Ask The Boss

Photography by Alex Stafford By Molly McCartney November 30, 2011

Cliff Walters - Managing Partner, Blalock Walters: “I am not very patient with bullies.”For the past 35 years, Clifford L. Walters III has been working to “make a difference” in the law firm that he now heads and in the community. Chair-elect of the Ringling Museum and on the boards of the Boys and Girls Foundation and Goodwill, Walters is 62, stands a towering 6 feet, 5 inches tall and is renowned for helping to resolve ugly political and legal fights. “When you lob slogans at each other, your constituency loves it,” he says. “But everyone is better off when you can create a context where the parties can resolve the problem without looking like they capitulated or backed off from their principles.”

Describe the firm:  Our history goes back to 1924. Bob Blalock led the firm starting in the late 1970s. I was asked to step into the managing partner role about eight years ago. Blalock Walters is the largest law firm in Manatee County, with 19 lawyers, and the fourth largest in the region. We focus only on the areas where we have competency: business, including healthcare, real estate, estate and wealth planning and the litigation that supports those areas. Specializing has actually accelerated our growth. We had revenue of $6.2 million in 2009, $6.4 million in 2010, and this year is going to exceed last year.

Toughest part of your job: People. We once had a consultant observe that attorneys are difficult people. It isn’t that you become difficult after you become an attorney; you were difficult before.

Your role as boss: I don’t so much manage as herd the group.

What you’re reading: I typically have eight to 10 books going at a time and read them depending on mood, the degree of insomnia I’m suffering and the book itself. Currently I am reading the biography of Andrew Mellon. Last night I picked up Passages, which is the psychological profile of America as it ages and how everyone goes through similar patterns and struggles.

Anything you’re not good at: I am not very patient with bullies. When I have a situation where people are engaged in bullying behavior, I have to work extra hard to sustain my professional demeanor. I just detest people who take advantage of others.

Advice for new managers: Never compromise your integrity.

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