Breakfast and Registration
The State of the US Legal Market
In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” a solo traveler stumbles upon a sylvan crossroad and faces an agonizing dilemma: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both….” Filled with intense curiosity about what lies ahead, the narrator ultimately elects for the path less traveled—a decision, so (s)he muses, “that has made all the difference.” Frost’s contemplation of change and its profound ramifications holds contemporary echoes in today’s legal services marketplace. Trepidation, consternation, even perhaps elation, may be said to have crossed the minds of many law firm executives. And while growth, however tepid, is cause for celebration, observations shared in this year’s “State of the Legal Market” paint a decidedly more nuanced portrait of health. Please join us as two of the industry’s most respected voices share data-driven intelligence on performance, productivity and profitability heading into 2020.
James Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, Georgetown University Law Center
Gretta Rusanow, Head of Advisory Services, Law Firm Group, Citi Private Bank
What is Strategy?
There is great confusion around what truly constitutes strategy in modern legal services. Technological investment and world-class client engagement are table stakes in a modern buyer’s market. “Strategy,” for better or worse, exists outside this paradigm. But are law firm leaders truly aware of what this means? Or, perhaps more importantly, fully cognizant of what outcome(s) each is managing for? This lively discussion examines the evolving parameters of strategic vision within regional and global organizations. Key discussion points include prioritizing drivers of change and identifying areas for improvement, building a “safe” culture where change is encouraged and rewarded, recognizing how and when to seek diverse perspectives on change management, and establishing benchmarks to measure one’s progress.
Diane Scheffler, Chief Operating Officer, Troutman Sanders LLP
Breakout #1: Building Consensus: Persuading Partners to Change (Breakout)
A recent survey over change efforts within the Am Law 200 yielded a number of startling conclusions. Not only were over 90% of respondents convinced that their firm viewed changing the legal service delivery model as only a “low” or “moderate” priority, but well over 60% pointed to ingrained ennui amongst the partnership as the primary point of friction. Law firm executives must build firmwide consensus in order to transform their business. But recognizing this need, and actually succeeding in doing so, are two very different propositions. This session offers candid advice on how to overcome organizational pockets of resistance and build a groundswell of enterprise support.
Breakout #2: Castles Made of Sand: Leading Change through Law Firm Combinations (Breakout)
Thanks to ongoing pressures around shrinking market share and long-term growth, law firm combinations reached record highs in 2018. Throughout the profession, merger activity between large, midsize, and small firms underscored the profound unrest still roiling a dispersed market. Law firm combinations are obviously complex engagements. But perhaps the most challenging facet of a successful merger is in the implementation and cultural work still to come. This session addresses change management strategies across two or more disparate cultures. How do law firm executives succeed in aligning their business in the wake of profound transformation?
Madhav Srinivasan, Chief Financial Officer, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Breakout #3: The Mirror Crack’d: Perception vs. Reality in Reputational Management (Breakout)
For all the talk of industry transformation and practice innovation, the legal profession will forever be defined by performance, reputation and relationships. Myriad media headlines suggest that any number of unforeseen developments, including partner and practice group defections, controversial clientele, or alleged ethical misconduct, can have a deleterious impact on a firm’s overall reputation and finances. And while some within the profession might discount the repercussions of reputational harm, savvy executives recognize why aligning perception with reality is critical for long-term success. This conversation offers candid thoughts on facilitating reputational awareness across the enterprise.
Thursday Keynote: Building Sustainable Change
The rules of success have changed. Sustainable competitive advantage no longer lies simply in a new product or service. It is an organizational capability to be adaptive. The new role of strategy is to provide the practical process and tools to help us build and lead adaptive organizations. Thomson Reuters is pleased to welcome Willie Pietersen, a renowned business executive, consultant and Professor of the Practice of Management at Columbia University Graduate School of Business, for a provocative presentation on engineering sustainable change in today’s business environment.
