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Managing Partner Roundtable: Part 1

With Valentine's Day tomorrow, here's something that we love: bringing law firm managing partners and industry experts together to learn from one another on topics ranging from real estate to book recommendations. Today, we're delighted to bring you Part 1 of this managing partner roundtable, hosted by Cushman & Wakefield


Our brain trust:

  • Seyfarth Shaw DC managing partner Bob Bodansky
  • Wiley Rein firm managing partner Peter Shields
  • Kelley Drye firm managing partner Lew Rose
  • Foley & Lardner DC managing partner Scott Fredericksen
  • Morris, Manning & Martin DC co-managing partner Wendy White
  • Cushman & Wakefield legal sector advisory group chair Sherry Cushman
  • Cushman & Wakefield brokerage executive director Malcolm Marshall

(If you're interested in learning more about this private event series, contact Chris Wainwright.) 


On right-sizing real estate:

Lew: Like many of us, the biggest challenge I faced was having room for about 125% of my needs when I only needed 75%. We right-sized ourselves through growing the office and subleasing some of our space. A couple years ago, we gave up the first floor, which is now the Fiola Mare Restaurant, in exchange for extending our lease. Now we're almost exactly where we want to be.

Bob: Our Houston office recently moved, and we fit 45% more people into the same size space. There are no perimeter offices. All of the windows overlooking the river are in collaborative space, and the interior is designed to bring in light. The folks love it, and at least for us, that seems to be the way of the future. 


On engaging the next generation:

Wendy: I think it's really important to engage Millennials and collaborate with them on how to make your business a success, as opposed to making them feel like they are just working for you. Moving from a large law firm environment to a small office, it has been fun to work with young people in the office and consider together, "How are we going to build the culture we want?"

Lew: When I took over as DC managing partner two years ago, I moved the business meeting we used to have on Saturday morning to Friday afternoon and invited everybody to join -- partners, associates and staff. Each person got a clicker to vote on our top goal for the office; when it was voted down to three, we got into breakout groups and had one representative from each make the case for theirs. We voted on becoming recognized as a "best place to work," and we were actually named one just a year later by the Washington Post and Washington Business Journal.


On engaging the next generation (continued):

Sherry: At one law firm's firmwide retreat recently, I gave a presentation to 150 associates and partners that I'd normally only present to an executive committee. The managing partner said to me, "I want them to all hear what we're hearing, so they understand the decisions we're making and feel their voices have been heard." They left feeling that they have some skin in the game. I think the way that senior leadership is engaging associates impacts their desire to stay in the industry


On working remotely:

Peter: We've introduced this slowly, so we let fifth years and those more senior work outside of the office for one day per week. They've earned the trust. People expect our senior partners not to like remote work, but in fact it's a lot of midlevel and younger partners who feel that we should be together in the office. 


On collaborative spaces:

Scott: We turned a rarely used conference room with windows overlooking the water into a coffee lounge. Over one weekend, associates went and took pictures of their favorite places to hang out in DC, then we looked at what they have in common. Based on that, the associates furnished the space -- they came in under budget -- and we put in an espresso machine, healthy snacks and a ping-pong table. That has really made a difference to them, and increasingly, the older partners are joining them. It's more productive, because this gives them a space to get together and collaborate inside the office, whereas otherwise they may go out to a Starbucks. 


On a managing partner must-read:

Bob: Richard Susskind has been writing a lot about the future of the business of law. He was a keynote at one of our partner retreats and everybody got a copy of his book. You may not necessarily buy into 100% of what he's saying, but the overall theme definitely resonates.

Scott: If you haven't read anything by Susskind, I recommend his books to you. I'm on the firm management committee, and while researching a presentation on technology I was going to give, I came across Susskind and kept coming back to his writing. He discusses stunning changes that are being created by technology. After the presentation, our CEO distributed his book to everyone on the committee.