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It’s no secret that law firms are caste systems. In the early ’80s, I worked my way through law school as a temp secretary at 18 of San Francisco’s biggest firms, and quickly learned an important lesson: There were two status ranks — lawyers, and everybody else. Most of those everybody elses were various shades of invisible, including the top executives who help run the organization. Fortunately, times are changing. Firms, facing acute competition, are revising their business models from private club to corporate, and migrating (albeit slowly) from “eat what you kill” to collaborative cultures. The bottom line: Today’s firms cannot stay competitive if they don’t attract — and keep — the very best management talent. Sometimes, it’s the little things that say a lot. So I hereby challenge all law firms to put contact information for their executive team on their Web sites — prominently. And make sure your search engine can pull up those executives’ names. I announced this battle cry at February’s LegalTech in New York City, and so far the response has been amazing, both publicly and via private e-mails. Baker & McKenzie’s chief operating officer Craig Courter* was at the show, and immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Upon his return to Chicago, Baker’s site was upgraded. ( www.bakerinfo.com) After the show, I took a look at the Web sites of the top 10 U.S. firms (based on the 2003 AmLaw 100 roster from our sister publication, The American Lawyer). It was disheartening. Only two firms provide a visible directory of execs: Baker, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. ( See www.lawfirminc.com) But Weil Gotshal gets an A+. The firm’s home page doesn’t have an “Attorneys” button. Instead, it offers a button labeled “WGM Directory” that routes visitors to a page where they can look for partners and counsel; associates; and administration. “We list our senior level management team on our Web site,” explains Rob Singer,* the firm’s executive director. “It reflects our commitment to a one-firm approach and one team working together.” ( www.weil.com) PROUD BUNCH Not all firm executives find low visibility on Web sites disturbing or even annoying. Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, the #5 AmLaw firm, does not list executives, but that doesn’t bother John Feldkamp,* executive director of the firm’s New York office. “Lawyers are a proud bunch. Martindale-Hubbell will list biographical information only on admitted lawyers,” says Feldkamp. “Senior administrators have achieved in most firms a partner-peer status, [they] should be partner-peers. They should never be partners. As long as it is easy to find me it never bothered me where I was listed,” says Feldkamp. (www.sidley.com) At Jones Day, the #3 AmLaw ranked firm, there’s no directory, but data is available, reports Cherie Olland,* director of business development and communications. “We do not pull out our management and list them separately, although if you know who they are, the contact information is there in the bios.” (www.jonesday.com) AHEAD OF THE CURVE Other firms are ahead of the industry curve. James Bruenger,* national director of planning and analysis, reports that Foley & Lardner not only includes searchable contact data, but biographies and pictures — and they’ve been up for about four years. “Other than a little more activity in Postini [software] to block spam from e-mail harvesters, I like the fact that at Foley management counts!” says Buenger. (www.foley.com) Also aboard: Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The firm recently revised its site, and now has e-mail links for its “non-attorney leaders,” reports Chris Boyd. (www.wsgr.com) Deena Coffman, IT director at Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman, says her firm lists administrative staff (department heads through chief operating officer), complete with direct dial numbers. (www.kronishlieb.com) Heller Erhman White & McAuliffe, lists C-level staff, firmwide directors and directors of administration, reports director of communications John Buchanan. “It’s important for the external world to know who our professional staff management are and how to contact them,” he says. (www.hewm.com) Edward Flitton III,* managing partner of Denver’s 300-attorney Holland & Hart, says the firm lists most of its 600 employees. “We need to make it easy for our clients, vendors, co-counsel, and prospective clients to contact us. This is critical to client service,” explains Flitton. Because not all users know names or titles, the next upgrade will include an administrator directory. (www.hollandhart.com) Other firms that list execs, or have an upgrade in the works: Frost Brown Todd; Sonnenschein, Nash & Rosenthal; Alston & Bird; Bricker & Eckler; Fish & Neave; and Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold. CONCERNS Some firms worry that if they list administrators, headhunters will raid their executive suite, that IT staff will be hounded by salespeople, or that visitors will assume everybody’s an Esq. “The vendor [issue] can’t be overstated,” says Jeffrey Brandt, CIO at Philadelphia’s Cozen O’Connor. His firm does not list administrators, and that’s fine with him. “I’d hate to think what listing myself on the Web site could potentially do to that call volume.” (www.cozen.com) Doug Benson, COO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, says his firm has been skittish: “Historically, Orrick, like other firms, has been reluctant to include non-lawyer staff on its Web site because of a risk management concern that Web surfers may assume that these people