THAT GIRL: Rolanda E. Dent

THAT GIRL: Rolanda E. Dent (Houston, TX) Private Practice, general practice, litigator, sports mom, and no doubt so very much more. Check out a most-amazing trial story that will have you clapping along in the courtroom, get practical disaster-prep tips from a gal whose practice survived Harvey (and changed how she does things now), and some wonderful highly-practical advice on how to wear all the hats and not lose track of priorities. Enjoy, y’all. Ms. Dent is wonderful!

Interview, via Facebook Messenger, October 5, 2017*

*This typed interview was slightly-edited for clarity…and because I didn’t want y’all to see that I used “can” where I should have used “will,” and, you know, stuff like that.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Hi Rolanda! Any chance football practice still works for a little chat between you and me?

Rolanda E. Dent: Yes. I’m free.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Alrighty! Well, for starters, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself personally? The gal behind the law degree.

Rolanda E. Dent: I am originally from New York. I grew up in Queens. I went to Norfolk State University on a full athletic scholarship…basketball. Then onto Thurgood Marshall Law school.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Interesting, and impressive!

Rolanda E. Dent: 🙂

Susan Carns Curtiss: Do you find that your experience as a high-performance athlete informs your work as an attorney?

Rolanda E. Dent: Being an athlete….. that is very competitive. The drive I had on the basketball court pushes me in the courtroom and enables me to vigorously represent my clients with that never-give-up attitude.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Love it! I’m sure your clients do too. Please tell us a little more about your practice. What kind of practice do you have, and where?

Rolanda E. Dent: I have been in private practice for 17 years. And I wouldn’t do anything else. I have my own Law firm, The Dent Law Firm. I do criminal, family, civil, probate and personal injury.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Wow. So you’re one of those folks who REALLY operates a general practice!

Rolanda E. Dent: Yes! And it is in Houston, Texas…Harris County.

Susan Carns Curtiss: I see that kind of thing way more often in rural practices. Where, there’s just fewer lawyers, and there’s kinda no way around learning a bunch of areas of law. Have you always practiced in Houston?

Rolanda E. Dent: I have always practiced in Houston. I was blessed to be in an office with an older attorney when I first started, and he told me to learn all I can in each area of law and then decide if you want to specialize in anything. Well, I loved it all!

Susan Carns Curtiss: YOU ARE A UNICORN!

Rolanda E. Dent: Lmbo

Susan Carns Curtiss: I don’t know how you find the time to manage such a diverse docket! Will you share some of your secrets?

Rolanda E. Dent: At this point in my legal life I’ve learned to switch “hats” pretty easily. I take those cases that are the most difficult first and analyze them, make notes and move on to the next case and do the same assessment. Some require more time than others and some I am able to do super quick because I’ve done so many.

Susan Carns Curtiss: It sounds like you also spend a fair amount of time in the courtroom – and, that you enjoy it. Did you always plan on being a litigator?

Rolanda E. Dent: Always! 🙂 Probably since the 6th grade 🙂

Susan Carns Curtiss: Girl had a vision for her future – was NOT going to be denied! Do you have a favorite trial moment you’d be willing to share? I LOVE A GOOD TRIAL-MOMENT STORY.

Rolanda E. Dent: Two. One, I first started, I would go to trial with my “Objections” book. I would sit on the end of my chair and wait to pop up and object….like I had seen on TV (avid Law and Order watcher). So I scurried through my book making objection after objection all to be over ruled! Dejected, I stopped objecting….counsel asked a question and I didn’t pop up so the Judge said “You can object to that one” and I did and he sustained and I clapped!! Lol

Susan Carns Curtiss: THAT’S AMAZING. I can picture it AND hear the clap in my head!
I am, in fact, literally laughing out loud about it here in my living room.

Rolanda E. Dent: It was funny! I was like Oh, I’m not supposed to clap!

Susan Carns Curtiss: ♥ hahaha – right. You win the case. Judge, “You can clap for that one.”

Rolanda E. Dent: The clapping was that basketball mentality…. like I had just scored.

Susan Carns Curtiss: hahahahahaha You DID.

Okay, of course you and I “met” when your family and practice were displaced due to the Houston flooding. I wanted to ask you a little bit about that. Do you mind sharing what you learned through that? Specifically, I was thinking about how your experience got me thinking about my UTTER LACK of a catastrophe plan for my office. Were you prepared? Did you have a plan re files/equipment/etc…? Also, either way, what did you learn from this experience that you would like to pass along to your fellow Girl Attorneys?

(Pulls up chair and pulls out notepad to take notes.)

Rolanda E. Dent: I had no idea of how bad things would be. My office is on the 4th so I was pretty good on that. But before we left on the day the storm started….on the way to Oklahoma for my son’s rodeo, I unplugged all my computers and I backed up all my files on a hard drive, just in case. I carry the hard drive around with me as well as my laptop with all my clients’ information just in case. I have always backed up my computers but not as often as I should have. I am doing it every Friday now. I learned that as a sole practitioner you have to have a back-up plan. I was lucky enough to “meet” you and was able to develop a back-up plan while displaced. Even better for me in that I had the knowledge and experience of many different areas of law so I was/am able to assist attorneys in Oklahoma.

Susan Carns Curtiss: Do you also back up to a cloud server (like Dropbox or Google drive)?

Rolanda E. Dent: My files automatically back up to my Google drive BUT I feel so much safer having a hard drive I can “feel.” lol

Susan Carns Curtiss: RIGHT. I’m totally with you on that one. I also can’t throw out the paper (letters/pleadings/etc…) that I receive at my office. Even though I scan it all in!!

Rolanda E. Dent: Lol. I don’t either. I tell myself I will keep them for a short amount of time…

Susan Carns Curtiss: Btw, we were so sad you needed to leave your home and office to be north of the Red River <- (you know things are bad in TX when that happens), but it was an honor to be able to be there “with” you as much as we could be during your time here.

Well, I’ve got one more question for you, if you’ve still got a min, before you head back to 100% football-mom time.

Rolanda E. Dent: I’m good for one more. Questions… kids are running at me. lol

Susan Carns Curtiss: Oh man, I can only imagine! What advice would you like to give to an attorney just starting out? Whether it was great advice you personally found to be really helpful – or advice from your experience(s) that you want to give to encourage or inspire the new (young-ish and old-ish) attorneys. Oh, and one more consideration – especially advice for those considering private practice.

Rolanda E. Dent: My best advice is to find someone that is seasoned and willing to mentor them. Follow them around EVERY where they go! Look over their shoulder, do their pleadings, sit second chair, sit in on client interviews and most importantly take notes. I still have a little book I started when I was just starting out. I labeled the notebook with all areas and everything I learned I wrote in the book!

Susan Carns Curtiss: Absolutely amazing advice. Thank you!

Also, thank you so much for making time to have this conversation while also managing matters with and for your kiddos at football practice. It may not surprise you that I was holding up my end of this conversation while making dinner for the kids, welcoming my husband home (he then made his own dinner – LOL), and watching the beginning of Project Runway. Multi-tasking is a working woman’s tool #1!

Have a great evening and I look forward to when I get to MEET you (no quotation marks) some day!

Rolanda E. Dent: Thank you!! It was my pleasure!!!

Susan Carns Curtiss:

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