William Pietersen, Professor of the Practice of Management, Columbia Business School
Breakout #1: A Long December: Lawyering & the Wellness Imperative (Breakout)
A recent study of white collar professionals concluded that lawyers, in addition to scoring lower than every other profession in terms of health and overall wellbeing, have the highest rate of alcohol and substance abuse on a global scale. Suffice to say, such findings seem par for the course. But perhaps a more intriguing question is how much productivity—and, by extension, profitability—is lost when lawyers fail to account for their health? This session examines the growing imperative of wellness initiatives at law firms today. Participants are asked to discuss what conversations and/or formal employee programs are proving most effective at their respective organizations.
Breakout #2: All Roads Lead Home: Mastering Small Data Within the Firm (Breakout)
Reimagining business process around AI and big data generates considerable buzz across industries. In the legal sector, one hears often about the extraordinary inroads firms with large operating budgets have made when it comes to deeper, more transformative ways of leveraging business intelligence. But less is said about how firms saddled with more modest budgetary constraints are leveraging small data for various ends. This conversation offers real-world guidance on how to collect, catalogue and harness proprietary data to transform business operations and strategy. Our panel will address why small data is increasingly becoming a vital leyline for thriving in a slower growth environment.
Breakout #3: Agile by Design: Rethinking Law Firm Staffing Models (Breakout)
Thanks to ongoing technological breakthroughs and evolving client expectations, law firm staffing models face heavy scrutiny throughout the profession. Recent Peer Monitor data reveals not only the continued popularity of talent outsourcing as a means of controlling costs, but also the introduction of more specialized roles (pricing, legal project management) to help drive profitability. This discussion considers a number of innovative ways firms are reimagining their legal and professional people strategy in order to remain agile and competitive in the market.
Carlos Pauling, Director, Law Firm Management Practice, Major, Lindsey & Africa
Frederick O’Malley, Chief Operating Officer, Shutts & Bowen LLP
Thursday Night Reception
Please join us for canapés and cocktails as we wrap up the day’s proceedings
Breakfast & Partner Talks
Swords to Plowshares: Managing Senior Partner Transitions in the Firm
Senior partner succession planning has long been a delicate topic for law firm executives. According to Altman Weil, nearly 65% of law firm equity partners are in their late fifties or early sixties, and over 60% of partners aged sixty or older manage more than half of their firm’s book of business. Increasingly, firms are recognizing the need to establish transition plans for partners that meet the needs of clients, the firm and the partner, including educating senior colleagues on life after legal practice. This conversation offers candid advice on how to initiate and lead often challenging discussions with senior-most members of the firm.
Bob Seabolt, Chief Operating Officer, ISM Management Services, Inc.
LeeAnn Black, Chief Operating Officer, Latham & Watkins LLP
Jamie Hutchinson, Chief Administrative Partner, Alston & Bird LLP
Friday Keynote: A Fireside Chat with William Dudley
The Legal Executive Institute is honored to welcome William C. Dudley for a closing keynote conversation with Axel Threlfall, Reuters Editor-at-Large. Dr. Dudley served as the 10th President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Vice-Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee from 2009-2018. He joined the Federal Reserve on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis, following a 20-year career at Goldman Sachs – where he served as the firm’s chief US economist for a decade. While at the Federal Reserve, Dr. Dudley earned a reputation as a champion for prudent regulation and supervision of globally systemic financial institutions. He continues to serve as a highly respected authority on US fiscal policy, global financial markets and tax reform.
Axel Threlfall, Editor-at-Large, Reuters
William Dudley, 10th President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York & Vice-Chairman, The Federal Open Market Committee (2009-2018)
85 West Street
New York, NY 10006
We have reserved a block of guest rooms at a group rate of $379/night plus taxes. For reservations, please visit our dedicated booking link at: https://book.passkey.com/event/49814355/owner/16788/landing.
Alternatively, you may call the hotel directly at 212.385.4900 and reference the “Thomson Reuters 18th Annual Law Firm COO & CFO Forum”. The cut-off date for group guest room reservations is Wednesday, October 2, 2019. Rooms are subject to availability. Please contact LEI@thomsonreuters.com with questions regarding guest rooms.