Troutman's top lawyer gives us an update on how the Atlanta-founded firm is progressing, and the strategy driving it forwards.
Chambers Associate: How would you describe the firm's current market position to our student readers?
Steve Lewis: 2018 was another very good year for us. It was our fourth consecutive year of sustained revenue growth. Our strategic plan guides us on what we’re doing, and if we do it well, it yields a good financial result. We’re very proud of how we’ve done from a numbers perspective. But really, what we set out to do with the plan was to have a road map so that we made business decisions that will help us to continue to serve our clients better, reach more clients, and become a destination place of work for potential lateral partners and associates and new associates out of law school.
"The consistent drivers of the past three or four years – our financial services practice, our IP practice, our real estate practice, in particular our multifamily finance housing practice – all of those practices continue to perform."
Our two biggest assets are our clients and our people. If a law firm loses either, they’re in trouble. On the client side our goal has always been to partner with our clients and help them on their most important transactions, disputes and regulatory matters. We have deep experience representing middle market companies, and specialized experience representing clients in several industries: electric utilities, banking and financial services, life sciences, and insurance. We use that expertise to provide great solutions for our clients and that translates into complicated, noteworthy transactions, and big-ticket, high profile litigation.
On the people side of the plan, we emphasize ‘commitment’ and ‘collaboration’ – working hard and working together. And that again cuts across offices and practices, whether it’s sharing our successes or wins or the deals that close, or new clients with all of our people. We provide ‘a higher commitment to client care,’ and those are the words we live by internally. We go beyond what clients expect or even appreciate to what they value. That has proven to be a great bridge between our people here at the firm and our clients because everybody’s on the same page and rowing in the same direction.
We’ve done a good and effective job of growing across the firm. We’ve continued to add great laterals, both partners and associates, and to bring in new people with different experience, skillsets and client bases, which has been a real boost for us. We continue to be bullish on growth. Occasionally that will be a single partner or associate; oftentimes it’s a group; and occasionally a fairly large group. We spend a lot of time looking for the right fit to help us better serve our clients.
"Relax a little and be patient. Practicing law is still a wonderful career and can be a lot of fun. But the learning curve is fairly steep, and there are times you’ll be discouraged."
Over the past four or five years, as our office leases have come up for renewal, we’ve either moved to new space or decided to stay and undertake significant renovations, thereby modernizing our offices. The old U.S. law firms had large offices for partners and a lot of marble and dark wood – those were great, but the marketplace has moved on and we’re proud to be part of that. It’s a much more open space designed to emphasize collaboration, make great use of technology, and help us be more efficient. All offices are the same size with glass fronts, and collaboration areas are built all over the floor to facilitate more interaction among our people.
CA: Which practices have been performing especially well recently?
SL: One of the great things in 2018 was that almost all our practice areas were up significantly. If you look at the consistent drivers of the past three or four years – our financial services practice, our IP practice, our real estate practice, in particular our multifamily finance housing practice – all of those practices continue to perform at a high level. Additionally, our corporate group has also done very well. But again, most of our practice areas were up fairly significantly.
CA: Associates commented that the firm has its eye on the Texas market – can you expand?
SL: We’ve been fortunate in finding quality laterals across the firm. I think the combination of us with them has made the whole greater than the sum of the parts. We’ve had success in the past going to new markets, and it’s almost always client driven. The three most recent new markets for us were Portland, Charlotte and San Francisco. All of those expansion opportunities turned out to be great things for the firm, but all were fueled by client needs and work that we could expand and help clients with if we were in the market. Texas, particularly Dallas and Houston, also has the potential to be one of those markets. We have feedback from clients that it would help them if we were there, and they are places we have explored and continue to explore. Those are highly competitive markets right now: a lot of firms are trying to get to Texas for different reasons. So, we are patient, and we will only go in a manner we think will help serve our clients better and that will make good business sense for the firm at the same time.
"We would love to grow New York and Chicago."
We are also focused on growing our California and West Coast offices. We would love to grow New York and Chicago. Again, we’re most focused on finding the people who will help us be able to better serve our clients, and we can help them better serve their clients.
CA: Which practices have you earmarked for growth over the next year and why? What do you hope the firm will look like in five years' time?
SL: I don’t know that it’s necessarily practices so much as it is the client focus. We tend to look through to the clients and industries I mentioned – the middle market and energy companies, life science companies, financial institutions and insurance companies. Those are areas we’re already active in and have significant cross-disciplinary work in. We have done a good job over the past several years of growing a data security and privacy practice that’s really taken off. It’s still a developing area of the law which has become very hot as technology has taken on so much more of an important role in the business world, and it’s an area in which we’ll continue to invest, primarily because clients need that expertise. So, we try to be nimble and focused on what our clients are going to need to make sure we’re able to provide it when they ask.
CA: Looking back at your career and the knowledge you've gained, what advice would you give to students who are about to enter the legal industry based on the lessons you’ve learned?
SL: I’d tell them to maintain a sense of humor, that’s always key. And I’d tell them to relax a little and be patient. Practicing law is still a wonderful career and can be a lot of fun. But the learning curve is fairly steep, and there are times you’ll be discouraged but it’s worth persevering to get through it. One of the things I tell young lawyers here is to try to maintain an even keel because things are never quite as bad or quite as good as you think they are at the very first reaction. So be patient, persevere, learn and enjoy.