Bowman and Brooke chair Paul Cereghini in front of a Yamaha Rhino.

Bowman and Brooke chair Paul Cereghini in front of a Yamaha Rhino.

Over a month ago, I had a terrific conversation with a law firm leader whom I’ve come to know over the years. Paul Cereghini is at Bowman and Brooke, where he is the firm’s national chairman. Much to my chagrin, I am just now getting to report out on what we discussed and some news from the firm.

The honor that has come his way is a highly specific one: Paul is “the only lawyer based in Phoenix to chair a national law firm that was not based in Arizona.” (The 180-lawyer firm has 10 offices in seven states.)

When I talked with Paul in early May, I congratulated him but also chuckled at the legalistic specificity of that achievement. Nonetheless, Phoenix should be pleased at his accomplishment, which reflects well not just on the firm but on the city.

The news release interested me for reasons beyond city-pride, though. I also noted that Cereghini has been with the firm since joining right out of law school, and he is only the third chair in the firm’s 30-year history (Dick Bowman headed it up as managing partner for 23 years, then David Graves served as chair until early this year.)

Both of those accomplishments are noteworthy, and the first—staying with one firm from law school graduation through senior partnership—is increasingly rare today.

When Paul Cereghini took the associate job on Feb. 1, 1985, Bowman and Brooke was just opening its doors. On that day, he joined seven partners and six other associates in the new law-firm venture. And this spring, he became the firm’s third chair. Quite a career arc.

Cereghini said he expects to maintain his full trial practice—and pointed to the firm’s operations and leadership structure as reasons why that will be possible. When the firm moved away from a managing partner structure, he said, they adopted a chairmanship and took on professional nonlawyer staff leaders for other duties that used to occupy the managing partner’s time.

“Where other law firms might have their chair scale back,” said Cereghini, “we have a solid administrative side with a COO.” That person oversees the day-to-day activities of departments such as IT, facilities management and HR.

That structure frees Cereghini up to focus on his practice and the parts of leadership he enjoys most: “strategic planning and vision in the formation of strategic plans for the firm and administration.”

He also said that he enjoys lateral recruiting, finding people who “mesh with the culture of the firm.”

Cereghini said that those new firm lawyers have to embrace the organization’s core values: “collegiality, support for each other, sharing foxholes together.”

He also spoke about the firm’s product-liability and automotive practices, which have involved clients like Honda, Toyota, and Riddell. In March, a California jury returned a defense verdict of 12–0 in a defective products case arising when a woman was injured while riding in a Rhino ATV, manufactured by Yamaha. Bowman represented Yamaha, and Cereghini was lead trial counsel in the case. The claim in the case had been $16.7 million, plus punitive damages. According to the firm, “The trial involved the last active matter in the California JCCP Rhino litigation that at one time had more than 275 matters.”

In products-liability cases, Cereghini said, the landscape continues to shift. Federal court efficiency via the increased use of multi-district litigation (MDL) has changed the way such cases are defended. That means high-profile products cases may keep attorneys involved in multiple places simultaneously. And the fastest-growing areas in the field, he said, are in drugs and medical devices, and in consumer products.

Proud of his firm of trial lawyers, he said they continually to seek opportunities where younger attorneys can advocate before a finder of fact. He said that two dozen attorneys in the firm are first-chair qualified.

Asked if he can name a favorite element of trial practice, Cereghini ponders before mentioning the cross-examination of experts.

“That is probably the most fun I have in a courtroom. It lets me put in my case during the plaintiff’s case.”

Cereghini recalled that when he started at the firm, he had a unique opportunity: He was able to try two cases in 18 months with partners Dick Bowman and Jeff Brooke. “I received a tremendous education.” According to the firm, Cereghini has defended cases in 40 U.S. states.

As the firm prepared for its 30th annual meeting, Cereghini praised those who laid the foundation.

“Dick Bowman taught my generation how to be trial lawyers. And now, my generation has done the same.”

