From Wall Street to law firms:
David Michel, Director of Technology Services at Broad and Cassel
By: Monica Bay
October 21, 2016
Although David Michel has been in the legal technology industry for many years, he started his career as a stockbroker and then became an investment officer. While he says he enjoyed the challenge of the work, he didn't exactly enjoy the combination of dealing with people and their money. It was during his time in finance that David found he had an aptitude for technology and was often asked by friends owning small businesses if he would help them with computer and networking issues. One day he realized that he could make a career for himself in technology and that it would be more interesting and satisfying. He hasn't looked back ever since.
David founded DSM Consulting Services in 1994 where he designed, installed and maintained computer networks for corporate clients. Says David, "My dad was a 30-year IBMer, so I think IT was in my genes." In 1998, David decided to go in-house as the IT Manager at the law firm Ruden McClosky. "We had one young child with another on the way, and the steady paycheck and benefits were too good to pass up."
Like many legal tech executives, David moved every few years. He spent eight years as IT Manager at Ruden McClosky and another four years as IT Manager at Turner Padget, before moving on as CIO at two firms–Burr & Forman, followed by Rissman, Barrett, Hurt, Donahue & McLain. He's now Director of Technology Services at Broad and Cassel, based in Orlando. David has also been active in the International Legal Technology Association (aka ILTA) and served as the regional vice president––South Atlantic region for six years.
David moved his family back to Florida, where he was born, because he wanted to be closer to family as well as be an in-state resident so his two daughters could attend the University of Florida. "Of course, eight months after we moved, my daughter informed us that she wanted to go to the University of Alabama so there's that…" David's wife, Jackie, is a fifth grade teacher. "Jackie says she's from Florida too because she moved here when she was in middle school, but I tell her she's still a Jersey girl." Presently, his daughter Sara is a sophomore at the University of Alabama and his daughter Rebecca is a high school senior. David still holds out hope that Rebecca will attend the University of Florida.
On his career transitions, David notes, "I've always left each firm in markedly better shape from a technology perspective. I never started any of my jobs thinking I was going to have to overhaul the technology––but that's what's happened. Fortunately, I've been able to do that in numerous ways because of the firm sizes and budgets."
Years ago, David discovered the PayneGroup and has turned to them for technology solutions in his last four jobs.
Q: How would your colleagues describe your leadership style?
A. Laid-back leadership style (anti micro-management). I believe in hiring good people, giving them the tools and support they need to be successful and then turning them loose.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A. Security and data breaches. I dread ever having to receive that call/email saying we've been breached.
Q. What's on your personal "bucket list"?
A. Skydiving and seeing the Dolphins win a Super bowl! I'm an avid sports fan. I root for the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, Orlando City, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
Q. What book/movie changed your life?
A. Wall Street. I moved to New York City after college and worked on Wall Street. I became a stockbroker because of that movie. Didn't last long, but it was fun while it lasted...
Q. What do most people not know about you?
A. I was a swimmer all my life and had scholarship offers, but quit competitive swimming before college. Was once referred to in a newspaper article as the "Mark Spitz of 6-year-olds."
Q. Your mantra?
A. "It is what it is." In life (especially in legal) things happen that you just have to deal with and then move on.
Q. Did you find many similarities at the firms where you worked?
A. Many of the firms I've worked at have been similar from the perspective of how they're run and the areas of law they practice. Conversely, I think practice areas, such as worker's compensation, have to be managed differently because it's such high volume and repetitive work that without automation it really can't be profitable enough. I think all firms face some of the same industry-wide challenges, but without proper investment in technology and cultural changes, it may get worse before it gets better.
Q. Your next goal at your firm?
A. The next goal is to continue moving the firm toward secure cloud-based services wherever they make sense so that IT can become more proactive and spend less time troubleshooting problematic legacy systems.
Q. What advice would you give colleagues about working with the PayneGroup?
A. Only work with PayneGroup if you like quality products and good people who truly care about your firm and always want to help!