For only the second time in its 43-year history, Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg is preparing to have a new managing partner.
Longtime partner Brad Krouse will take on the top leadership position at the Philadelphia-based midsize firm as of Jan. 1. In a change for the firm’s leadership structure, he will be part of a newly formed three-person executive committee, which also includes partners Keith Kaplan and Michael Coran.
Outgoing managing partner Bill Harvey, a co-founder of the firm who will have held that post for 22 years, said he had those three lawyers in mind for firmwide leadership, and the partnership endorsed them Wednesday evening. He said he has been preparing them for the role over the past year or two, and getting their ideas on what a successful leadership transition would look like.
“They’ve all had senior leadership positions here for several years and are accomplished practitioners and managers in their own right,” Harvey said. “It’s been an organic process here and an interactive one.”
They were all leaders within their respective departments—Krouse is chairman of real estate and finance, Kaplan is chairman of corporate and securities and Coran co-chairs litigation.
“Most of our partners expected that this was the natural evolution for me to step into this role,” Krouse said.
Krouse added that he and Kaplan were already very involved in the firm’s finances, while Coran has served as the firm’s general counsel, and will continue to do so under the new structure. The executive committee structure will allow all three to maintain their legal practices, he said.
The new leaders follow in the footsteps of two managing partners who each lasted more than two decades in the role—before Harvey, co-founder Donald Harrison was managing partner. But Krouse said he does not expect to stay in his new role for the same length of time.
“That’s why we’re establishing now the framework for future transition and future leadership,” he said. With the three executive committee members vacating their departmental leadership roles, he said, it opens opportunities for three younger lawyers to take on those responsibilities and train for future leadership roles.
Looking back on his 22 years as managing partner, Harvey said, “It’s better to leave a year too soon than a year too late.” The firm is well positioned for a change, he said. Krouse noted that the firm is debt-free, and has stable expenses, including a lease in effect until 2025.
Shaping the firm’s current market position has been a focus on a specific client base, Harvey said. Klehr Harrison largely gave up a focus on large institutional clients “many years ago,” he said, and “created a model here that is driven by first- and second-generation money,” much of which involves private equity and real estate.
“By focusing on the folks that are creating capital here in Philadelphia and the regions where we practice we’ve been able to separate ourselves from other midsize firms and avoid some of the problems midsize firms have had,” Harvey said.
“Because of our cost structure, we are a terrific value proposition,” Krouse said. “We want to make sure we stay there. Our clients are important to us. We want to make sure we’re driving efficiency to our clients.”
For the next generation of leaders, he said, that will involve addressing industrywide issues, particularly in technological infrastructure and innovation. The firm will be investing in technological advances, he said, and artificial intelligence.
The effect of technology on the profession will be a major challenge for firms going forward, Harvey said, as well as learning how to motivate young lawyers. The firm has survived the departure of two of its “pillars” during his tenure as managing partner—Leonard Klehr taking a vice chairman role with Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds, and Michael Forman becoming chairman of Franklin Square Capital Partners.
“We’ve done that, I think, by growing a young and talented group of business lawyers,” Harvey said. “There’s a great life for people who choose it, but they have to have the right skillset. Our challenge, as most firms, is to inspire young lawyers.”