Ask the Experts, Books, Partner Issues

The ATL Interrogatories: 10 Questions with Rob Romanoff from Levenfeld Pearlstein

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Rob Romanoff is Managing Partner of Chicago-based Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC. He is also a partner in the firm’s Trusts & Estates Group. Rob has extensive experience in estate, gift and income tax planning and broad-based wealth transfer planning for high net worth individuals and owners of closely held businesses and their families. Rob is a fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next five years?

Law firms must focus on providing real value to clients. Law firms cannot have an objective of maximizing revenue by aiming to satisfy all of a client’s needs when there are better solutions. Not every task should be completed by law firms, or at least not by lawyers. This requires discipline in making decisions about what services we should provide to clients and which tasks are better satisfied by non-lawyers or by LPO (legal process outsourcing) providers. The increasing sophistication of technology and the continued emergence of LPOs will only accelerate this trend.

2. What has been the biggest positive change to the legal profession since the start of your career?

When I started practicing, we didn’t even have computers on our desks. Now we have computers — not just in every office, but on our hand-held phones. Instant access to information and the use of technology to better serve clients are two of the most positive trends I’ve witnessed.

3. What has been the biggest negative change to the legal profession since the start of your career?

The emergence of profits per partner as the primary metric for evaluating the success of a law firm is by far the biggest negative change. It has nothing to do with enhancing the client experience, lawyers’ professional growth or the long-term success of a firm.

4. What is the greatest satisfaction of practicing law?

As a trusts and estates lawyer, I love that my legal practice combines satisfying intellectual challenges with the ability to help clients achieve their personal goals.

5. What is the greatest frustration of practicing law?

I don’t experience much frustration in my practice. I suppose the greatest challenge is in finding the right balance between work, family and engagement in my community, but I think the owner of any business would face that challenge. I don’t think it’s unique to the practice of law.

6. What is your firm’s greatest strength?

The lawyers at our firm genuinely enjoy collaborating and helping each other succeed. In a mid-size firm it’s possible to maintain an identifiable firm culture, and a big part of that here is investing in each other’s success.

7. What’s the single most important personal characteristic for a successful lawyer in your field?

I’m going to call this a tie between intellectual curiosity and exceptional listening skills.

8. What is your favorite legally themed film or television show?

My Cousin Vinny (affiliate link) is a great legal movie. It’s hilarious, it reveals more about legal practice than many serious movies, and it shows someone truly enjoying his job.

9. What is your favorite legally themed book (fiction or non-fiction)?

The Best Defense (affiliate link) by Alan Dershowitz, was probably the first legal-themed book that I read. It drives home the importance of the legal system and the value of providing a defense to everyone, even “bad guys.” It made a big impression on me when I read it as a first-year law student.

10. What would you have been if you weren’t a lawyer?

Either a rabbi or a high school history teacher. Both involve teaching and have a high degree of interpersonal contact. I’ve always been interested in issues of faith, and history was my favorite subject in high school.

Lateral Link’s recruiters are on pace to place hundreds of attorneys throughout the world this year. We are currently involved in over three dozen active partner searches including opening the office of an Am Law 50 firm in a new location, the merger of an Am Law 10 firm with a foreign firm, finding practice chairs for several Am Law10 firms, and searches for groups of partners in at least ten different cities, including Atlanta, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dallas, Denver, and Chicago, just to name a few. We are currently working with partner candidates with $500k to $35M in portable business. For more information, please call Michael Allen, Managing Principal at Lateral Link.