Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories. 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.
Jim Maiwurm, chair and global CEO of Squire Sanders, has more than 30 years of experience as a business and transactional lawyer. His work involves the representation of a diverse range of businesses — from technology startups to Fortune 50 manufacturers — in private equity infusions, public offerings and sophisticated domestic and international acquisitions, dispositions, financings and joint ventures.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
The industry’s greatest challenge is dealing with the forces of change, which were not initiated but were accelerated by the “financial crisis” that began in 2008 and will continue. Those forces, which have a great deal to do with new paradigms governing the law firm/client relationship, combined with increasing globalization of business and the continuous enhancement of technologies, mean that it will be more important than ever for law firms to understand who they are, and who they are not, and manage themselves accordingly. One size will not fit all, and should not; there will be room for many different business models. There will continue to be increased stratification among law firms in terms of profitability, scope and client base.
2. What has been the biggest positive change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
Some of the biggest positive changes to the legal profession have involved unrelated facets. Although technological change has its downsides, the contribution of technological change to law firms’ ability to provide increased efficiencies and the ability of multi-office law firms to communicate internally and externally has, on a net basis, been a significant positive. Another positive change is the enhanced position of women and minorities in the profession. We have a long way to go in this regard, but there is ever-increasing evidence that law firms have identified inclusiveness and the success of women and minorities as priorities.
3. What has been the biggest negative change to the legal profession since the start of your career?
The biggest negative change has probably been the decreased emphasis on professionalism. In this day and age it is clear that we need to run law firms of significant size and scope as “businesses” in many respects, and that fact can lead to an unfortunate de-emphasis of the importance of professionalism. This involves not only adherence to the applicable codes of ethics, but also to the manner in which we interact with one another. All of us are mandated to zealously represent our clients. However, zealous representation does not require either rudeness or ruthlessness.
4. What is the greatest satisfaction of practicing law?
The law remains, notwithstanding technological change and different means and patterns of communication, a “relationship” business. From my standpoint, the greatest satisfaction of practicing law is developing client relationships and working to enable clients to achieve their business goals. One of the penalties of law firm leadership is that one has less time to interact with clients and be directly involved in their growth and development.
5. What is the greatest frustration of practicing law?
Perhaps the greatest frustration related to practicing law involves the challenge of maintaining balance. For those of us in law firm leadership, there is a constant challenge of balancing competing internal demands on one’s time. There is always more than enough to do, and it is important, in my judgment, to take the time necessary to interact on a personal basis with lawyers and staff throughout the world. Then there is further complication of balancing the demands of clients and the firm. Clients often demand high levels of responsiveness, and that can be difficult to achieve if one is also engaged in being responsive to the needs of the firm in a leadership role. Finally, there is the frustration of achieving work/life balance. If one is involved in law firm leadership, though, one should not be optimistic about significant achievement in that area.
6. What is your firm’s greatest strength?
Our collaborative culture that enables colleagues around the world to rely upon each other for prompt and effective service to clients.
7. What is the single most important personal characteristic for a successful lawyer in your field?
The answer is, by far and away, judgment.
8. What is your favorite legally themed film or television show?
Most recently, the movie Lincoln (affiliate link).
9. What is your favorite legally themed book (fiction or non-fiction)?
Probably Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet (1964) (affiliate link).
10. What would you have been if you weren’t a lawyer?
I “always” wanted to be a lawyer, so this is difficult to respond to. I probably would have obtained a business degree. Or, perhaps more appropriately, I would have grown up to be a really good dive master.