Professional Services Law firm founder, expert in mortgage fraud and '22-hour days' Rachel Dollar
Attorney and founding partner
404 Mendocino Ave.
Santa Rosa 95401
SANTA ROSA -- Rachel Dollar, attorney, certified mortgage banker, certified financial crimes investigator and founding partner of the law firm Smith Dollar, was just 17 when she first took a job in a law office.
As a legal secretary, she spent a number of years working in the construction and accounting fields before she decided to get a law degree.
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“The first attorney I worked for offered me an apprenticeship,” said Ms. Dollar. “But I just wasn’t interested at the time.”
She previously had worked for her father's construction company, but in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s when the economy went into a slump, she figured out she probably should find another line of work.
Born in Oakland, she was only a small child when her parents took the family “off the grid” to the mountains in Southern California. At 11, they moved to a small town near Redding where they lived until she was 15 and moved to Rohnert Park. She graduated from Rancho Cotate High School and attended Santa Rosa Junior College.
Then she got work with a New York-based attorney who was doing a project on the West Coast.
“It was there that I learned how to work 24 hours a day. It was a real Wall Street kind of training, not the kind of training one gets on this coast,” she said.
From that experience, she eventually decided to go to law school, which she did via correspondence school. She earned her bachelor’s simultaneously with her law degree at Newport University School of Law and continued to work for the same lawyer.
But in her third year of school, he had a heart attack.
“I took a year off after that,” she said, taking time to explore whether the high pressure and long hours were for her.
During that year she decided that law was indeed where she wanted to stay. She had found her career.
After finishing her degree, she went to work for O’Brien, Watters & Davis, then to Smith and Miller. One of the partners there, Glen Smith, is her current partner at Smith Dollar. Then it was off to Lanahan & Reilley, after which she started her own firm.
Her main area of focus is providing litigation and transactional representation to the mortgage banking and financial services industry.
She said that due to the current economic situation and the historically large number of lawsuits brought to mortgage companies, her business has thrived. From 2008 when Mr. Smith joined her as a partner, the firm has grown to 14 attorneys. There are a total of 30 staff in the downtown Santa Rosa office.
Instead of a 24-hour workday, she said she works about 22.
“Every waking hour is spent on work when you are a business owner,” she said.