NOTE: The original post was edited to reflect the fact that Paul Cereghini is “the only lawyer based in Phoenix to chair a national law firm that was not based in Arizona.”

"The Dirt" on a law firm breakup was never more entertaining. Let's hear it for lawyers with a sense of humor!

“The Dirt” on a law firm breakup was never more entertaining. Let’s hear it for lawyers with a sense of humor!

A magazine is made of many great parts (I’m a big fan, as you might guess). But too often we tout only the “edit” side of the magazine—that is, all of the parts that are not advertising.

As I look back over my writing, I see that’s the case. I’ve praised stories, writing, authors, photos, design—but not ads.

In one way, that’s understandable: I really have nothing to do with the ads. As at many publications, we have a (conceptual) wall between “edit” and “ads.” Getting your content into one side in no way relates to getting your content into the other.

Therefore, I see the ads very late in the production process, often at proof stage. That’s where I can see how the ads lay out, and we can determine if there are any awkward “adjacencies,” either in content or design/color/look.

But once the issue comes out, I read those ads closely. Sure, I appreciate them beyond measure, as the revenue they represent makes our magazine be “in the black.” But I appreciate them for a deeper reason: They serve our readers as much as the edit does.

Besides their service value, they also teach me a lot. It’s not uncommon that upon reading an ad I learn something I didn’t know, or that I get a story lead. They can often be idea-generators.

And, every now and then, they make me pause in admiration. Some are simply gorgeous ads; others are evocative or revealing. And some make me laugh.

In future posts, I may mention what I’ve seen in regard to the first two categories. But “make me laugh” I will cover today.

The humorous ad that grabbed me came from a law firm, recently formed via a break-up of one firm into two. This may be less common than a merger, but it is still a staple of legal-profession communications, and rarely makes me slow down as I read.

But the joint ad of Lang & Klain and Baker Law Offices was different.

Here, first, is their full ad, as it appeared on proof:

An ad regarding the break-up of a single law firm into two ...

An ad regarding the break-up of a single law firm into two …

And there, at the bottom of the ad, was a rather unique inscription:

Curious about the break-up? Visit http://lang-klain.com/thedirt

Here’s the close-up:

... contained an eye-opening surprise for the careful reader.

… contained an eye-opening surprise for the careful reader.

Cheeky, that!

When you head over to that site, you can read a very witty series of FAQs about the firm’s break-up.

To read more about the firm in its more buttoned-down approach, go to their (two!) law firm websites for Lang & Klain and for Baker Law Offices.

What ads have made you stop in your tracks, in Arizona Attorney or elsewhere? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Too much? Many lawyers say they want to see more formal attire around the office.

Too much? Many lawyers say they want to see more formal attire around the office.

I am survey-crazy this week, having covered two others in posts this week. And on Change of Venue Friday, what could be more appropriate than survey results regarding casual dress in the law office?

The helpful people at Robert Half Associates surveyed lawyers on the question of professional dress. And they report:

“Managers in the legal field may be pushing back on more casual workplace attire at their law firms and corporate legal departments. In a new survey, 73 percent of lawyers report having a business casual attire policy at their workplace; however, half of these same attorneys would prefer their colleagues to dress more formally in the workplace.”

In their summary, the Robert Half folks noted:

Lawyers were asked: “In general, would you prefer legal professionals dress more formally or casually in the office?” Their responses:

  • Much more formally: 8%
  • Somewhat more formally: 42%
  • Neither more formally nor more casually: 22%
  • Somewhat more casually: 21%
  • Much more casually: 3%
  • Don’t know/no answer: 5%

Because we all love them, I share below an infographic that RHA created depicting the survey results.

Do these results resonate with you? Has the law office gotten too casual? Or is that simply yearning for a time better left behind?

Have a wonderful—and powdered-wig-free—weekend. And here’s that infographic (click to biggify):

Robert Half Legal_Business Casual Attire infographic

Gallagher & Kennedy attorney Laura Antonuccio reads to Phoenix Day schoolchildren, May 28, 2014.

