Boston And New England - Law Firms A Law Firm Culture That Promotes The Highest Quality Of Client Service And Civic Involvement

Tuesday, March 1, 2005 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Michalowski, would you tell our readers something about your professional background?

Michalowski: I have been a lawyer for approximately 20 years. I am a litigation practitioner, mostly in the construction and commercial litigation areas. My career began with Sherburne, Powers & Needham, which merged with Holland & Knight in 1998.

Editor: What were the factors that went into Holland & Knight's decision to establish a presence in Boston?

Michalowski: When we merged, Holland & Knight had recently acquired a presence in New York. Boston was the last major commercial center on the East Coast where the firm was not represented. Opening this office expanded our geographic presence into New England. Today, the Boston office consists of about 130 lawyers out of a total firm-wide census of more than 1,250.

Editor: What practices are found in the Boston office?

Michalowski: The practice of the Boston office is diverse. Approximately half of the work is in litigation, which includes IP, labor and employment, white collar crime, construction and education. We also have a unique and very productive syndication group, very strong real estate and health care practices, and a variety of corporate service practices.

In each of our offices there are practices that have a local focus, including real estate and private wealth services. The government relations practice here in Boston is based upon local connections and relationships; this practice is one to which we are adding considerable strength. Other practices are national, such as the white collar group, which has many clients outside the New England area. There are also practice groups which have both a national and a local presence.

Editor: Boston has been a high tech destination for a considerable time. Is there a high tech focus to the Boston office's practice?

Michalowski: . We had a very strong focus on the technology area, and notwithstanding what has taken place in that sector of the economy, our IP practice, with a distinct technology component, continues to be an important part of our work. We also have technology clients within the corporate group. In recent years, much of our technology business has expanded to include biotech, the life sciences, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Based on our strong client relationships and expertise, these are areas in which we expect to see continued growth.

Editor: How does the Boston office relate to the firm's other offices?

Michalowski: One of the core strengths of Holland & Knight is that we serve our clients on the basis of need, not location. We assemble the most qualified team from across the firm, regardless of geography so that the lawyers with the most appropriate experience are assigned to a matter. In addition, our technology and infrastructure enable us to provide exceptional client service so it is both cost efficient and seamless.

Editor: Holland & Knight has an enviable reputation for its civic and community undertakings, and this appears to be a firm-wide value. For starters, would you tell us about the role that the Boston office plays in the city?

Michalowski: Our lawyers serve on the governing boards of many cultural, educational and community organizations. Maureen Bateman, who recently joined us, sits on the boards ofthe Boston Public Library, the Boston Symphony and the Catholic Schools Foundation of Boston. She and Steve Wright sit on the board of the Boston Bar Foundation and Kwamina Thomas is on the Board of Directors of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association. Rick Mann is President of Friends of the New England Holocaust Memorial, Inc. and Jim Tierney is the Chairman of the Board of Holden School, Inc. I sit on the boards of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the National Conference for Community Justice and the Boston Latin School Association, the oldest public school in the U.S. These are just a sampling of our roles in various organizations and in the community.

Concerning Boston Bar Association activities, a number of our partners are active in different professional groupings. These include the New Lawyers Section Co-Chair,Damon Hart; College and University Law Section Co-Chair, Paul Lannon; Bankruptcy Section Young Lawyers Committee Co-Chair, David Sobol; Boston Bar Foundation Board of Trustees member, Maureen Bateman; Boston Bar Foundation Board of Trustees member, Steve Wright; past Co-Chair of the Construction Committee, Paul James; and past Diversity Committee Chair, J.D. Smeallie.

One of the hallmark programs of the firm is Opening Doors For Children. This is a volunteer-inspired effort where we partner with a local school in need of additional support. Our people have adopted classes and engage in a variety of tutoring programs. We have also been involved with Head Start and Do The Right Thing, an essay contest organized by the National Campaign To Stop Violence. The firm-wide Holocaust Remembrance Project Writing Contest sends the winning high school students to Washington D.C. to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Editor: Can you tell us something about the pro bono undertakings of people in the Boston office?

Michalowski: In addition to the firm representing many different charitable, educational and non-profit organizations on a pro bono basis, individuals from Holland & Knight deal with an extraordinary variety of pro bono matters. We take a great deal of pride in having received the Boston Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for our commitment to making high quality legal services available to low income clients this past year. In addition, yesterday I learned that we have received the Massachusetts Bar Association's Pro Bono Award.

Editor: Retention is a real issue today in law firms. What does Holland & Knight do to retain attorneys?

Michalowski: The firm is well known for its high-quality work, client service, commitment to diversity and culture that promotes a work/life balance. As a result, we have been able to attract the "best of the best" from the business world, government and law schools. Partners who join the firm are attracted to a place where they can continue to serve their clients and build their practices with the support of a powerhouse behind them. Many lateral hires already have an existing relationship with the firm.

Editor: I understand that the firm recently engaged a full-time development person. Can you tell us what issues that person will help the firm address?

Michalowski: Holland & Knight recently hired a Chief Professional Development Officer to support the firm's commitment to deliver more effective, CLE-accredited programs, create annual curriculum-driven traditions and provide premium training opportunities focused on the needs of associates at all levels. In addition, the firm has a formal mentoring program to help guide their work and careers.

Editor: How is the firm's Diversity Program structured?

Michalowski: Holland & Knight has a Diversity Program that is defined and implemented through the Minority and Women's Initiatives.The Women's Initiative serves as a forum for the women of Holland & Knight and promotes a culture that is sensitive to a wide variety of women's issues.In 2003, the firm launched its Rising Stars Program, an intensive leadership and economic development program for women attorneys in their sixth year of practice and beyond.

The Minority Initiative routinely explores new outlets and methods to celebrate diversity, and develops programs with local and national affiliations for the professional development of the firm's minority attorneys.Holland & Knight has 55 minority partners, earning the ranking as the law firm with the highest number of minority partners in the United States. We are among the top five law firms with the highest number of attorneys in three ethnic categories:African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.We also employ 12 openly gay/lesbian partners - one of the highest numbers in the U.S. for the legal industry.

Please email the interviewee at mark.michalowski@hklaw.com with questions about this interview.