After several years doing double duty as chairman and managing partner of Blank Rome, Alan Hoffman will soon share firmwide leadership responsibilities with litigation department chairman Grant Palmer.
Hoffman will continue as chairman, a position he has held for a decade, and Palmer will take on the managing partner role, the firm announced Monday. Partners Gregory Bordo and Daniel Rhynhart will lead the litigation department, Palmer said.
The changes are set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
“The firm is of a size now, the number of offices we have and attorneys we have and practice areas, that I thought the firm would be better served by having two people in that leadership position,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman also noted that having a younger partner step into the managing partner position, which he also referred to as CEO, was important.
“I’m now a senior partner, and I think decisions that are made by the CEO of a law firm need to be made about what’s going to happen at the firm over the next 15 or 20 years, and that person should be here over that period of time to implement those changes,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman became a co-chairman in 2008 with Michael Dyer, when the firm also had a managing partner, Carl Buchholz. But after Buchholz, who is now deceased, left he firm, and Dyer retired, Hoffman took on the two roles himself in 2011.
Blank Rome re-elected Hoffman to continue as chairman after his term came to an end last year. A nominating committee took on the task of choosing a managing partner as well.
“We’ve only had five managing partners since 1946, and I’m going to be the sixth. I’m humbled by that, inspired by that,” Palmer said.
Palmer has spent most of his legal career at Blank Rome, having worked there as a summer associate in 1988. He also worked as a summer associate at Dickstein Shapiro, the bulk of which became part of Blank Rome in 2016 when Dickstein Shapiro closed.
In addition to leading Blank Rome’s 300-lawyer litigation department, Palmer founded the firm’s pro bono committee in 2003 and has chaired it since.
Palmer’s leadership experience stood out during the nomination process to find a managing partner, when the committee interviewed almost every equity partner, Hoffman said.
“The partners had a lot of exposure to Grant and seeing how we operate in all sorts of different arenas … over this period of time,” Hoffman said.
In the managing partner position, Palmer will focus on day-to-day decision-making, Hoffman said. The chairman, meanwhile, runs the compensation committee and works on strategic initiatives such as mergers, acquisitions and laterals. But some of that may change, he noted, as part of the firm’s ongoing process of refining its partnership agreement, which was last updated in 2001.
Palmer said he has two main goals: to preserve Blank Rome’s culture, and to continue to grow the firm’s depth in practice areas that are important to clients. He called Blank Rome “a place where we are a large firm in stature, and a powerhouse nationally and internationally, but we have a small-firm feel.”
The firm has enjoyed rapid head count growth in recent years, including the group acquisition of more than 100 lawyers from Dickstein Shapiro. At the end of 2016, 60 percent of Blank Rome’s lawyers had joined the firm since 2011, Hoffman said in an interview last year. The firm was 78th on Legal affiliate The National Law Journal’s list of largest U.S. law firms by head count in 2017.
Blank Rome’s revenue has increased in turn, growing 25 percent from 2015 to 2017. That included a 22.5 percent boost in 2016, when head count grew by 18.2 percent. Since 2008, the firm has increased revenue by 39 percent and opened five offices.
As the firm has grown, maintaining culture takes more work, Palmer said, requiring “a lot of travel, a lot of spending time with each other.” Still, he said, “there is no question that we’re going to continue to expand.”
That will mean adding large groups only if they can be integrated well into the firm, Palmer said. And, Hoffman noted, as the firm updates its partnership agreement, it is also taking a look at compensation, and using that as a tool to promote the right cultural values.
“In the past it was whoever was the biggest rainmaker is rewarded in a certain way,” Hoffman said. “That becomes a singular focus instead of a group focus on collaboration.”
The right approach to compensation, Palmer added, helps to promote “a culture where people want to jump on trains and planes to help a partner and a client.”