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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 8, 2010, 2:48 am

Most Influential Leaders: Rachel M. Dollar

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    Most Influential LeadersRachel Dollar

    Attorney, Smith Dollar PC

    Company address: 404 Mendocino Ave., Second Fl., Santa Rosa 95401

    Phone: 707-522-1100

    Website: www.smithdollar.com

    Staff: 22

    Residence: Cotati

    Professional background: Attorney; certified mortgage banker; certified financial crimes investigator; editor of Mortgage Fraud Blog, www.mortgagefraudblog.com; author of “Protect Yourself from Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud”

    Education: B.S. law, J.D.

    Age: 41

    What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? To be able to maneuver and adapt quickly in a changing environment and protect the livelihood of our employees while fostering their growth and development

    What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry? I have seen the mortgage lending industry implode over the past three years, and I am participating actively in its rebirth.  I expect to see radical changes on the regulatory front that will require significant time and money to implement and, ultimately, have no real effect on the cyclical nature of the real estate industry.

    What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Regardless of what industry you are in, as a leader, you are a servant.  You serve your clients, your community and your employees.  Unless you are aware of and devoted to those you serve, you cannot anticipate needs or react to marketplace demands.

    What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment? Look for opportunity where others fear to tread.  As the economy changes, companies and individuals are fleeing certain business segments, which will leave a hole when the economy begins to improve.  Now is the time to position yourself for the future.

    How do you think your business will change in the next five years? I expect significant growth in the need for mortgage-related legal services over the next five years, and our law firm is positioned to expand into that demand.

    What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it? Every time I hire a friend, I regret it.  Every time I do it, I promise myself I will never do it again.  I hope I have learned this lesson.

    What is your most memorable business experience? Testifying before Congress during the mortgage crisis on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Being the only mortgage industry witness, I fielded all the difficult questions.

    What is your greatest business success? Founding Smith Dollar. After having worked at a number of law firms, I know what does and doesn’t work. We have managed to create a firm that provides top-notch advice and counsel to our clients, both local and national, but that also manages to focus on the needs of the employees who, in the end, are the company.  The attorneys and staff at Smith Dollar are our family.

    What was your toughest business decision? The decision to expand my law practice.  By 2007, I had severely limited the number of legal cases I would undertake as I was focusing on writing and speaking.  Shifting away from those pursuits, committing instead to the full-time practice and administration that is necessary to grow a law firm, took a lot of soul searching.

    What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? I spent my teenage years in the backwoods of Humboldt County without telephones, electricity or running water after my parents decided they wanted to be self-sufficient and live off the land.  We raised farm animals, grew our own fruits and vegetables and hunted for food.  I can slop the pigs, skin a rabbit, dress a deer – in high heels.

    First job: Welding at my dad’s ironwork business

    Most admired businessperson outside the company: Bill Gates

    Current reading: Everything on my Kindle

    Most want to meet: I’d love to interview Chalana McFarland – she’s a 40-year-old attorney serving 30 years in federal prison for committing mortgage fraud.

    Stress relievers: Reading, cooking

    Favorite activities outside work: The two weeks I spend on the Big Island for the holidays

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