Gallagher & Kennedy attorney Laura Antonuccio reads to Phoenix Day schoolchildren, May 28, 2014.

At a school in south Phoenix, dozens of children smile as a group from a law firm enters the room. They’ve come to know these women—each one a woman professional from law firm Gallagher & Kennedy—over the course of many months. And this day—May 28, 2014—is the culmination of the nearly year-long relationship.

If your eyes grow large at the notion that children would be pleased to see attorneys, you really need to understand what these women accomplished at Phoenix Day, an early education and youth development center serving underprivileged children.

The 18 women from Gallagher & Kennedy sought a way to make a difference in their community. The result was their participation in the Million Minutes Reading Challenge of the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council.

Seeing the need, the G&K folks formed their own “Team Right to Read.” They also sought out a participating school, landing at Phoenix Day. Since last September, the women have volunteered more than 7,300 minutes (and counting) reading to 86 students.

Members of the Gallagher & Kennedy Professional Women’s Group who donated hundreds of books to children at Phoenix Day on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, as part of their role in the Valley of the Sun United Way's Million Minutes Volunteer Reading Challenge. L to R: Jodi Bohr, Jennifer Cranston, Lori Stinson (Phoenix Day), Laura Antonuccio, Meg Smeck, Alana Hake. (Photo: PatrickCorley.com)

Members of the Gallagher & Kennedy Professional Women’s Group who donated hundreds of books to children at Phoenix Day on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, as part of their role in the Valley of the Sun United Way’s Million Minutes Volunteer Reading Challenge. L to R: Jodi Bohr, Jennifer Cranston, Lori Stinson (Phoenix Day), Laura Antonuccio, Meg Smeck, Alana Hake. (Photo: PatrickCorley.com)

May 28 was a reading day like many others. But it also was an opportunity to give the children another present—a large box of books (and other items) for each to take home. The materials had been gathered and assembled over multiple weeks by the G&K women.

As the school’s Education Director Lori Stinson looks on with a smile, attorney Laura Antonuccio leads the kids in a rousing rendition of “Clap Your Hands.”

“Reach for the sky, wiggle your toes, Stick out your tongue and touch your nose.”

Antonuccio originated the idea of a reading support group, and she is adept at firing the children up with the excitement of reading.

She suddenly exclaims, “On the count of three, everybody tell me how old you are!” The joyful cacophony of “3,” “5,” “4” fills the room, while a sotto voce (and slightly Eeyore-ish) voice adds from the back of the room, “30.”

After the festivities, lawyer Jennifer Cranston tells a visitor why the women are committed to this effort.

“Of course, we are all a part of the community,” she begins. And if listeners need a better reason to offer children the gift of reading, she adds, “And we’ll certainly reduce the need for lawyers if the entire population can become better educated.”

(Yes, she meant reducing the need for lawyers is a good thing.)

Members of the Gallagher & Kennedy women’s group may continue their work at Phoenix Day. But the group also seeks a new initiative for the coming year. Congratulations and thank you to each of them for their remarkable commitment.

Here are some more photos from the May 28 event.

Gallagher & Kennedy's Meg Smeck with children of Phoenix Day.

Gallagher & Kennedy’s Meg Smeck with children of Phoenix Day.

One of the many boxes of donated items gathered by the Gallagher & Kennedy women as gifts to the children of Phoenix Day.

One of the many boxes of donated items gathered by the Gallagher & Kennedy women as gifts to the children of Phoenix Day.

Gallagher and Kennedy attorney Jodi Bohr reads to a Phoenix Day student.

Gallagher and Kennedy attorney Jodi Bohr reads to a Phoenix Day student.

Phoenix Day students and Gallagher and Kennedy women professionals at the May 28, 2014, event.

Phoenix Day students and Gallagher and Kennedy women professionals at the May 28, 2014, event.

Tim Corcoran, LMA President, speaks in Phoenix on Thursday, March 13, at the State Bar of Arizona.

