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During the four years of Jim Sweet’s stewardship, Drinker Biddle & Reath has added nearly 100 attorneys, opened up offices in Wilmington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, moved into the AmLaw 100 for the first time and seen its New York office destroyed by the Sept. 11 attacks. Sweet, who was just re-elected to his second and final term as Drinker Biddle’s chairman, has just as busy an agenda for the next four years. During an interview with The Legal, the 59-year-old both reflected on four intense years and looked ahead at what he believes will be a promising future. Sweet, a native of Minneapolis, joined the firm directly after graduating from William & Mary Law School in 1973. His litigation practice evolved from an antitrust focus to include insurance coverage and products liability representation of key Drinker Biddle clients such as Merck and Johnson & Johnson. Sweet served as one of the firm’s 15 managing partners — equivalent to an executive board — and eventually became chairman of the firm’s litigation department. In late 1999, the firm finalized its largest ever acquisition with the addition of 111-attorney Shanley & Fisher of Florham Park, N.J. Though predecessor Morgan “Dick” Jones was chairman when the Shanley deal was consummated, Sweet was the Drinker partner familiar with the New Jersey firm and handled a good deal of the negotiations. Upon Sweet’s appointment as chairman by the firm’s managing partners, he made several key additions. First there was the acquisition of venerable 16-attorney intellectual property boutique Seidel Gonda Lavorgna & Monaco in March 2001, which was followed three months later by the addition of an 11-attorney insurance litigation group from Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young. At the end of that year, the firm announced that it was adding a 25-attorney products liability defense group that formed a San Francisco office while at the same time luring away 10 lawyers from a firm in Los Angeles to open an office there. Drinker Biddle spent 2002 and 2003 integrating new personnel, after adding close to 200 lawyers to its roster in the previous two-and-a-half years, including many attorneys brought on before Sweet took charge. Built on Quaker traditions, Drinker Biddle has always had the reputation of being the quintessential, old school Philadelphia law firm. But partners insist that it has managed to maintain its distinct, consensus-building culture while doubling the size of the firm with lawyers from outside the Delaware Valley. Business and finance department chairman Jack Michel, who has been with the firm since 1985, said Jones laid the groundwork during his tenure in the 1990s. As the first partner to have operational authority over the entire firm, Jones put in place an infrastructure that allowed Drinker Biddle to become a 21st century firm. “And what Jim has done is taken that infrastructure and turned us into an AmLaw 100 firm with a better national profile,” Michel said. “It has given us the flexibility to undertake an investment like [opening an office last year in] Wilmington.” Sources familiar with the Shanley & Fisher acquisition said that integration had not been seamless. One source said the firm had actually lost lawyers rather than grown the North Jersey office. While the firm added 111 Florham Park lawyers in 1999, that office now has 96. In addition, a source said that integration with Drinker’s existing Princeton office was minimal. Sweet said that while some Shanley & Fisher lawyers had moved on to other firms, most of the attrition is due to retirements. He said the firm had added a strong labor and employment group to that site. As for cross-selling opportunities, Sweet said most of them that emanate from the Florham Park office had been in conjunction with the newly acquired San Francisco lawyers due to a mutual strength in pharmaceutical litigation. He said the two New Jersey offices do have cross-selling opportunities in real estate matters. By adding the California offices, Sweet said the firm had been able to get more litigation business from clients such as Hewlett Packard and Cingular. Atop his accomplishments as firm chairman, Sweet cited melding the new additions with the firm’s existing lawyers to increase revenues and profitability. In fiscal year 1999, Drinker Biddle was 163rd in The American Lawyer’s annual tracking of profits per partner in the AmLaw 200 with $360,000. With three years of steadily rising numbers, the firm ranked 82nd in that category in 2002, with $490,000. During that same span, revenue per lawyer increased from $415,000 to $470,000, moving the firm from 131st to 83rd on the list. The additions combined with the increased profitability allowed the firm to catapult into the AmLaw 100 last year (which recorded gross revenue for fiscal year 2002). The firm’s gross revenue increased 45.5 percent in 2000, 4.6 percent in 2001 and 34 percent last year. All of that was achieved during an economic downturn, and Sweet insists it was not aided by decreasing the number of equity partners. One thing Sweet had hoped to accomplish during his first four years was enhancing Drinker Biddle’s New York presence. With the Shanley & Fisher acquisition, the firm inherited its two-attorney Manhattan office. In what Sweet called the darkest day of his professional life, Drinker Biddle lost its New York office — which was in the North World Trade Center Tower — during the Sept. 11 attacks. During an agonizing day, Sweet and his cohorts tried to locate the Manhattan lawyers and staff. It wasn’t until 11 that night that Sweet learned everyone had escaped unharmed. Now, with a new, five-attorney office up and running, Sweet would like to turn his attention to expanding the New York office. While his first four years of acquisitions seemed to have benefited the litigation department the most, it appears Sweet has turned his attention to the firm’s transactional practices. “I think expanding New York would really benefit our transactional practices,” Sweet said. “New York is a tough market, but if you have the right practices, it can work. I think you need niche practices like [partner] Andy Kassner’s bankruptcy practice or our investment management practice. Obviously, we’re not going to compete with the New York behemoths, but if you do it right, it can work.” Though the firm has been in Los Angeles for more than two years, that office has not grown. Sweet would like to change that as well over the next four years. He said he would also like to build on the firm’s traditional strengths in litigation, investment management, bankruptcy, intellectual property and corporate law. Another goal during the next four years is improving the firm’s diversity numbers. Drinker Biddle, like many other big Philadelphia firms, has struggled with recruiting and retaining minority lawyers. Sweet has formed a diversity committee and will serve as its first chairman to show that it ranks high among his priorities. Longtime partners say both Sweet and Jones have consensus-building leadership styles, but because of the plethora of new faces, Sweet has implemented some new methods to improve communication among partners. Bruce McConnel, chairman of the firm’s investment management practice, joined Drinker Biddle the same year as Sweet. He said that for the first time in his memory, the firm hosted a partners’ retreat at a resort in Virginia, with partners taking their spouses along and interacting socially with many new faces while also gaining advice from a Harvard Business School professor about management and strategic planning. Litigator Larry Fox joined Drinker Biddle in 1972. He said had been against the Shanley acquisition because he thought it was too large to properly digest. “I didn’t like any of [the acquisitions] initially, but now I’m the biggest fan,” Fox said. “Jim worked hard to make things work. He didn’t just assume things would integrate. This is an old Quaker firm, and people traditionally don’t like surprises. And we still debate things for a long time before moving ahead with something. So I think we’ve managed to keep our culture while moving forward.”

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