By Susan Caba
When two St. Louis law firms merged earlier this year, they formed the second-largest firm in the area, one that will rank among the top 100 firms in the country, based on 2008 revenue expectations.
Husch Blackwell Sanders—the result of the marriage of Husch & Eppenberger LLC, and Blackwell Sanders LLP—also added a Chicago practice this year, the “boutique” intellectual property firm of Welsh & Katz.
Joseph P. Conran, co-chairman of the new firm, likes to say it offers clients mega-market quality at Midwestern prices.
Husch Blackwell Sanders has anticipated revenues topping $275 million this year, 675 attorneys and a practice that spreads through 13 cities, from Denver to London.
The firm specializes in intellectual property cases, securities industry regulation and litigation, class actions, and commercial litigation. Internally, it puts a premium on hiring a diverse workforce and encouraging pro bono work to benefit individuals, public service groups and charities that can’t afford legal representation.
What is the most creative aspect of your work? What is the least creative or least satisfying?
Developing creative solutions and winning strategies for clients in complex litigation. My ultimate goal is to achieve a solution for our client that optimizes that client’s ability to continue to operate in an efficient and profitable manner. It may be a settlement, it may be going to trial, but we always have in mind the client’s best interest.
The least creative or satisfying is electronic discovery. This involves new aspects of discovery that relate to electronic data, e-mails and other documents that are stored electronically. The difficulty is that these are new concepts that require a great deal of education among lawyers, clients and the courts.
The data is maintained on computers, servers or in other electronic forms as opposed to hard-copy documents that merely need to be gathered, reviewed and copied. The electronic documents and data are not always susceptible to easily printing them out and copying them. And with the hundreds of thousands of e-mails exchanged in a large corporation every day, searching for relevant information can be a daunting task.
How do you use devices and electronics —Blackberries, cell phones, iPods—to manage work flow? Are they, on balance, more often a tool or a hindrance?
Here’s the answer—a computer, a cell phone and a Blackberry are essential tools to the modern practice of law.
Clients expect their lawyers to be available and responsive virtually 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. The only way we can meet that expectation is to utilize all these new electronic tools.
The technology has increased the expectations of clients in terms of the ability to respond in almost real time to any request.
What is the most distracting element of your workday/workweek? How do you manage it?
The constant interruptions by people who need, or think they need, information immediately. I’ve dealt with that through the work of my outstanding assistant, who helps deal with these constant requests.
If there is one thing you would like to do differently in the average workday, what is it? Why don’t you do it?
In a lot of ways, there is no such thing as an average workday. As a busy trial lawyer, many days are long and arduous and what is important is to try to keep a balance so that you don’t burn out.
What’s the most efficient or productive time of day for you?
Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I’m still working, but I’m away from the court and the hubbub of the office.
What are some of your rules for success?
A passion for what you do, a creative approach to solving problems, and a dedication to work as hard as you can to get the job done.
I think the first step in being creative is to be inquisitive and to attempt to learn everything you can about a particular subject. Once you fully understand the subject, then you begin to try to attack the problem with a new perspective.
Who or what motivates or inspires you?
I love practicing law and being a trial lawyer. What motivates me every day is trying to achieve the best possible results for my client and knowing that I’ve made a difference.
Every day you are faced with new challenges and new and interesting people.
My grandfather was a lawyer, my father always emphasized the importance of being a “professional,” and my mother was my true inspiration because she and I debated subjects endlessly, for hours, when I was young. She was truly inquisitive, very much so.