Firm Name: Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel.
Firm Leader: Mathieu J. Shapiro, managing partner.
Head Count: 116 attorneys.
Locations: Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Conshohocken, Pennsylvania; Doylestown, Pennsylvania; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Hartford, Connecticut; New York; Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Wilmington, Delaware.
Practice Areas: Full-service.
Governance structure and compensation model: Partnership structure; formulaic and open compensation model.
Do you offer alternative fee arrangements? Yes.
**Shapiro provided answers to the questions below. They have been edited lightly for style.**
What do you view as the two biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the two biggest threats?
- Our geographic expansion is enabling us to leverage and expand our historically strong Philadelphia-based connections throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
- Our efficient staffing allows us to handle high-end/complex matters more cost-effectively and predictably.
- Although our rates are significantly lower than many large firms, we nonetheless make every effort to invest in cutting-edge technology and keep up with large firms. This creates pressure on us which is not felt by other firms.
- We do not have the reach of national or international firms, though we hope our knowledge and industry experience in our specific region, and our affiliation with Ally Law, balances this lack of reach.
The legal market is so competitive now—what trends do you see, and has anything, including alternative service providers, altered your approach? Is your chief competition other mid-market firms, or is your firm competing against big firms for the same work?
One trend we have both noticed and experienced first-hand is that larger companies are forgoing their Big Law go-tos, and have instead been gravitating more toward midsize firms for their legal work. Not only can we more cost-effectively do the same work, but companies have begun to realize our value beyond our lower prices. For one, we develop more authentic and long-lasting relationships with our clients. This not only helps instill their earned trust, but helps us know their businesses inside and out, which in turn helps us better serve them in the end. Against this backdrop, we would be remiss not to compete against big firms for the same work.
Another trend that has altered our approach to client service is the growing importance of industry practice teams. We understand how our corporate clients value legal teams that know their industry and, as such, are in the process of restructuring our linear practice groups into interdisciplinary industry teams.
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 more work-life balance. Due to our relatively smaller size, midsize firms do offer more opportunities for associates to cultivate organic mentor-mentee relationships, and with that, more opportunities for feedback and to work on sophisticated legal matters much earlier in their careers.
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?
We do employ nonlawyers in high-level positions (i.e., our chief operating officer has a finance background, and our first chief marketing officer had a business background). This diversity serves our organization well due to the wide array of skill sets and perspectives that ultimately shape our firm’s strategy. It also allows our attorneys to focus on what they do best: lawyering.
What would you say is the most innovative thing your firm has done recently, whether it be technology advancements, internal operations, how you work with clients, etc.?
We recently revamped our conflicts system, to take advantage of new technologies and account for the ever-expanding reach of our client base.
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?
Several years ago, we went through an extensive long-range planning process, out which we transitioned to our first new managing partner in over 30 years, and appointed a new vice chair of the firm. Our seven-person management committee now has a majority of members in the “next” generation of firm leaders. We have also successfully transitioned the heads of several departments. We intend to continue thinking actively about succession to ensure the firm continues to be relevant and is still standing for another 114 years.