Two years ago this summer, Andrew Pompa made the decision to walk away from his high-paying, well-respected job at Akerman Miami, the kind of gig coveted by upwardly mobile young lawyers across the country. He wasn’t sure what was next — maybe he’d work with nonprofits, or for a local foundation or cultural institution — but he was fairly sure that telling his boss that he wanted out would be the end of his law career. Instead, Akerman chairman and CEO Andrew Smulian asked a question that gave Pompa a reason to stay: “What about creating a job that benefits the community and the firm?”
Miami’s entrepreneurial spirit
From New York, Pompa first visited Miami during college, a spring-break kid subsisting on Subway sandwiches during the day and South Beach parties at night. He came permanently in 2011, when his dermatologist wife, Dr. Adriane Pompa, began her residency at Jackson. Pompa landed at Akerman and figured he’d follow the traditional corporate-law track: grinding it out as an associate, someday earning a spot among the partners, and repping the kings of corporate.
Pompa soon found himself fascinated by Miami’s emerging spirit. “I was just blown away by how accessible the city was and how much excitement there is for what’s going on,” said Pompa, now 33. “The city is like a teenager. Yes, it makes mistakes, but there’s also so much energy.”
He remembers being in New York, when he’d call the symphony or some other established nonprofit and not even get a call back. In Miami, he called the New World Symphony and was asked when he could come by for a visit. He started getting involved in more nonprofits, and he decided it’s what he wanted to do every day.
Andrew Pompa’s working toward a better future for Miami
With Smulian’s blessing, Pompa designed a position for himself as part of the firm’s entrepreneur-based initiative called AkermanIN that is unlike what most envision when they think of legal work.
Pompa’s office is in the Cambridge Innovation Center co-working space in downtown Miami. He helps Miami startups understand legal challenges they might face. He explains the nuances of intellectual property to computer coders. He assists in the social-impact work being led by Rebecca Fishman Lipsey at Radical Partners. And he pitches in for community- and cultural-based nonprofits like Nu Deco Ensemble and Miami Science Barge.
Sure, helping young entrepreneurs who might be Miami’s next champions of industry is a smart long-term play for Akerman. But two years into his new gig, and Pompa says the firm hasn’t once pressured him about billable hours or generating revenue.
“Every day I’m like, ‘This is exciting,’” Pompa said. “Instead of just writing a check to a foundation, I’m asking, ‘How do we roll up our sleeves and work together with the community?’”