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When Graciela Gomez Cowger joined Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt as an intellectual property lawyer in 2015, the firm had 62 specialties, two leaders and an uncertain place in the market. The firm’s annual revenue was around $66 million, and the Am Law 200 was a distant vision. Within three years, though, an overhaul of Portland, Oregon-based Schwabe’s leadership structure and practice offerings has boosted revenue more than 30 percent to more than $88 million, according to the firm. With one more year of double-digit growth, Schwabe could be on next year’s list. It’s among a group of firms nipping at the heels of the Am Law 200, driven by a focused strategy necessary to distinguish it from its midmarket peers.

“It was a moment of self-realization, where you put a mirror up against yourself and see where you’re at,” Cowger says of the overhaul. “We had 62 areas that we specialized in. It was not sustainable, and we didn’t have the kind of differentiators in the market that we wanted.” So Schwabe went out on a listening tour of its clients, asking what they wanted from the firm and taking it to heart.

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“They wanted us to know more about them and their industries,” Cowger says. “They wanted us to provide legal solutions that were informed by that knowledge, so that’s what we’re setting out to do.”

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Ben Seal

Ben Seal is managing editor of The American Lawyer. He joined the magazine in February 2018, and previously spent five years working for The Legal Intelligencer, editing the paper's magazines and supplements and reporting on Pennsylvania's state courts, legislature and Attorney General's Office. Contact him at [email protected] or @BSealTAL.

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