Cameron Garrison

As the next managing partner for 260-lawyer Lathrop Gage, Cameron Garrison will be giving up his practice representing companies in intellectual property matters.

Garrison will focus instead on changing how Lathrop Gage’s roughly 140 partners go about their work. The incoming managing partner said his most immediate goal is to foster a “culture of innovation” as the firm begins “re-imagining everything about how we interact with clients.”

That reinvention will range from how the firm prices matters to how it communicates with clients about the progress of their work, said the Kansas City, Missouri-based Garrison. One specific project will be the creation of a client portal.

“More and more of what we traditionally do day-to-day has the capability of being outsourced,” Garrison said. “And that’s exactly why we have to be innovative in terms of how we focus on and identify clients’ needs and provide the services they need.”

Lathrop Gage confirmed this week that Garrison would succeed Mark Bluhm as the firm’s managing partner after being nominated for the role by a committee prior to a partnership vote. Bluhm has served as managing partner since 2013 and will take over as the firm’s chairman. That role is currently filled by Joel Voran, who led Lathrop Gage through a series of mergers in Denver and Los Angeles during his time at the helm. Bluhm will also return to his corporate practice focused on M&A deals and general business matters.

Garrison is not alone in believing that law firms need to innovate in order to provide more efficient services. Lathrop Gage, which dropped the ampersand from its name in June, is also not the only firm that will have considerable work to do in order to meet that challenge.

A survey this year by legal consulting firm Altman Weil Inc. showed that 94 percent of managing partners believe that improved efficiency will be a permanent trend in the legal marketplace. At the same time, only 49 percent of managing partners said they had significantly changed their approach to the efficient delivery of legal services.

Altman Weil calls this “a frightening disconnect.”

Garrison said Lathrop Gage has a team of technology professionals who will help the firm create or buy project management software that would also allow partners to share information with clients.

“I’m excited about it,” Garrison said. “I think our firm’s excited about it and ready to embrace it.”

Earlier this month, Lathrop Gage hired former Proskauer Rose partner Nancy Sher Cohen to lead the firm’s Los Angeles office and its policyholder and insurance coverage practice. Cohen is taking on the task of repopulating that office after it was left virtually dormant by the April departure of six lawyers to Raines Feldman, a 45-lawyer Southern California firm.

Last week, a six-lawyer health care team in Kansas City and St. Louis left Lathrop Gage for regional rival Spencer Fane. But Lathrop Gage has also been busy reshuffling its operations, launching its own government relations and lobbying subsidiary called Lathrop Gage Consulting LLC earlier this month after absorbing Jefferson City, Missouri-based Gallagher Consultants LLC.

In Chicago, Lathrop Gage has restocked its ranks following the defection of former local managing partner Sue Charles, who left in July for Troutman Sanders along with business and environmental litigation partners Trent Cornell and Russell Eggert. Lathrop Gage appointed bankruptcy partner Bryan Minier to take over partner-in-charge for the Windy City, where the firm has since announced the hire of three more intellectual property lawyers: Partners Tom Papadopoulos and Vladimir Arezina have come aboard from Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg and counsel Julie Nichols Matthews joined from Parker Ibrahim & Berg.

Asked if he had a particular practice group or geography in mind when targeting lateral hires, Lathrop Gage’s Garrison said his firm was more interested in their attitude toward implementing new technologies than their geography.

“I want to be focused on identifying laterals that embrace the same focus on innovation and progressiveness that we’re going to be embracing,” Garrison said.