Chesterfield Smith interview by WLRN (transcript of a radio broadcast interview made 3/19/2002)


Material Information

Chesterfield Smith interview by WLRN (transcript of a radio broadcast interview made 3/19/2002)
Series Title:
Articles, News Clippings, Interviews and Biographical Material, 1948-2008
Physical Description:
Smith, Chesterfield H., 1917-2003
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Box: 147
Folder: Interviews with Chesterfield - WLRN Radio


Spatial Coverage:
North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Dade -- Miami

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
sobekcm - AA00005956_00001
System ID:

Full Text


The law firm of Holland & Knight is Florida's largest. Not only are there

branches across the U.S. but overseas as well from Tokyo to Mexico City to

Tel Aviv. H&K is known for its commitment to public service, for pro bono aid,

generous salaries and employee benefits.

Good afternoon, it's Joseph Cooper. We'll discuss Holland & Knight in light

of an in-depth article by regular contributor Tony Doris of the Daily Business

Review and more are Audrey Finkestein. Visits with a woman deeply involved in

the South Florida community -- she's Regina Frazier, the Director of Pharmacy at

the University of Miami Hospital and Clinic, an Orange Bowl Committee member

and President of the Girls Scout Council of Tropical Florida.

Stay tuned. Contributor Tony Doris stands by after this NPR news hourly


(NPR News in Washington: National News Broadcast)

Joseph Cooper: It's six minutes past one o'clock. It's today's topical currents.

I'm Joseph Cooper. Thanks for lending us your ears today.

One of the sage founders of the law firm of Holland & Knight, Chesterfield

Smith, decided early on that the firm would be a model citizen in the legal world.

Smith is now in his 80s, still remarkable. He was profiled in Tom Brokaw's

"Greatest Generation" book and is still a presence in the 27th largest legal firm in

the U.S. and the largest in Florida. Holland & Knight still reflects his original

vision. Just in the 1990s and in the new century, the firm has received award after

award for its enlightened programs, foundations and services, including prodigious

hours of pro bono representation. The firm's Opening Doris for Children program is

exceptional. We've even had teams of H&K's staff answering phone on our WLRN

pledge drives. Joining me now is regular contributor Tony Doris of the Daily

Business Review. Yesterday he published a lengthy article in the Review after

much research. It seems Florida's top law is at what you term crossroads and

could even be an issue in Florida' gubernatorial race.

Tony Doris: It was a lengthy article, thank you. So long -- I haven't read the

whole thing myself yet, but, it is an interesting issue because for a number of

reasons. I mean, this is not just Florida's largest law firm, but it's one that

generates $466,000,000 in billings. You've got almost 1,300 lawyers all over the

country. It's under Bill McBride, its former managing partner. The firm spread its

wings into 11 different states. Seven or eight different countries -- well six or seven,

something like that. So it's a very big firm. It generates a lot of money for a lot of

people in a lot of different states. But on top of that, it's one that, within the legal

community across the country, is known as a firm that gives a lot of itself to social


Joseph Cooper: So, what's the problem?

Tony Doris: The problem is that it's in the same situation that a lot of other

law firms across the country are in. And that's -- first of all, you've got a recession

that we may or may not be just pulling out of and Holland & Knight also has an

office in lower Manhattan that was basically shutdown for weeks-on-end. The

partners had to move out and work elsewhere for a long time. So that cut into

revenues last year. So you've got these external factors and internally what's going

on with Holland & Knight is that it has expanded tremendously, and that it is an

enterprise that requires some sacrifices. You go into an expansion knowing that it's

going to be awhile before you plan to have a national presence kick in. And so,

they've been enduring the high expenses of rapid expansion and on top of that, the

expenses of being who they are, which is, you know, the firm that pays a lot of

attention to donating a lot of hours of partners' time to social causes. So the

question that Holland & Knight faces is, you know, how long and to what extent can

we continue to be a firm that does good, as well as does well.

Joseph Cooper: Now Bill McBride, the democratic gubernatorial candidate

and the leading fund-raising democratic. He's not leading in the polls, but he's the

leading fundraiser in the democratic side of that. This expansion, I suppose, goes

under his watch.

