Keeping it simple is successful formula for Avanti

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When attorneys Raquel Salas, Robert Alvarez and Meghan Moore opened the doors of their full-service litigation firm, Avanti Law Group, they knew that, like any new business owners, they would face their share of challenges.

“The problem was that we grew too fast,” said Salas, partner and co-founder.

Three months after starting the business, Avanti had acquired a total of nine attorneys and five staff members, and the monthly budget leapt from $15,000 to $80,000. No longer able to fit in their original location, the partners quickly needed a larger office space.

“Our start-up — the time we were supposed to take to be setting up the business procedures — merged with our growth,” said Salas.

Salas answers the obvious ‘how did you do it’ question with what has become the company’s mantra: by keeping things simple.

Avanti was founded May 2010 in the midst of the financial crisis. With so many businesses and individuals facing financial struggles, Salas said the company filled a void in the community.

“When the market went down and people were losing their jobs, (businesses) could no longer afford to pay $400 or $500 an hour. But small businesses still have legal problems and need those services,” said Salas. “We came to fill that need.”

When it was time for the company to expand to a bigger location, Salas said the partners could easily have chosen something more glamorous than the modest building at 600 28th St. SW.

“Clients have to pay for that at the end of the day,” said Salas. Opting for a budget-friendly accessible building with free parking has allowed the attorneys to focus their attention on clients rather than overhead.

“We didn’t have to price ourselves in a way that was unaffordable to the market we wanted to serve,” said Salas.

As a young firm — the oldest employee is 35 — the attorneys think of themselves as having a more liberal perspective than some of their more established competitors. “I know a lot of firms that have one client that provides 60 percent of the income. (Those firms) need to make sure that what they do isn’t something that that client wouldn’t agree with,” said Salas.

Having this independence allows the attorneys at Avanti to represent causes they are passionate about, such as Until Love is Equal, an organization that fights for equal protection under the law based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Having a number of high-profile cases — some of which received national media attention early on — was another contributing factor to the firm’s rise. Currently, Avanti is representing the families of two teenage farm workers who died on the job.

Partner and co-founder Moore said that another one of the firm’s strong points is utilizing the varied strengths of its attorneys. Aside from their administrative duties — each partner participates in lieu of having a large administrative staff — the attorneys represent various areas of specialization, such as business, labor, criminal, family and immigration law.

“We can see a case through eight different lenses: gender perspective, sexual orientation perspective, practice area perspective … I think that’s ultimately one of things that allows us to provide the best services to our clients,” said Moore.

Because approximately 80 percent of Avanti’s client base is Spanish-speaking, every employee is bilingual, meaning that the attorneys are able to offer legal services to this demographic in a comfortable atmosphere — something Salas said is not always easy to come by in West Michigan.

Though the firm now earns more than $1 million annually, the partners still maintain a practical budget. At times, one of them will bring up the idea of buying the partners new Mercedes or opening an office in Las Vegas. But Avanti has been a debt-free business focused on providing affordable service since day one, and Salas intends to keep it that way.

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