Managing Employees Who Argue Professionally

June 2, 2014 – In The News

Mark L. Silow was featured in the article, "Managing Employees Who Argue Professionally." Full text can be found in the June 2, 2014, issue, but a synopsis is noted below.

Managing people who argue for a living can be a challenge. As firmwide managing partner of Fox Rothschild, that is exactly what Mark L. Silow is tasked with doing.

“Lawyers are challenging to manage,” Silow said. “They are very smart. A lot of them have significant economic weight within the context of a law firm. I heard one consultant say it’s the only business they know where all of your assets get in an elevator every night and you hope come back in that same elevator the next morning.”

“A firm is only as strong as its lawyers and certainly one of the things we’ve seen in the last 10 or 20 years is lawyer mobility,” Silow said.

Silow noted that gone are the days of lawyers joining a law firm for life and that they must be wooed constantly.

But how?

“The most important method is to be successful,” he said. “If lawyers think they can do significantly better financially at another firm, sooner or later, they are going to follow that opportunity. So it’s incredibly important that the firm remain financially successful to attract and retain talent and two, you have to have a good work environment.”

What exactly constitutes a good work environment for attorneys?

“One is you have to give a lot of deference to how people run their practices and conduct themselves,” Silow said. “Too many rules and I think that people, not just lawyers, start to chafe.”

According to Silow, starting a niche practice at Fox is encouraged.

"We like them to be profitable, but one of the things we do is we encourage people to develop unique areas of practices” he said. “I call them niche areas of practices, but hobby practices is a pretty good description as long as they make money."

"I think the fashion practice started out as a hobby practice,” Silow said. “But with some additional partners we brought in, it’s a real practice area. It’s a real industry that needs specialized legal services, but it certainly started out as someone’s vision of how they wanted to build a practice, so that would be one."

"We give them the marketing support and the encouragement, which is important, because a lot of firms would actively discourage people from pursuing those kinds of hobbies as practices," he said. "We support the blogs, because that is usually step one in building these practices, which is to create a blog and project yourself into the blogosphere as an expert. It is actually kind of amazing to me how many sophisticated clients actually get attracted through a blog."