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'We Went All In': Veteran-Owned Gables Law Firm Makes COVID Comeback

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A veteran-owned Coral Gables law firm built a practice based on government contracts, and then the bottom fell out due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Gilchrist Law Firm-Coral Gables struggled, but with some help they are doing well once again.

The firm manages a number of federal, state, and local government contracts. It was the mainstay of their practice, a transition before the pandemic and doing well.  The law firm was declared the Small Business Administration's Best Prime Contractor in 2019 followed by the SBA award for being the Best Veteran-Owned Business in 2020. Then came COVID.

"All of our contracts halted. I am talking about we were 'cooking.' We were doing a lot of work and that halted," firm founder Jacquin Gilchrist told CBS4. "We mobilized our office to work from home to really just do federal government contracting work during that time with help from the SBDC. We went all in."

Going all in meant generating work nationwide with the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Veterans Administration.

For example, if the Army Corps of Engineers made a land purchase, the Gilchrist Firm provides the legal work such as the closing. And the SBDC? The FIU based Small Business Development Center guided Gilchrist to federal and state funds aimed to support pandemic impacted small businesses. All the consulting is free. The SBDC is a part of the Small Business Administration, whose mission is to help new entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership and assist existing businesses to remain competitive in an ever-changing global economy.

It was a tough time but  Gilchrist, a veteran USA Army lawyer, powered through.

"As his firm started growing, he needed capital to sustain the growth and like a lot of businesses in Miami he needed to weather the pandemic," explained Brian Van Hook Regional Director of the Florida SBDC.

Van Hook added that Gilchrist was an excellent client and his military training kicked in as he was able to take advice from the SBDC consultants and execute the path forward for his law firm.

"They helped process the state emergency bridging loan, maybe 50-thousand dollars, that kept us going," said Gilchrist.

Gilchrist says he did not have to furlough any employees. At present, according to Brian Van Hook, the Gilchrist Law Firm manages over $70-million worth of contracts and the booming Miami real estate market has seen the firm be active in closing real estate deals.

There are still plenty of small businesses struggling due to the pandemic.

Jacquin Gilchrist urges them to reach out to the SBDC. They helped him when he and his firm needed it the most.

Click here for the SBDC.

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