are practicing lawyers. However, we are currently evaluating ways in which we may be able to add this content. We recognize that they are valuable business professionals critical to the firm’s operations, and it makes sense that their information be available.” (www.orrick.com) But many execs feel strongly about the need to increase visibility. “I believe that the headhunter argument is specious,” says Adam Stock, a director of sales at Dorsey & Whitney, which just added its execs to its site. (www.dorsey.com) “Last time I checked, headhunters make much more money for placing attorneys than they do placing sales and marketing folks — yet we list attorneys’ contact information.” Also singing with the choir is Teresa Grote: “I believe listing executive staff on Web sites indicates a firm’s commitment to the business side of practicing law,” says Grote, CIO of Dinsmore & Shohl, and president and COO of its technology spin-off, DinsNet Technologies. Grote says her visibility at industry events has helped drive legal sales. “Vendors contact me anyway. I believe the benefits far outweigh any risks.” Richard Gary was chair of Thelen Reid & Priest for 11 years, and now heads Richard Gary Advisors. He says it never occurred to him to list execs on Thelen’s Web site, but he wishes he had thought of it. “That shouldn’t be the only litmus test [of respect for executives], although it’s certainly an indicator. But Gary warns that the caste system is very real, and very dangerous. “Despite my very strong personal feelings about equal treatment and respect for support staff members, I know that many law firm partners hold different views than mine. These partners tend to value individuals according to their tangible economic contributions to the firm in terms of client originations, billable hours, etc. Further, some of them believe that there is an almost mystical element to the notion of partnership,” he says. “I believe that in the long run, these beliefs are destructive to firm culture,” he adds. “People are perceptive, and if they know they’re being treated like second-class citizens, they’ll start acting like second-class citizens, and you’ll get less out of them,” says Gary. “That’s the last thing you want in a successful law firm.” LFI Monica Bay, a member of the California bar, is editorial director of Law Firm Inc. Email: [email protected]. More: www.lawfirminc.com. *Member, LFI Editorial Advisory Board.
Richard Gary’s Litmus Test 1. Are key executives invited to partner retreats and important firm meetings? 2. What role, if any, do executives play on firm committees? 3. Is the firm’s executive director (or COO) a member of the executive, management, compensation committees? Do they vote? 4. What role do key executives have in developing the firm’s overall strategy?
The 2003 AmLaw Top 10 Here’s our report card on the AmLaw 100′s Top 10 firms’ Web sites. 1. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom ( www.skadden.com) � �� D- Not only is there no listing of firm executives, but Skadden’s efforts to highlight support staff backfire on the elitist scale. Under “Opportunities,” a support staff page has pictures of nine people, eight of whom appear to be persons of color, and lists only their first name. Five legal assistants fare better on the “Paralegals” link, at least get their last names listed. The search bar says “Find an Attorney/Find Anything,” but when I tried to search for a firm executive, the results came up blank. 2. Baker & McKenzie ( www.bakerinfo.com) ��� A Under the “Firm Profile” home page header is “Our Leadership,” which lists the firm’s phone, fax and snail addresses for its international executive offices, plus e-mail links for the firm’s chair, executive committee, international executive management and regional managment staff. 3. Jones Day ( www.jonesday.com) � �� C “We do not pull out our management and list them separately, although if you know who they are, the contact information is there in the bios,” reports Cherie Olland*, the firm’s director of business development and communications. “You can access our practice leaders contact information from the practice pages.” 4.Latham & Watkins. ( www.lw.com) � �� F No roster. Couldn’t even find a search bar on home page (You have to click on “Attorney” bar.) 5. Sidley Austin Brown & Wood ( www.sidley.com ) � �� F Hope springs eternal — I was optimistic when I saw “Our Professionals,” but alas, that appears to mean lawyers. 6. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw. ( www.mayerbrownrowe.com) � �� F Once again, no evidence of execs. A search for Jonathan Asperger* brought up only a press release (and even that didn’t include his marketing director title). 7. Shearman & Sterling ( www.shearman.com) � �� F My eyes lit up when I saw the “Corporate Governance Hub,” but alas, it’s only lawyers. I couldn’t find a generic search bar. 8. Weil, Gotshal & Manges ( www.weil.com) ��� A+ Weil scores an A+ for its WGM Directory, which offers users the opportunity to search the directory for either Partners & Counsel, Associates, or Administration. When you click on Administration, you get a list of execs and e-mail links, including board member Rob Singer*, the firm’s new executive director. Special kudos for the fact that the home page lists WGM Directory — without a separate “attorneys” button. 9. White & Case ( www.whitecase.com) �� F No listing of executives. 10. McDermott, Will & Emery ( www.mwe.com) ��� C- Media homepage lists Amy Nigrelli, firm-wide practice development director, and Sarah Hargrove, head of London marketing. *Member, LFI Editorial Advisory Board

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