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November 12, 2007

What’s Up at Ballard Spahr?
Quick Questions for a Managing Partner Trio:
Allan Winn (DC), Roger Winston (Bethesda), and Ray Truitt (Baltimore)



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Ballard Spahr is burgeoning—the Philly-based firm planted itself in Phoenix, Vegas, and Bethesda in 2006 alone, and just opened the doors of its eleventh office, in L.A.  Bisnow gathered the Managing Partners of their three local offices for an update. 

Roger, Allan, and Ray all look pretty happy, but Allan has the most to smile about:  Bisnow caught him just before a trip to the Greek Islands, Turkey, and Syria.

How big are your offices?

Allan: We have 53 lawyers in D.C., 44 in Baltimore, and 11 in Bethesda.  Nationally we have about 500.

Strongest practice areas?

 
Ray:

Real estate is the core practice in all three offices.

Roger:

We also have significant non-real estate capabilities, like litigation, public finance, and tax in D.C.  That’s a factor for a lot of real estate clients.

 
Where’s the personnel growth coming from?
Allan: Much of it has come from laterals.  All three of us came laterally.
 
Ray: Growth has been sort of Biblical—one lateral begets another, who begets another.

Ballard represents the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, but Ray (right) roots for his hometown team in Baltimore.  He shares a set of season tickets to the Orioles, and admits to sneaking a brick from the Camden Yards construction site when he toured it with a group of summer associates.

Roger:

I was recruited by Beverly Quail, from the Denver office.  We got to know each other through the ABA’s Real Estate group when I was an associate at Linowes & Blocher.  She acted as a mentor and promoted me up through the group, even though we weren’t at the same firm then.  As laterals get added on, it has a multiplier effect.

How so?

Ray: Earlier this year, we brought in Mark Pollak from Wilmer, who works on a lot of public-private developments like Centerpoint in Baltimore.  We just added Mike Skojek, who does Fair Housing and ADA litigation.  Mike and Mark could have taken their books of business anywhere—but the more elements we add, the more attractive we’ve become. 
Allan: It also helps to expand our work.  We had mostly a lender practice in D.C., but the laterals in Bethesda represent developers, so now we’re getting into that.  It’s a double win.

Roger is the email king of the trio.  When Bisnow dropped in, Allan had just cleaned his in-box of over 100 emails from his Bethesda-based partner. Hey, anyone heard of the telephone?  

Is it hard to maintain a culture as you add laterals?
Roger:

We haven’t taken on huge chunks of people at once.  It’s been individuals or smaller groups.  So we’ve never had to meld a separate firm’s culture with our own.

 

Ray:

There’s a big impulse for partners to help each other out here.  That’s one of the big cultural elements.
 
Allan:

Our partner compensation system was designed to reflect that.  You write a memo about yourself, but there’s an interview where you only talk about your work with other partners—nothing about yourself.

 

How often do the managing partners meet?

 
Ray:

There’s a monthly meeting of the expanded board, which includes office heads.  We also have partnership meetings twice a year.  Our next one is in Baltimore, which is the first time that we’ve ever done it outside Philadelphia.  Besides the regular meetings, there’s usually a management meeting of one kind or another every week.

 
Why did you open a Bethesda office instead of adding those lawyers to D.C.?
 
Roger:

About half the work of the Bethesda group is with clients in suburban Maryland, so it was important to stay to maintain those relationships.  There are lots of real estate opportunities in Bethesda.  Our office has more than doubled in a year, from five to 11.  We’d like to replicate in Bethesda what the national firms have done in Northern Virginia.

 
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