Left to right: Laura Reich and Clarissa Rodriguez, partners at Reich Rodriguez.
Left to right: Laura Reich and Clarissa Rodriguez, partners at Reich Rodriguez. (courtesy photo)

Two former Tenzer lawyers who have been friends since high school have struck out on their own to open a women-owned commercial litigation and arbitration firm.

Clarissa Rodriguez and Laura Reich’s new firm, Reich Rodriguez, is one of only a few in Miami that specializes in commercial litigation and international law and is owned and operated entirely by women.

“In general, women are underrepresented as law firm owners and at the top levels of law firm management,” Reich said. “That disparity is even greater in international law where we practice. But we are encouraged by the success of other women in the field and look forward to working with them.”

Rodriguez and Reich’s clients include one of the largest cable companies in Florida, as well as hoteliers in the Caribbean and Mexico. The firm is also representing Heron Development Corp. in a case alleging that Vacation Tours has infringed its trademarks.

Reich worked at White & Case for about 10 years before joining Tenzer more than two years ago, and she became head of litigation there in 2015. Rodriguez, one of 53 board certified international law attorneys in Florida, joined Tenzer in January after three years at Salcedo Attorneys at Law, where she specialized in cross-border investments and international business transactions.

While discussing the creation of their new firm, the women said they made sure the firm’s bylaws would protect their longstanding friendship.

Reich and Rodriguez have known each other since they were 14 and on the debate team at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. Rodriguez and Reich continued together at the University of Florida but lost touch briefly after college, Reich said.

They found each other again through the international law section of the Florida Bar, where Rodriguez is now secretary and is slated to become the section’s president in two years. She will be the fourth woman in 40 years to serve as president of the international law section. Reich is now on the section’s executive counsel.

“As friends, we’re rooting for each other to have happy, successful lives,” Reich said.

The strong friendship meant that when they were establishing the firm and writing its bylaws, the two women faced issues that other firms might not face, Reich said. Among other things, the women, both mothers, discussed and included plans in case one of them opts to have more children. They also chose a trusted practice consultant to be a mediator if there is ever an impasse or an awkward money issue to discuss.

“We promised each other right at the beginning that we would never let talking about money be weird between friends. If it’s going to break down, it’s always going to break down about money,” Reich said. It’s always a little uncertain whenever you go out on your own … but how often do you get to work with your best friend since you were 14? That’s just a treat.”

Reich said the new firm will emphasize the use of arbitration because of the benefits it brings clients in flexibility, speed, confidentiality and cost savings.

Despite claims that women are underutilized in international arbitration, Reich has been called on as an arbitrator three times since being listed on the American Arbitration Association roster this past spring. She acknowledges that men still dominate in international arbitrations, but she is hopeful this will change.

“It’s absolutely true, particularly in the high-profile international arbitrations, that there are more recognized top-tier men than women, but there are a number of exceptional women at the highest level of international arbitration,” she said. “The only way it’s going to change, just like getting more women at the top-tier partnership at law firms, is through commitment from all the stakeholders, including the women themselves who have to decide that they want it and want to go for it. It’s the same thing in international arbitration and domestic arbitration. It’s just going to take time.”