Trenam Law president talks about dealing with uncertainty

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the July issue of Florida Trend magazine as part of a larger package about diversity within some of Florida’s biggest law firms.

A few months before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Marie Tomassi took on a new role. Not only would she remain managing shareholder at Trenam Law, but she also would succeed founding shareholder Hal Mullis as the firm’s president. “Of course, nobody knew we were on the eve of a pandemic, or one of us might have thought better of that plan,” she laughs.

Tomassi, a St. Petersburg native, graduated summa cum laude in English literature from the University of South Florida and finished first in her class at Stetson University College of Law. She joined Trenam in 1988 and has worked there ever since, practicing appellate law and litigation while eventually rising to the firm’s top management position. Founded in 1970, Trenam has about 80 attorneys in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Her thoughts on how they’ve fared follow:

COVID Response: “The toughest part for me was the uncertainty. Nobody knew how long this was going to last or what were the safety protocols for people who still wanted to work in the office. The way we dealt with it was to communicate a lot with our whole team. We tried to keep everyone informed about our current thinking and what it was based on.”

No layoffs: “We didn’t make staff reductions. I think a lot of firms reacted by cutting team members to reduce expenses, and we just didn’t do that. We had our shareholders take the risk of how the year was going to go and kept everybody on board. I know this sounds corny and maybe even a little foolish, but we believed we were going to be OK.”

Culture: “We really stand behind each other. When I was 50, my husband died unexpectedly. It was just a real shock. The people here could not have been more supportive or kind.”

Returning to the office: “Most people have said they miss the camaraderie of the office. They don’t want to work from home five days a week, every week, every month, every year. But the convenience of working from home is appealing. There’s a desire by many people — not everyone — to have some sort of blended arrangement.”

Vaccination Policy: “So far, our position is that we’re strongly encouraging vaccination. People don’t always want to be told what to do, so I don’t think we’ll make it mandatory. I think we’re on track to have 80% of our people — maybe more — vaccinated by July.”

Growth: “We’ve been on a recruiting binge. Our real estate, business transactions and private client services groups are all so busy. They really could use more help. We feel very fortunate to be coming through a pandemic and still wanting to add people.”

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