Donald Mrozek (Courtesy photo)
Donald Mrozek led Am Law 200 firm Hinshaw & Culbertson for 26 years before stepping down as chairman in June 2015. He must have missed resolving partnership disputes because his new role could put him squarely in the middle of your law firm’s next divisive decision.
Mrozek is now pitching to current law firm leaders his expertise as a management consultant and coach. Need advice on how to build consensus for a potential merger? How to get rid of a troubled partner? He’s been there. And so have other lawyers at Hinshaw, including former Dewey & LeBoeuf general counsel Janis Meyer, who already have a robust practice providing legal advice for large law firms, including on disputes and law firm merger deals.
That combination of services—legal advice and management consulting—is what Mrozek believes provides Hinshaw’s new “Consultants and Coaches for the Profession Practice,” as it is branded in an announcement on Monday, a leg up over other legal business consultants.
But those consultancies also have their own potential advantage: They are unlikely to be seen by other law firms as a direct competitor. Mrozek is perhaps unique and certainly rare in being a law firm partner marketing management consulting to other law firms.
Mrozek downplayed the idea that law firm leaders would be reluctant to share their management concerns and long-term strategies with another law firm.
“I think it’s just the opposite actually,” Mrozek said. “Obviously, I and Hinshaw totally understand the need for confidentiality. I think between the fact that the insights we have are extremely valuable and the fact that we will keep anything we learn totally confidential should outweigh any concern about competition with other law firms.”
During Mrozek’s two-plus decades of leadership, Hinshaw grew from a local Chicago firm to a national player with 25 offices, about 500 attorneys and more than $225 million in revenue. He was the longest-running chairman of the major Chicago-based law firms. In one of his last years at the helm, he led the firm’s acquisition of Barger & Wolen, a 45-lawyer California firm with a focus on the insurance industry, which Hinshaw has practiced in historically.
Mrozek came into the role in 1989 under difficult circumstances. Hinshaw’s former chairman, Dennis Horan, died of a heart attack the year before, leading to a period of uncertain leadership. Because of that experience, Mrozek said he spent a lot of time planning for his succession last year, before Kevin Burke was voted into the role.
Burke put his stamp on the firm earlier this year when he announced he had appointed a new managing partner, four new management committee members, five new practice group leaders and seven new office leaders.
While he spoke with friends who were CEOs of other businesses about managing a firm, he said he would have benefited from advice given by law firm leaders.
“The biggest issue out there for law firm leaders in a certain regard is [the position] is too insular,” Mrozek said. “And the longer you’re in the role, the more insular it gets. You talk to your partners, and you hear their views, and they tend to meld together. So you’re hearing the same message again and again and again. So you need to hear some new views and particularly from someone who’s coming at it from real-world experience and not an academic view.”
Mrozek said he was encouraged to start the management consulting practice after speaking with lawyers at the firm who are known as go-to counsel for law firms, including Meyer, Anthony Davis and J. Richard Supple Jr.
Asked if he missed managing a law firm, and whether it was enjoyable, Mrozek said, “It’s something that I derived a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment out of. Was it enjoyable? Not always. It’s not enjoyable to fire somebody.”
That’s something he might soon remember in his new role.
Contact Roy Strom at email@example.com. On Twitter: @RoyWStrom.