever gotten the better of us,” Gonzalez says.
While recruiting and hiring diverse professionals and staff has always been a priority at SMGQ, they wisely recognize that this is just one step in broadening the firm’s perspective.
“I was looking for a highly reputable full-service law firm with a core emphasis on diversity and inclusion whose attorneys work together on a collaborative basis. We have made a solid commitment to mentor all of our employees to encourage excellence and foster their development and success,” notes partner Chad Lang, Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group. “Our diversity initiatives are never finished, but continually evolve based on the firm’s growth and our mission to constantly improve our business practices to increase the potential of our employees.”
He also points with pride to the fact that SMGQ is certified as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) by the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council.
SMGQ has always been committed to creating a workplace that values the varied contributions of all employees and understands that their clients require, and deserve, the innovative thinking that comes from our diverse backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints. SMGQ Law believes in advancing diversity and inclusion so that the composition of their law firm reflects not only the society they represent, but also the judges, arbitrators and juries before which they regularly advocate on behalf of clients.
Emilia A. Quesada, a partner and Chair of the firm’s Insurance Practice Group, values the importance of diversity and has been instrumental in SMGQ’s commitment to expand opportunities. Ms. Quesada served as one of 12 commissioners appointed to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession by the president of the ABA, and was the first Hispanic appointed to the Commission from the State of Florida. “Our firm’s commitment to diversity provides us with a broader perspective that benefits our clients which come from different parts of the country and around the world,” she said. Ms. Quesada, whose been featured in the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Diversity & the Bar magazine, DiversityInc. Magazine South Florida CEO magazine, and as a panelist and guest lecturer at NAMWOLF’s Annual Conferences, plans to continue leading the firm’s commitment to diversity.
A seasoned, 35-year legal veteran, Gus Suarez says that SMGQ’s diversity policy impacted his decision to join the firm. “I chose SMGQ because of its outstanding reputation in the community, the diverse and talented staff and the high level of professionalism possessed by each and every one of our lawyers.”
For his part, partner Carlos Garcia-Perez with more than 20 years trial experience whose undergraduate degree was in International Relations seems to have a more pragmatic view.
“We’re a very Miami-like culture, very diverse and interesting,” he says. “It’s a firm that can provide sophisticated legal advice and handle complex legal issues combined with deep local roots in the community because we have professionals who come from every walk of life.”
As a female partner in a profession that by-and-large remains male-dominated, Baker shares her perspective.
“SMGQ has a lot of diversity,” she says. “Our attorneys’ backgrounds are very different which means we have a variety of perspectives, all of which benefit our clients. I also appreciate that SMGQ is everywhere. Roland is past-president of the Cuban American Bar Association and sits on the Florida Bar Board of Governors. I was also on the Board of Governors for several years and am a past-president of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. Peter is involved in political circles in Florida and Washington, D.C. Our firm has a very inclusive attitude and we are truly representative of the community we serve.”
As they continue to grow, SMGQ’s attorneys are animated expressing optimism about the future.
“I see a bright future for SMGQ as it continues to expand into the few legal practice areas it does not currently focus on,” says Lang. “These are areas that can benefit its current and future clients, while at the same time further solidifying its expertise in its existing practice areas. I see my practice growing larger in the future as I expect to see an increase in employment lawsuits coming out of the pandemic and the tough employment decisions that needed to be made by companies to survive.”
“SMGQ has remained extremely active and busy since the onset of the pandemic,” observes Suarez. “As far as healthcare, in the regulatory and compliance arena, I expect administrative/disciplinary sanctions may be forthcoming against certain health care providers as a result of pandemic shortfalls.”
“I see us continuing to grow while staying true to our original objectives which is to provide incredible service in a nice environment with a ‘no-need-to-break-the-bank’ philosophy,” says Machado. “Our clients will continue to receive quality service without having to mortgage the house.”
Much of the future success will be built on the strong foundations that experienced partners have established as pointed out by González.
“I think we’ll continue to build on the success we’re already enjoying,” he says. “We have amazing, seasoned attorneys leading our firm who average more than 25 to 35 years of experience. We’ve established a strong reputation for quality work and great results, plus we have the flexibility not afforded by larger firms that we frequently go up against and beat. There’s no substitute for working harder and smarter than your competitors, and our experienced team of lawyers and staff understand that.”
One of those “seasoned attorneys” of course is Sanchez-Medina whose projection into the next several years is both positive and introspective. “We’re fortunate that many of us are in the prime of our careers,” he says. “I imagine the firm growing, not growing for growing sake, it’s all about people. At some point we have to think about handing things off to our younger associates and ideally the more seasoned attorneys will pass along relevant and valuable knowledge and wisdom.”