While Jordan said he thinks expansion will continue, it won't be the "big bang mergers" seen in the past, but rather would come in smaller steps. The risk with larger-scale mergers is heightened even more in a difficult economy, he said.
K&L Gates' growth "was market-driven and the market changed so rapidly that it drove that change all within a really compressed timeframe which happened to be on my watch," Kalis said.
Managing Time and Cultures
Jordan and Kalis' professional career paths may have a number of similarities, but their personalities are quite different. Kalis is outspoken, strong in his opinions and quick to point out his skepticism of anything from Swiss vereins to legal process outsourcers. Jordan, while comfortable commanding a room or a firm of 3,500 employees, is a bit more reserved, sometimes happier to stay out of the spotlight.
Both have faced some pushback from their partners or former partners, with Jordan facing a brief challenge in 2009 from another partner looking to end Jordan's reign at the helm of the firm and Kalis recently responding to a flurry of media reports that partners were disgruntled and leaving.
Each firm seemed to quash any uprising, albeit in their own way. The power struggle at Reed Smith was quietly settled with the other partner dropping out of the running. Kalis fired off an email to his partnership that made its way to the press, blasting the former partners who would anonymously challenge the firm's financial stability and strategic vision.
While sometimes taking different approaches, Kalis and Jordan have similarly seen their roles adapt along with their firms.
Jordan spends 200 days a year on the road and tries to meet with five clients a week. He said he has been forced to think about management differently as the firm expands in size and reach. He can't visit all of the firm's offices within a few weeks of one another anymore, so he spends more time doing town-hall type meetings with each office when he is there. And Reed Smith has had to build a management structure that spreads the leadership across more people in more locations, with all of those leaders constantly traveling among the offices.
Kalis is constantly thinking not just about dealing with a $1 billion global enterprise, but everything that entails aside from growth of the top line such as compliance issues around the world, data security, being conversant in cultures of more than 15 countries, managing different tax and accounting regimes and dealing with currency fluctuations. He said members of management are voracious readers who constantly share information.
There is also, of course, dealing with the influence of the Internet and press attention to the industry during his 15-year tenure. Kalis said a big part of his job is managing how the firm is viewed externally and making sure that is reflective of what K&L Gates is actually like.
Kalis said he takes issue with how some firms aren't transparent with their partners when it comes to finances. At K&L Gates, the firm updates its intranet at 9 p.m. daily with all of the firm's financial metrics, giving partners complete access to how the firm is doing as a whole and by practice area and market, Kalis said.