With metropolitan offices in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, the 100-plus-strong team at Murtha Cullina has established its prominence as a big fish among firms in the Nutmeg State and a nationally competitive midsize player that takes on complex litigation issues and health care cases that are constantly evolving with the regional and national political tides.
Murtha partner Paul E. Knag has studied related subjects enough to become a sought-after writer in his own right, covering antitrust cases, reimbursement, insurance, arbitration and other topics, while his litigation experience has taken him from Hartford courtrooms all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, earning him consistently high ratings in peer review. His experience supported appointment to chairman of the Health Law Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, and he has served as chairman of the Connecticut Health Lawyers Association.
Knag recently discussed which areas of Murtha’s law business are consistently booming, and which are poised for growth in the near future.
What is the current size of your firm, where is it located and what are its primary areas of practice and focus? Our firm consists of over 100 lawyers with offices in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. We have a regional law firm practice, including litigation, business and finance, real estate, trusts and estates, labor and employment, tax and employee benefits, intellectual property, health care, education, banking, affordable housing, insurance, immigration, government affairs, cybersecurity, energy, construction and various other areas.
What is Murtha Cullina’s governance structure and compensation model? We are a limited liability partnership, governed by an executive committee with all attorneys compensated based on merit.
What do you see as the two biggest opportunities for your firm? We see opportunity in many areas. Intellectual property is a rapidly growing practice area for us, including both litigation and prosecution, and patents and trademarks. Another important and growing area is health care, with its rapidly changing landscape. Our teams in both of these areas have increased over the past few years.
After the recession hit, the prevailing theory was that midsize firms would start to see more work come their way from large clients who could no longer justify paying Big Law rates. What has been your experience? We regularly attract business from clients who are not willing to pay Big Law prices.
Are your clients pushing for more alternative fee arrangements, and, if so, what types? Is your firm amenable to those requests? Our firm is offers a variety of alternative fee arrangements, including retainer agreements which cover specified services, fixed-fee transaction agreements, and contingency fee, or partial contingency fee, agreements involving litigation.
There is much debate around how law firms can foster the next generation of legal talent. What advantages and disadvantages do midsize firms have in attracting and retaining young lawyers, particularly millennials? We offer an opportunity to balance work life with family life. We have a large number of attorneys who want to have a rewarding career with sophisticated clients, while maintaining fulfilling personal life. Our firm allows professionals to accomplish that balance for them.
Does your firm employ any nonlawyer professionals in high-level positions (e.g., COO, business development officer, chief strategy officer, etc.)? If so, why is it advantageous to have a nonlawyer in that role? If not, have you considered hiring any? Yes. Michael Orce, our executive director, is a great leader helping us with practice issues as well as financial, plant, personnel and other nonlegal issues, working with firm leadership to execute strategic and operational goals. Debra Sciarra, who leads our marketing and business development effort, does a tremendous job in helping us to develop business plans, execute on those plans, and expand business relationships. She also knows the industry well, and works with the lawyers on various business development initiatives to get them plugged into the right places.
What, if any, technology advancements have you made in your firm in recent years? What are the challenges in implementing tech changes? The firm uses digital technology in every aspect of its work. This includes increasing use of technology in support of our litigation and nonlitigation practice areas. Highly leveraging our technology allows us to provide a cost-effective work product to our clients while increasing our efficiencies at the same time.
What would you say is the most innovative thing your firm has done recently, whether it be internal operations, how you work with clients, etc.? We have invested a great deal in Legal Project Management, to provide better budgeting and pricing certainty for our clients, which has become increasingly important to them.
Does your firm have a succession plan in place? If so, what challenges do you face in trying to execute that plan? If you don’t currently have a plan, is it an issue your firm is thinking about? Yes, each partner must develop a succession plan, and all of our industry teams are multigenerational. Our leadership is young and future looking.