Youth Movement Drives Dramatic Growth: Entrepreneurial ethos underpins dynamic transformation at rapidly expanding Benesch

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 13:14

Gregg Eisenberg was named Managing Partner of Benesch in January 2015. He is a member of the executive committee and the Corporate & Securities practice group. Eisenberg has been involved in planning the growth for numerous companies, helping to position them for various stages of private financing and anticipated public offerings. Here, he shares some of the details and strategy behind the recent growth and development of Benesch. His remarks have been edited for length and style.

MCC: Benesch has seen dramatic growth over recent years. Tell us about the firm and its expansion.

Eisenberg: The Benesch law firm has been around for about 80 years. We started in Cleveland, a dynamic legal market with a lot of public companies. The firm expanded into Columbus, Ohio. We continued to expand into Indianapolis and in Wilmington, Delaware, and now, Hackensack, New Jersey, and most significantly and most recently, Chicago.

We’re particularly excited about Chicago. It is our first tier-1 capital markets office. There is an outstanding pool of talent in Chicago. A lot of our clients that are based there wanted us there. We’re moving fast. We already had four lawyers in Chicago before our office even opened. We’re taking space at 333 West Wacker. We have an aggressive plan for growth and recruiting.

Benesch has grown rapidly, especially last year. We added about 40 professionals to the mix. 

I think what separates us from some other firms is that we have a lot of young people who are driving substantial areas of our firm, from a leadership standpoint.

MCC: What are some of the key practice areas at Benesch?

Eisenberg: Corporate, litigation, healthcare, intellectual property and real estate. If you look at who runs those, probably the average age of the practice group chairs and vice chairs is low 40s. That’s unique. Most law firms’ leadership opportunities come a lot later in somebody’s career, and we’re the opposite. We want young people to drive this firm and to challenge us to think differently. We don’t want to just hold on to what we’re doing today but push to grow and expand how we serve our clients. 

They’re mostly coming from markets where we have offices, so we’ve been adding in Cleveland; Wilmington, Delaware; and Chicago, and we’ll continue that in our five core practice areas that I mentioned.

Our biggest head count is in Cleveland. But we’d like to change that and make that Chicago at some point. That’s our goal.

MCC: You mentioned Wilmington. What is the impetus behind expanding that office?

Eisenberg: For bankruptcy and restructuring work. Our clients used to have to hire people on the ground because so many companies are incorporated in Delaware. We opened up our own office there, and it’s been a smashing success.

MCC: What attracts talented legal professionals to Benesch?

Eisenberg: I think people are coming here because it’s an entrepreneurial environment. I don’t think there’s any firm that gives their lawyers more tools and resources to be successful. We’re dead serious on helping our lawyers serve their clients and giving them whatever tools and resources they need to do that. 

We’ve got a great culture. People love working here. We have some of the lowest attrition rates in the country. If lawyers leave here, they typically leave for one reason, or two reasons. One, they’re retiring, which we don’t want them to do. We want them to stick around. Or, they’re going to our clients, in-house.

I think people see that we are entrepreneurial, with young people running the firm who are dynamic. There are opportunities here to be in leadership and to run something special. They see our client base, which has really gone upstream in terms of the type of clients we represent.

We’ve added, just in the last year, probably a dozen Fortune 500 companies to the mix. That’s just enormous for a firm our size.

MCC: How did you get to Benesch? What were you doing before? 

Eisenberg: I grew up in Cleveland, went to the University of Rochester undergrad, then went to Ohio State for law school, and I came back to Cleveland and practiced. I was at another firm for not even a half year, and there was a wonderful opportunity to come to Benesch 18 years ago to join their Corporate group. It was a preeminent Corporate group, and I’ve been here ever since.

MCC: What are some of the immediate challenges facing you when the growth comes fast as it has?

Eisenberg: You need to integrate the new people into the firm, into the environment. That’s incredibly important to us, and we’ve worked hard on doing that. Getting our new people comfortable, getting our existing people comfortable with the new people. The other thing we want to do is make the clients comfortable that are coming to our firm and letting them know who we are, how we’re going to service them, how we’re going to meet their needs. 

MCC: You’ve added a number of professionals to your litigation practice. What’s been the thinking behind this?

Eisenberg: It started with a lateral acquisition of four lawyers, and it snowballed after that. We brought over four partners. The lead lawyer is a gentleman by the name of Joe Castrodale, who’s now running our national litigation practice. He’s a preeminent nationally known litigator, and that group of four has consistently worked with Fortune 500 companies on big-ticket litigation for many years.

When those four arrived here, a number of the other attorneys they had worked with at their prior firm followed. Other attorneys in the marketplace who were litigators saw this move and also came here, so we grew our litigation practice by, I think, 25 lawyers last year. We think we’ll probably do another 15 to 20 lawyers this year, again in litigation. We’re at 175 attorneys now.

MCC: Please share some information about your diversity and inclusion initiatives with our readers.

Eisenberg: We’re working hard at it. We’ve added a number of diverse candidates. We’ve also promoted a number of diverse attorneys into leadership roles here, leading committees, running offices, being on our executive committee. It’s important to us. That’s really kind of who we are. It’s who we want to be. Our clients demand it, and they have every right to do that. We have some really special lawyers here who really can shape our business, and they deserve to be in those roles. We’re all about promoting the best and brightest here, regardless of your age, into leadership positions.

MCC: Tell us about your executive leadership group and firm structure.

Eisenberg: We have a firm executive committee, which is focused on strategy and strategic growth, but we’re really run by practice groups. The practice group leaders here have the most influence on the firm and their particular practice groups. We give a lot of deference to our practice group leaders, and they’re the ones that are really driving the firm. 

MCC: You’re involved in some cutting-edge areas of the law, like 3-D printing. How do these new areas fit in with your core competencies?

Eisenberg: 3-D really is how manufacturing will change, and we’re working to be on the front end of it. It’ll have a dramatic impact on our manufacturing clients and our distribution clients. It will, in my opinion, help the United
States with the re-shoring of manufacturing because you’ll be able to print things here instead of sending them to China,
so replacement parts and other original parts and equipment can be produced much more efficiently and much more
to scale.

There are tremendous implications in this young 3-D industry in the intellectual property arena. You print off your part and your design. Is that protected? What rights do our clients have? A lot of it is unknown, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is going to have to adjust to the new technology. We’re speaking nationally on it. We’ve got a number of clients that are in
the industry.

You’ll also see new technologies, like 3-D printing, more and more in the healthcare arena. 

Another growing area we are involved in is transportation logistics. We’re number one in that sector. We’re also working in the plastic space and packaging. And we conduct a lot of work in the aerospace and defense industries, as well as in automotive and manufacturing. 

MCC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Benesch?

Eisenberg: We’re a young, dynamic organization, and we’re looking to add people who fit our culture and work in our core practice groups. We’ve got an aggressive growth strategy, and we’re looking for people like us who want to be a part of our organization and want to grow something special. We’re going to go after it.

Gregg EisenbergManaging Partner and executive committee member in the Cleveland office of Beneschgeisenberg@beneschlaw.com