Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP managing partner Tobin McClamroch is upfront about the direction he sees for the law firm, and he’s got a new leadership structure to help get there.
“We have a significant amount of confidence and momentum right now, and we anticipate significant expansion inside narrowly focused strategic initiatives,” McClamroch said. “We expect significant growth in 2014-2015, and most of that will be acquisition of laterals and smaller firms.”
McClamroch was named managing partner Feb. 28 at Indianapolis’ fifth-largest law firm based on number of local lawyers, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal’s 2013 list of largest Indianapolis-area law firms. He began his three-year term as BGD also restructured the management team in a way he said will set the table for continued growth and possible mergers.
McClamroch explained that the prior structure had ensured representation of legacy firms and their business practices from the 2012 merger of Bingham McHale and Louisville-based Greenebaum Doll McDonald.
“We’ve done that, and now we’re a fully integrated firm,” he said. “We were very successful in 2013. We had a great year financially, and it’s time for us to look to the future.” While McClamroch declined to disclose 2013 earnings, he said the firm exceeded its revenue budget by more than 11 percent and increased revenues and profits per capital partner.
Going forward, McClamroch will report directly to a six-member partnership board rather than a much larger executive committee as had previous managing partners. McClamroch said the firm devoted extensive study to firm management
structures, and the model BGD chose is more akin to those of the companies it represents.
McClamroch believes the new structure reflects the direction law firm governance appears headed.
“It’s critical that law firms in today’s world be more nimble and structured for change and quick change” in order to make decisions and adjust to evolving circumstances, he said. BGD’s growth this year and next is likely to come in the firm’s corporate, business litigation and health care practices, he added.
Some of that expansion is likely to come from lateral hires or acquisitions of small firms, but McClamroch said there’s no reason to believe larger firms won’t continue to look for merger opportunities.
“The market for business law firms is not getting bigger, so in order to compete and take market share, I think more and more firms will continue to merge,” he said.
That’s a view shared by other leaders of some of Indianapolis’ largest law firms.
“I expect we will continue to see mergers in some form,” said Faegre Baker Daniels LLP chief operating partner Thomas Froehle. He said the firm, the second-largest in Indianapolis, doesn’t have any pending combinations but continues to grow through lateral hiring and expansion such as the opening of a Silicon Valley office last year.
Like BGD, FaegreBD’s leadership structure was changed after a 2012 merger between legacy firms Baker & Daniels and Faegre & Benson. After the merger, FaegreBD posted revenue for the year of $443 million, according to American Lawyer. A 15-member management board elected at-large from partners firm wide sets policy and strategic direction while a four-member executive committee handles day-to-day and operational management.
“While our structure allows us to respond quickly, we view a law firm merger as a very significant transaction and would not expect to enter into a merger precipitously,” Froehle said.
“We are periodically approached about potential mergers or significant expansions in new locations. Typically, our executive committee, with support from our operations executives, reviews those opportunities and fairly quickly assesses whether such opportunity warrants further review by the full management board,” he said.
FaegreBD also instituted an operations executive team consisting of chief financial, information, knowledge management, marketing, strategy and talent officers who are experts in their fields but by design do not practice law and instead focus on client service.
“This structure has worked well for us, and we don’t have any immediate plans to revise it,” Froehle said.
Ice Miller LLP deputy managing partner Brenda Horn said the firm, Indianapolis’ third-largest, has a built-in review cycle for its governance. “Although our current structure has been very effective, we are continually evaluating ways to improve on that success,” Horn said.
The firm also went through a merger in 2012, adding 90 lawyers from Columbus, Ohio-based Schottenstein Zox & Dunn. Horn said a more nimble, streamlined management structure put in place seven years ago was “designed to increase our ability to assess opportunities and respond to changes in the marketplace.” Horn is one of three deputy partners at Ice Miller who, with chief managing partner Phillip Bayt, direct and implement strategic objectives.
“We were able to strike the (2012 merger) deal in a relatively short time frame but, more importantly, we have been able to maximize our ability to work across our expanded platform almost immediately,” Horn said. “This experience confirmed to us that the Ice Miller management structure was well-suited for a regional law firm and could continue to serve our needs as we grow.”
Managing partner Mike Williams leads Krieg DeVault LLP’s executive committee that in recent years has increased from three to four partners. He believes a firm’s organizational structure has little to do with its ability to lure potential merger partners.
“I don’t know that size (of a firm’s governing body) makes a huge difference on this. In most firms, those types of things require full partner votes anyway,” said Williams, who leads Indianapolis’ fourth-largest firm based on attorneys in the market.
Williams said he’s not sure he would expect to see more mergers anytime soon, but he does expect larger firms will continue to grow to their strengths through lateral moves.
“Our goal, I think, is to continue to grow and continue to be known as a progressive firm with a good work environment,” he said. “We look for growth opportunities in any number of areas.”
BGD’s McClamroch said that while the firm’s management has been streamlined, it continues to represent various locations where Bingham does business. “It’s important to have balance among different offices in a law firm no matter how the structure is set up, and we do have a good balance,” he said.
A spokesman for Barnes & Thornburg LLP, the city’s largest firm, said managing partner Alan Levin declined to comment for this article.•