Tony Doris: That's true. He pushed it along. Under this watch they went

from something like 10 offices to more than 30 and gave, made the firm a national

presence, did a lot of progressive things along the way and instituted a living wage

for staffers. The mailroom folks who were making $8.00 an hour are now making

$12.00 an hour and again, external things under Bill McBride. Also, there was this

national bandwagon of law firm, top law firms competing for top talent right out of

law school in 1999. A lot of firms, including Holland & Knight, suddenly started

paying beginner lawyers, right out of law school, $100,000 a year. And ...

Joseph Cooper: Is that the birthright?

Tony Doris: That's right. How many industries are there where you can

work your whole life and never make anything near that much. Well, and these

kinds of things, you know, are a great, great plans, but of course, when you have a

recession and other external factors, you have to make sure you have all ducks in a

row internally. Otherwise, you get hit with a financial squeeze.

Joseph Cooper: My guest is regular contributor Tony Doris of the Daily

Business Review. We're talking about an article published yesterday in that paper

concerning the law firm of Holland & Knight. If you would like to join in our

discussion, you're certainly welcome. 305-995-1800. That's 305-995-1800. You can

also reach me by e-mail, if you like, at Tony, this is a long article as

we mentioned earlier. A lot of research had to go into it. How did Holland &

Knight feel about this?

Tony Doris: Well, it's been it was very uncomfortable I think for them. I

mean they did step up with their managing partner. He called me back in response

to questions. Their spokesperson repeatedly, you know, came at me with specific

answers to the little details that I needed. Bill McBride called me and spoke to me

to answer questions. And so they did, you know, put their official face forward and

on the inside though, I mean, every time I called around I found out that there was

an internal voice mail circulated saying, well I don't know the exact exactly what

it said but it said, you know, basically don't talk to the reporter. Please forward

them to the spokesperson. They tried to be very ....

Joseph Cooper: .. .Which is typical in corporate situations.

Tony Doris: In large corporations, yeah. Although, you know, I deal with,

you know, companies everyday, calling them on the phone and people get on the

phone, they answer your questions and its, its only the really very large nervous

companies that end up usually forcing you to go through spokespeople. And it is a

little odd when you see people with such, you know, unbelievable intelligence, these

are lawyers who are making a half a million more a year and they're afraid to talk

to a reporter -- well, okay. That's the way it was in this case. It was obviously a

sensitive topic. It's a law firm that people are not wishing ill of. It's a firm that, I

think people in the industry want to know that it's possible for a firm that does the

kinds of things that Holland & Knight does to do well.

Joseph Cooper: And we need to emphasize there's no scandal, no illegal

activity -just awesome hard times. And, are there factions within the company?

Tony Doris: Yeah. I heard it described a couple of ways. I mean, if one

person described it to me, it's that Yugoslavia, and another person described it as

the Taliban.

Joseph Cooper: The Taliban?

Tony Doris: Well, you know, they're the people who want to, who care as

much about pro bono as they do about making more money and there are other

people who want to see strict cost-cutting because they feel that to survive, the

firm's partners have to be making as much profit per partner as at other, you know,

rival firms, otherwise, the good guys will leave and go to the other firms. So there's,

I would say, passionate, internal debate about how to steer this company.

Joseph Cooper: 305-995-1800. 305-995-1800. Let's try our first caller at that

number. I have a couple of lines open. Cynthia in Miami. Hi.

Cynthia: Hi. My question on the comment just a minute ago regarding first-

year lawyers getting $100,000. I'm a rising fifth-year and I know that it's been

bloom-time for us and it was bound to, you know, just dissolve and things and come

to an end. But you guys sort of chuckle over new lawyers getting $100,000, but I'm

wondering, what in your opinion, since you've obviously been keeping an eye on this

for some time, in terms of the whole market, I know that Holland & Knight has its

own specific things that based on the economics of the firm are happening. But what

do you think, I mean, in your own personal opinion, what do you think a lawyer at

that level or a junior lawyer should be making? Or do you think the market should

bear for a lawyer, you know?

Tony Doris: Eight to $12.00 an hour.


Cynthia: Not putting those hours in let me tell you.

Joseph Cooper: Well, you want to work at WLRN.

