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The ATL Interrogatories: 10 Questions with Terry Conner from Haynes and Boone

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.

Terry Conner serves as Haynes and Boone‘s Managing Partner and a member of its Board of Directors, and is an active member of numerous other committees within the firm. Terry has more than 30 years of experience practicing in the area of business transactions, including commercial loans, loan restructures and technology transactions. He has been an adjunct professor of commercial law at Southern Methodist University School of Law, a Director of the Texas Association of Bank Counsel, the co-editor of the Matthew Bender Commercial Loan Documentation Guide, the co-chair of the Southern Methodist University Law School Commercial Lending Institute, a lecturer on business law at The University of Texas at Dallas, and a member of the State of Texas Science and Technology Council appointed by then-Governor Bush.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

We must strive to maintain the high ideals of the law as a noble profession in the face of mounting economic pressures. We are being tasked with reducing the cost of legal services while supporting profitability during a period of only a modest increase in demand.

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

Technology has had an incredible effect on how we conduct business and allocate internal resources. For example, computer, online resources, and telephony advancements enabled us several years ago to shed more 50,000 square feet of office space when we moved to our new Dallas mid-rise tower. As we grew from two lawyers in a single office in the 1970s to more than 500 in 12 cities around the globe today, we needed to take advantage of the tech revolution to become more efficient. Remote computer access to work documents has made us more flexible, and many of the old, mind-numbing tasks nobody enjoyed have been thankfully eliminated.

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

I think as the business of law has become more competitive for clients, talent and revenues, we have seen some loosening in the bonds of loyalty and long-term relationships.

4. What is the greatest satisfaction of practicing law?

It’s really gratifying to work with great lawyers and staff as a true team to help clients achieve their business goals, especially in really tough deals and cases.

5. What is the greatest frustration of practicing law?

There are some particular situations that can be difficult and frustrating, but the overall experience is pretty darned good. We are really fortunate to be able to practice law with good lawyers working on intriguing projects for great clients.

6. What is your firm’s greatest strength?

Two things. First, the culture. It’s essential to Haynes and Boone, to who we are and how we work. We have fostered a climate over the years that emphasizes a total client focus and collaborative teamwork environment. Lots of firms talk about things like that but they really don’t live it. It pervades how we recruit lawyers, manage client relationships and even how we compensate our partners to minimize internal competition for originating work.

Second, domestically we’re strong inside the best legal markets in the country – New York, Washington, D.C., Texas and California. This “tri-coastal backbone” is a huge advantage for us.

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

Intellectual curiosity and a passion for continued learning. Those attributes can motivate a lawyer to really understand a client’s business and find enjoyment in the really difficult work like drafting complex legal documents, negotiating thorny issues and developing successful strategies.

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

My Cousin Vinny (affiliate link).

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

In Cold Blood (affiliate link).

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

Sports writer.

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.