"Five years is like an eternity in this industry," says Eve Howard. Try ten. Nearly a decade after Hogan Lovells founding merger, the firm's DC managing partner talks keenly about Hogan Lovell's prospects, and how law firms should help diverse attorneys prosper.
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm’s current market position?
Eve Howard: We’ve had a robust year and we’re feeling optimistic going into 2019. We’re particularly strong in our trade practice and our privacy and cybersecurity work, and we’ve also seen an uptick in our capital markets work. Global volatility and some of the current political tensions work in the favor of lawyers and we’re certainly seeing that.
One of the things we’re focusing on in particular is taking a much more client-centric approach to our practice. We’re rolling out a program designed to improve the client experience, and we’re doing that around our continued industry sector focused approach which is something we’re setting the trend in. Focusing on industries resonates more with clients, rather than focusing on corporate or litigation, for example. By bringing the best of the firm across areas of law and specialties we can provide a more positive experience for clients and for the lawyers who become experts in those industries.
"We expanded into Boston... it’s a litigation-based group now, so our focus is to build that out and grow into the corporate, intellectual property and perhaps the government regulatory space."
CA: Are there any broader trends that are currently shaping the volume or type of work conducted in your firm's practices?
EH: Trade tensions around the world are contributing to the huge demand we’re seeing in our trade practice, not only around China but around Brexit and our strong presence in London where we have a well-known Brexit taskforce.
CA: Which practices/sector focuses/offices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why?
EH: We’re continually looking to grow our corporate practice in New York – that’s a high priority. At the end of 2017 we expanded into Boston and it’s a litigation-based group now, so our focus is to build that out and grow into the corporate, intellectual property and perhaps the government regulatory space. We think it has a lot of synergy with our strong presence in the life sciences industry and the clients we have there already.
CA: What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
EH: Five years is like an eternity in this industry. Our firm relies on the ability to grow revenues in a market that’s ever more competitive and flat. We do this by leveraging our industry sector expertise and winning work from other firms.
"I wouldn’t be in my job today had it not been for my ability to structure a work arrangement to fit with different stages of my life, including having children."
CA: What are your reflections on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession?
EH: In my job and my life I spend a lot of time thinking about diversity and inclusion. I wouldn’t be in my job today had it not been for my ability to structure a work arrangement to fit with different stages of my life, including having children. I 100% attribute my being here today and the position I’m in to the firm’s flexibility. We do well in gender diversity here; we’re a leader in terms of the number of women in leadership positions, and we have a lot of women coming up that will also assume leadership roles. Our focus going forward is not only on maintaining our position on gender but also focusing more on racial, ethnic and LGBT+ diversity. That’s where we have more room for improvement, and where we’ve made a concerted effort to improve. It involves making investments and efforts in the early careers of diverse lawyers and making them understand the value we place on having them here. It goes beyond putting people on pitches. It’s about making sure we’re really walking the walk at all levels. Putting diverse teams forward makes us better at our jobs and better respected by our clients. Not only is it simply the right thing to do but it’s a business imperative too.
Agile working is one of the biggest changes in the way we practice law; it’s completely embedded now whereas it used to be more novel. It’s almost a nonevent, which is exactly where you want it to be because the highest levels partners are working agilely all the time, whether they’re travelling or working from home. People realize that productivity can happen anywhere. Saying that, there is a fine line between agile working and what you lose if everyone works remotely – like collaboration. As a firm, and particularly here in D.C. we have made a point to promote collaboration and really engage with each other when we are in the office, including through centrally located hives and common areas. We try to put up parameters about what doesn’t cross the line and results in the loss of our creative culture.
CA: What are the main challenges that law firms and their lawyers will have to navigate/adapt to in the future?
EH: Well, if you believe what you read in the press we’re long overdue for an economic downturn. It behooves leaders to think now about how we can be stronger and that’s something our leadership is actively talking about. Another challenge is that while in the course of my 30 years there’s been a lot of change, the pace of change has accelerated and will continue to do so. New areas of practice like AI and cybersecurity didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s just one of the challenges to know where the industry is headed and aligning the strategies to deal with them.
"There is a fine line between agile working and what you lose if everyone works remotely – like collaboration."
CA: What achievement are you most proud of?
EH: I’m most proud of having been a leader in the area of diversity and inclusion and agile working, as a way of showing to more junior lawyers how you can successfully navigate different demands in your life over a long career.
CA: What's been the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?
EH: The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to be agile, and I don’t mean in a reduced working sort of way but in terms of developing skills and becoming an expert. That means being agile about what the industry may bring and seizing opportunities to develop in the market rather than settling into what’s worked in the past. Another is collaborating with great talent – that’s the most powerful tool we have and that’s what I enjoy most about my job; being able to collaborate with the best in the industry. It’s a case where two plus two equals five.
First published March 2019. Interview by Laura Bishop.