Tony Doris: I think that's a fair question and a couple of things. First of all,

it is what the market will bear. That's what you get. That's how it works. But also,

law is a different kind of business. It's kind of like, you can compare it to, you

know, basketball or professional sports in a way, and there's, you know, when you're

up in court, there's no second place. You got to hire the best that there is and there

are only so many of the best, and so there's a lot of demand and that drives up the

price for lawyers. So, yeah, while the rest of us sneer a little bit at the high price,

what is and may be not fairly so, 'cause it is the market that sets the price, the

salaries that lawyers can get, it is true that there is a lot of discussion within

Holland & Knight about, you know, how to keep even with other companies and

Holland, like a lot of other companies is facing this, you know, vast increase in

associate pay that took place in 1999. Other companies have reacted, you know,

even more dramatically and have already had layoffs.

Cynthia: Well, getting back to may question. What do you think the market

should bear? If you had to create a perfect world, what do you think the associates

should be making.

Tony Doris: Well, it's for the market to decide and what's going to happen is

that you're going to see associate prices come down, they froze or at least stay frozen

for awhile. So it's not for me to decide what the market should bear. You know, I

can tell you, it's expensive for the rest of us, but we in the market for legal services

are the ones who ultimately determine what people will pay for lawyers.

Cynthia: Okay, because I'm going to have my review soon so I just wondered

what you think I should ask for -- but apparently you are not in that business.

Tony Doris: A living wage. That's all you can ask for.

Cynthia: Yeah. Plus a little bit more for the hours.

Tony Doris: It's hard work. There's no doubt about that.

Cynthia: Yeah. Well thank you.

Joseph Cooper: Thanks for calling Cynthia. 305-995-1800. Of course if

you're a firm that tried to rapidly expand, we're going to pay premiums for the best

and the brightest.

Tony Doris: You can do it that way or you can just buy, you know, merge

with whole other firms.

Joseph Cooper: And that was done also, right?

Tony Doris: Yeah. That's basically what that's Holland & Knight's

strategy, mainly to merge with other firms.

Joseph Cooper: 305-995-1800. Now you spoke with the patriarch of

Holland & Knight, someone I admire very much, Chesterfield Smith.

Tony Doris: Yeah.

Joseph Cooper: What was his take on this?

Tony Doris: Well, first of all, I was amazed, I suppose I shouldn't have been.

But, you know, I called and figured they were patching me though to his home or

something. But no, he was up there in his 30th floor office. He comes in basically

everyday, I understand, and puts in a full day's work, and his take was basically

that Holland & Knight feels that the legal, the judicial systems should be opened to

everybody and that it's a lawyer's responsibility to make sure that happens and to,

you know, and to give it away, and his take is that he thinks the majority of people

at Holland & Knight feel that way and will continue to feel that way. So, he's not

worried that the pro bono spirit is going to disappear anytime soon.

Joseph Cooper: Well, that's not surprising.

Tony Doris: Well, I can tell you that I think a lot of lawyers do come to

Holland & Knight because they know that it's that kind of firm. They know, maybe

they're that kind of person who does want to at least devote some of the career to

social causes of whatever kind and so it does pay off in terms of attracting a certain

kind of lawyer and as the firm told me, you know, Bob Feagin is the managing

partner right now said it actually does help the bottom line, because a lot of

customers like to come to a law firm if they know that it's, you know, that kind of


Joseph Cooper: A good citizen?

Tony Doris: Um, hum.

Joseph Cooper: Let take a short break on topical currents. We have a couple

of lines opened and when we return, we'll get to more of your calls. 305-995-1800.

We'll be back with more.

Joseph Cooper: Topical currents. I'm Joseph Cooper. My guest is regular

contributor journalist Tony Doris of the Daily Business Review. We're talking

about one of the model law firms in the country the law firm of Holland & Knight.

As promised, we'll go to the phones. 305-995-1800. If want to get in. Linda in

Miami. Hi.

Linda: Hello. Am I on the air?

Joseph Cooper: Yes you are.

Linda: Okay. No ... one of my comments was, it seems that for somebody to

go to law school, it pretty high, the tuition and I think maybe that would

compensate why they're getting such a large salary to pay that back, as well as the

hours that these associates put in when they go to large firms. It's not a straight

40-hour week usually and they do have to bill quite a lot of money to repay back

that salary that they are making.

Joseph Cooper: Um, hum

Tony Doris: It's true. It's a high-pressure job and associates always get

abused. I mean, you get stuff handed to you, you know, 4:30 Friday afternoon,

"thank you very much," by obnoxious partners. It's not easy.

Linda: It isn't. And they do put in a lot of hours. You know, just like I said.

