At Holme Roberts & Owen, a new manager is all business ... Foley poaches for China office ... Not just on firms' shoulders.
|April 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM
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AT HOLME ROBERTS & OWEN, A NEW MANAGER IS ALL BUSINESS While big firms like Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe hire business-minded recruits to handleadministrative or operational tasks, Holme Roberts & Owen is experimenting with another idea. The 250-lawyer firm, based in Denver, has put a seasoned business executive � formerly a lawyer � on the front lines of its leadership. The firm announced this month that Robert Starzel, who recently rejoined the firm as of counsel, will co-manage the 18-lawyer office alongside current San Francisco Managing Partner Robert Stolebarger. Starzel has spent the last 30 years at the helm of a wide array of projects dreamed up by business tycoon Philip Anschutz, who recruited him as a young lawyer from HRO into his empire in 1976. His tasks now will include business development and client service, as well as attorney recruiting and mentoring. He sat for the California bar exam in February and plans to practice as a deal lawyer. “Bob’s business and management acumen, and his years as ‘the client’ will be of considerable help in enhancing our profile in San Francisco, understanding the San Francisco business community and developing significant relationships in the Bay Area,” the firm’s managing partner, Kenneth Lund, said in an e-mail. HRO’s clients include Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc., which owns newspapers in the Bay Area and elsewhere, Visa USA, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Starzel, who earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1971, was vice president and director of The Anschutz Corp. from 1976 to 1988, then served as chairman of Southern Pacific Transportation Co. for eight years. “I was the No. 2 guy in all its operations,” Starzel said. “At that point we had about 27,000 employees, so it was a big company and a lot of responsibility.” Starzel, who was born in 1940, went on to several other high-level posts at Union Pacific Corp., also owned by Anschutz, and even tried his hand in the newspaper world as chairman of the San Francisco Newspaper Co., owner of the San Francisco Examiner. While he concedes that managing individual attorneys is a different ballgame than managing company employees, Starzel plans to nudge HRO’s young litigators away from narrow specialization. “There is a tendency to channel peopleinto specialties when some of their talents lie in broadening their perspective on work,” Starzel said. “Normally, they are there for the litigation. But I’m suggesting that their talents could be used to counsel people to avoid the pitfalls that bring them to court.” Starzel, who is just beginning to learn about HRO’s lawyers and the details of their cases, said he expects a measure of resistance. “I think it is hard for peopleto see themselves in a different role,” he said. “I don’t think lawyers can be managed the way business people can; their personalities can be quite strong. I’m going to have to intuitively find my way.”
� Petra Pasternak
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