Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in (or a customer of) the legal business?
My first job was to lead recruiting for sales/trading and investment banking at one of the big banks. They had a trading business in London and wanted to replicate it in New York. In addition to hiring talent one of my jobs was to develop and produce employment policies and procedures and I hired Morgan Lewis to assist in writing and publishing the first employee handbook.
What do you do for a living right now?
I have built and run retained executive search firms. Our clients are financial and legal services firms. We have also worked in developing many of the global stock exchanges. We often are asked find General Counsels for global organizations as well as, compliance, risk and regulatory staff.
What has been your greatest triumph and your greatest success in the legal services field and what did you learn from each?
A highlight of my legal services career was moving a 17 attorney OSHA practice from one Washington, DC law firm to a client firm. It was a year long process and required my taking an entire floor at the Willard Hotel to domicile the practice and files for several months after they were moved out of the first firm and before the build out of space was finished by the client firm. Keeping all of this quiet for six months after the OSHA practices left firm one was critical as we didn’t want other firms poaching this practice.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
Not all law firms are headed in the right or wrong direction. Those who are progressively headed toward a consulting model by employing a cross section of experts instead of only attorneys are better poised for the future. I am particularly concerned about the failure of many “law firms” to hire and retain women and diverse candidates.
Who – or what – inspires you – and why?
I’m inspired by senior level women who spend a lot of time helping the female and diverse talent. One of my advisory board members is Subha Barry who runs Working Mother magazine. Subha leads by example and is the most generous people I know. When we have a meal together and her food is brought to the table she immediately asks for a take out container and puts one-half of her meal into the container with the intention of giving the food to one of the homeless people on her way home or back to her office. She makes big contributions too, but the small but consistent attempt to feed others is an act of kindness that I have learned to imitate.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
I interned in a law office for two summers during high school and learned a lot about the law. Still, I did not apply to law school with the intention of practicing law. I was pretty sure the I would work with financial products and liked the methodical thought process of the attorneys I knew. Plus, I was exposed early to financial structuring of complex products and thought a combined JD/MBA would allow me to work across legal and finance. Clearly that strategy was as appealing as I hoped it would be because I was hired to work at Lehman Brothers.
How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
Back in 2005, I was convinced that law firms were doing the “right thing” to attract women and diversity talent. Since the financial crisis in 2008, there has been a lot of back sliding. I’m discouraged by some firms lack of commitment. As law firms need to continue to morph into “consulting firms” the need for diverse and female talent is unparalleled. And, as the number of female executives continue to grow, different perspectives will be value-added to clients.
Is more – or different – leadership required? In what ways?
Different leadership is required in these days of skyrocketing operating expenses and unprecedented competition. Too many firms have stayed the same running pretty much as they did 20 years ago. Leadership needs to have the moxie and vision to make change happen. Changes need to be made to streamline governance, standardize systems and procedures and improve strategic planning and marketing and business development programs.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
The “progress” that comes from improved technology and new programs help eliminate the need for some attorneys and paralegals. The evolving digital expansion will help streamline process. Technology has actually been a double-edged sword. It’s easier to work all the time and creates the stress of being “on-call” all the time.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
It’s hard to predict how much change will occur in the next ten years, There are constant changes occuring with the accounting firms hiring attorneys and commoditizing professional services. Technology will evolve faster in the next 10 years than it has in the past 20. One potentially significant change could well come from innovations in artificial intelligence and at this moment it is impossible to predict the potential impact, but it could be huge.
Are consultants and lawyers looking increasingly similar? Should the distinction continue?
Law firms have to shift into a consultancy model as clients demand their legal services to be provided with a greater commercial mindset. Legal services are going to need to provide multi-disciplinary teams to better service clients and some staff will need to be non-lawyers.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
I’m a heavy believer in using analytical analysis to evaluate markets, to prove points and as predictive of the the future. I have a minor in statistics. However, data can be manipulated in many ways so they are best performed by organizations who have annaminity.
Lawyers have typically regulated to keep non-lawyer investors out but that’s a two-edged sword these days. What are your thoughts?
Consulting firms (including accounting firms) are enduring serious growing pains. Most state bars can barely keep pace with dozens of complaints lodged against non-lawyers. Some of those complaints can be raised to the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
There are two significant factors that I believe will drive change more quickly than others. One is technology and the second is the demand by clients for multi-disciplinary teams.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
I believe that we are seeing an emergence in the “business” of law rather than the profession. Law firms are competing with consulting firms more frequently and the need for multi-disciplinary teams is becoming the way of the future. The marriage of law and business can serve clients better than just teams of lawyer. Fewer people are going to law schools and more than any other time, only lawyers from top rated schools are getting hired.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
Brexit; Cyber security; Fixed and applied costs in civil litigation; Online dispute resolution; New competition and technology.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for the sector looking forward?
The use of technology to eliminate mundane tasks at the better price point; Changing workplace dynamics driven by a multi-generational workforce; Legal process outsourcing; Work-life balance; Globalization; Eco-Consciousness; Virtual law firms; Alternative legal services delivery models; Alternative billing models.
Do you think law can improve its track record on diversity and inclusion? How?
All firms including law firms and consulting firms can improve their track records on diversity and inclusion. It takes commitment from firms management from the top down to improve both. Linking compensation goals to hiring and retaining diverse talent can have an immediate impact.
Will the current regulatory framework around law help or hinder it in the future?
Law firms need to be able to give regulated advice and unregulated guidance when called upon to do so.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
Greatest influencers on law firms today are their own people and accounting firms providing legal services.
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
If I had it to do over again, I would do exactly the same things in the same way. Law school/Business school and financial services to consulting. It has been a fun ride so far.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
I don’t invest in startups at all.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Lying on a beach somewhere.
What would you like to be known for?
What would surprise everyone if they knew (they may now).
That I am a great cook.
What’s your favorite hobby or activity outside of law?
Sailing/surfing being on or in the water.
What’s your favorite sports team?
The New England Patriots and any sport Michigan plays-they are alive in my bracket still.
What’s your favorite city?
What’s your favorite food?
A toss up between Mexican and Italian.
What’s your nickname – and why?
Most people shorten my name to just my initials – BB.