From the Beginning
When the founding partners of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell encountered an unforeseeable roadblock at a Tampa courthouse in early 1983, they turned what could have been a major disappointment into what is now a memorable victory. “After we arrived, we quickly realized we could not get our demonstrative evidence through the doors of the building’s elevator,” recalled Thom Rumberger. The trial attorneys were representing General Motors, and their exhibit included an entire car (minus the engine and wheels). But that did not stop this team of determined lawyers. Lead counsel Rumberger convinced the U.S. Marshals Office to let them remove the entire window frame of the fourth-floor courtroom, and he hired a crane to hoist the car and push it through the window frame.
“Never underestimate the use of imagination and creativity to get the job done,” says co-founding partner, Bud Kirk.
On Oct. 2, 1978, Thom Rumberger, Bud Kirk and third founding partner, Dick Caldwell, began practicing law in a sublet space with a small loan and a collective commitment that the day they no longer enjoyed getting up and going to work, they would stop.
Little did they know that they were creating a cracker-jack trial firm. More than thirty years later, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell has grown to five offices and is staffed with dynamic attorneys and staff committed to doing everything it takes to best represent their clients.
And these efforts have not gone unnoticed. Over the years, our nationally recognized lawyers have earned numerous awards. In 1996, The National Law Journal featured Bud Kirk in its series on the successful strategies of "Winning: 10 of the Nation's Top Litigators.” The prestigious publication also named Rumberger partner Dan Gerber as one of the “Top 40 under 40” attorneys in 2002. In 2004, the Audubon Society recognized Thom Rumberger for his invaluable, ongoing dedication to the restoration of the Florida Everglades. In 2007, the National Law Journal recognized Dan Gerber in its series of "Winning: 10 of the Nation's Top Litigators.” In recent years, several of our attorneys have been recognized by Best Lawyers in America as "Lawyer of the Year" in their respective practice area and geographic region.
Our attorneys litigate on behalf of local interests, Fortune 500 companies and everything in between. One of the leading product liability law firms in Florida, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell began making a name for itself in automotive product liability. From that base, we have grown and diversified its practice to include a broad variety of complex civil litigation matters, including labor and employment, construction, professional liability and commercial clients. “We may be based in Florida, but our work stretches from coast to coast,” says Dick Caldwell. Adds Kirk, “I’ve tried cases from Maine to California and many places in between. Wherever our clients ask us to go, we go.”
Method of Success
For more than 30 years, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell has set the standard for trying small to multimillion-dollar lawsuits — but we have also proven that respect, dignity and fun all play key roles in our success.
“Everyone here has a great sense of humor, and we all care about each other,” says partner Lori Caldwell.
Managing partner Frank Sheppard agrees. “We are a family here,” he adds. “And because of that, we look forward to coming to work and rolling up our sleeves.”
Director of Human Resources and Recruitment, Kaye Daugherty has been with the firm since day one, and she still keeps a memo Thom Rumberger distributed to his small staff during those first, challenging days. The memo welcomes everyone to Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell and stresses the importance of all employees treating one another with respect.
“Still today our partners, associates and staff have the highest degree of respect for one another,” she says. “Thom, Bud and Dick were always tough advocates with kind hearts.”
Bright Future, Continued Growth
Looking to the future, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell intends to maintain steady growth as both national and local counsel, to be progressive with the changing face of the law and technology, and to remain invaluable to our clients. “Our goal is to continue to maintain high-quality lawyers and high-quality clients,” says Kirk.
Celebrating Founders Day
Each October, Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell celebrates Founders Day. The event, which links attorneys and staff from all offices through video uplinks, was established to celebrate the rich culture instilled by the firm’s founding partners, while encouraging younger attorneys and newer staff members to keep the culture alive for future generations. While much of the time is spent remembering the past, there is a focus on identifying the unique qualities of the firm’s culture and how it bonds the people who make Rumberger the great firm that it is.
Scott Sarason, the Administrative Partner in the Miami office, shares memories sparked by the celebration, “At Thom Rumberger’s memorial service, I was struck by how many people were talking about the remarkable culture that he and his partners had instilled in the firm. For me, the firm’s culture has a very personal meaning as I have been with Rumberger for 25 years now.”
Remembering what it was like to go to trial with the firm’s founding partners, Tampa Partner Rob Blank recalls how much he learned about being a trial lawyer and the importance of passing that knowledge on to the next generation. “We have an obligation to maintain the firm’s culture – to remember the past and keep the vision of the future alive,” says Blank.
Each year brings different speakers from the firm, but the overall theme remains the–acknowledgement of the basic values that have led to the firm’s success over the years:
- A commitment to excellence;
- A commitment to aggressive trial preparation; and
- A commitment to zealous representation of clients.
However, the one thing that makes the firm stand out, is its people and the depth of care they have for each other – not just the lawyers, but also the paralegals, secretaries, staff and management. Leonard Dietzen, a partner in the firm’s Tallahassee office advises that a culture resides within its people. “While we strive to be a great trial firm, we do so with a special sense of friendship and collegiality.”
The firm’s culture transcends the location of its offices, despite distinct differences in each community. Many companies have a hard time holding onto their cultures as they grow. Maintaining a law firm’s culture can be especially difficult as lateral hires are brought in and new attorneys are more focused on the primary reason they joined the new firm – earning more money or having more clients. At Rumberger, the firm’s culture focuses on its people, and the support they provide for each other and their enduring friendships. “Our firm is a business, and of course financial success is a priority,” advises Frank Sheppard, RKC’s Managing Partner. “But you cannot forget that a good working environment is a contributing factor to achieving success, and our culture helps set us apart from other firms.”
“As the firm continues to grow with third and fourth generations, we make sure that we take the time to reflect, as a firm, on the importance of remembering our people and the history of RKC,” adds Sheppard. The firm celebrate it’s 35th anniversary in 2013. “I always receive very positive feedback from attorneys and staff after our Founders Day event,” he continues, “That’s when you know these types of things make an impact.”