Tim Corcoran, LMA President, speaks in Phoenix on Thursday, March 13, at the State Bar of Arizona.

This Thursday, an event at the State Bar of Arizona is absolutely worth your time. Here are 3 reasons you should attend:

  1. The presenter’s first name is Tim.
  2. The presenter is a committed blogger.
  3. The topic is law firms and money. You like money, don’t you?

The event is a production of the Southwest Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, a group I’ve been privileged to collaborate with numerous times before (here’s the most recent).

The title of the event is “Demystifying Law Firm Finance for Marketing and Business Development Professionals,” and it occurs Thursday, March 13, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.

More detail and a registration link are here.

As the LMA describes it:

Legal Marketing Association logo“This interactive discussion will cover how law firms made money yesterday and how they will make money tomorrow. Tim Corcoran will discuss the role of Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs), Legal Project Management (LPM), Business Process Improvement (BPI), Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and Big Data on the law firm of the future. This program is designed to demystify law firm finances so legal marketing and business development professionals can sit at the table as equals with finance professionals and firm leadership.”

“Tim will also provide an overview of the changing face of law firm finance, from the long-time R.U.L.E.S. approach to the more modern Learning Curve approach.”

Corcoran is the 2014 President of the LMA, and we are fortunate to have him come to Phoenix. The experienced executive “advises law firm leaders how to profit in a time of great change, with particular emphasis in strategy, business process improvement, legal project management and business development.”

And, as I alluded to at the top, he is the author of Corcoran’s Business of Law blog.

I am disappointed to say that as this program begins, I’ll be en route to Chicago for a presentation of my own. But I look forward to hearing about Tim’s message.

Again, here is a link to register.

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market 2014It’s still early in the year, so legal experts continue to offer predictions about the path of 2014’s legal economy. Today, I share a rather good report, this one from Georgetown Law School, specifically its Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s titled “Report on the State of the Legal Market.” (Legal profession experts should begin hiring great headline-writers; they really should.)

I will let you dig into the blissfully brief (15-page) report. But I share just two of their charts so you can see the trajectory we’re on.

The first chart is in regard to legal demand:

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market legal demand chart

And the second table I share reflects the continued gap between hours worked, hours billed and (gulp) hours collected on:

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market rate progression chart

Here is a good summary of the Georgetown report, from the Wall Street Journal.

And I must offer a hat tip to the ever-watchful Katie Mayer of The Artigue Agency Public Relations for spotting the WSJ article. Thanks, Katie!

I continue to stumble across the notion that the challenges in the legal market center around the need for changes in approach and imagination (says the guy no longer in practice; easy for me to say). But I urge you to look at a previous post in which a change in view led to increased service delivery, increased client satisfaction—and, we assume, increased profitability.

Of course, that related to the medical profession. But who knows; we may learn something.

What's coming in the legal profession? We'd all like to know.

What’s coming in the legal profession? We’d all like to know.

Earlier this month, I said I would highlight a few industry predictions for 2014 from pros in various segments. Today, consider the insights of Dave Canfield, of UnitedLex.

Describing itself as a “global provider of legal and data solutions,” the company put together a list of some of the major trends that are currently influencing the legal industry.

Those trends include the following areas:

  • Legal outsourcing
  • Law firm innovation and the cloud
  • Law school innovation and consolidation
  • General counsel priorities and return on investment

Dave’s article is here. It’s worth reading and saving. And you can reach him directly at dave.canfield@unitedlex.com.

One other topic examined previously by the firm but unmentioned in this article is that of cybersecurity and the legal industry. Among the challenges will be internal and external attacks on law firm networks, and managing the increased desire for staff to participate in the BYOD (“bring your own device”) movement.

The legal industry is facing a landscape that is unlike any it’s confronted in a generation. How has your law office been affected by the altered economy? Have any new practices areas saved your bacon? Have new technologies or methods provided increased profitability in unexpected ways?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. We may help tell your story in Arizona Attorney.

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