It's not the 9 to 5 job so maybe that could compensate. And also, our law schools,

they do ask for very high tuition. Not like an MBA.

Tony Doris: It's so the law school professors can be paid a lot.

Linda: Um, hum. True.

Tony Doris: A lot of people work hard too though, and a lot of people don't

make that kind of money. But really, like I said, it's what the market will bear.

You can't have a second-best lawyer if you want to win.

Linda: Right. Right. Okay. Thank you.

Joseph Cooper: Okay Linda. 305-995-1800. Boca Raton caller. David. Hi.

David: Hi. I haven't read the article about corporate spread. Does it deal

with McBride as running for governor?

Joseph Cooper: Yeah. Of course.

Tony Doris: It's long. It deals with everything.

David: Okay. Well, then, does it address the tension between Reno and

McBride being that Reno came from Steel Hector & Davis and that was her political

mentor for all the things that she's done.

Tony Doris: No. I didn't get into that frankly. I didn't ... I led off the story

by mentioning McBride but the story's not really specifically, you know, about him

or his political run. It's really about how a firm copes with how to be financially

strong and also be a good corporate citizen.

David: Right. Well, in my experience with them, they are an extraordinary

firm and they have tremendous political power and I think it would be very

interesting the governor's race.

Tony Doris: Yeah. I think it'll be an interesting debate if and when it gets

past the Janet Reno stage, because you've got McBride whose very liberal and very,

very smart versus Jeb, who's at far to the right as McBride I suppose is to the left.

And McBride is something of, you know, a kind of a cracker liberal along the lines of

Lawton Child and so it's, yeah, it's an interesting juxtaposition between him and


Joseph Cooper: You know when Janet Reno comes to my mind, I don't think

of Steel Hector Davis, I think of Attorney General, I think of Waco, I think of Elian.

Tony Doris: Yeah. It's been awhile since the Steel Hector days I suppose.

David: Yeah. But that's where she got her start when she left Gerstein's


Tony Doris: Well, the law firm money I think is headed to a McBride this

time. He's raising a lot of money from law firms. Also his wife is a bank president,

if I recall correctly. So he's got a lot of corporate money flowing in. He's raising

more money than her so far.

David: Alright. Good. Thank you.

Joseph Cooper: Okay David in Boca. 305-995-1800. You can also e-mail us.

Perhaps someone at Holland & Knight internally would want to participate that

way. Joanne in Miami Shores.

Joanne: Hi.

Joseph Cooper: Oh. You're on the road.

Joanne: Oh. Yes I am. Can you hear me?

Joseph Cooper: Well, I just want you to be careful.

Joanne: Oh, I will. I just wanted to make two small comments. When I

worked for corporate America the last seven years I don't do that anymore but -

we used a lot of different law firms in Miami and Holland & Knight stood out 10

shoulders to quality and the character of those people that we dealt with which has

been entirely different than the other law firms. And the other thing I want to say

is, I wonder if young, graduating law students are aware that we're sought of

fostering this culture that it's all about the salary and that nothing else matters. It

the salary but I wonder if people coming out of law school really are educated

that they need to fit in more and of what they are

looking for (inaudible).

Joseph Cooper: We're having a little difficulty with your call, Joanne. I think

we'll answer that off the air.

Joanne: I'm sorry.

Tony Doris: I think a lot people go into law school with some ideals and they

like the idea, and I think a lot of people in the legal community like the idea that

there are places where you can go and where you can still hold to those ideals and

make a decent living.

Joseph Cooper: 305-995-1800, if you would like to get in. Tony, what are

some of the causes that Holland & Knight has been involved in? There are

numerous, numerous ones.

Tony Doris: Well, one of the ones their real proud of, is they just finished up

a 10-year long case with a successful settlement where they were the lead counsel

for 45,000 young people who were involved in the juvenile justice system across the

state, but who didn't have access to needed mental health services, and the result of

that is that the state is now required to come up a plan to deal with that. They've

also done they're doing a lot of work across the state now, pro bono work for

people with immigration problems in other states. They're working with death row

inmates and with HIV infected inmates to ensure that they all get legal

representation, all along the lines of the kinds of things that Chesterfield Smith,

you know, set forth about how the justice system has to be open for everybody.

Joseph Cooper: 305-995-1800. If you would like to join in our discussion.

305-995-1800. If you have had any reaction, I know your telephone number and

e-mail are at the end of the column.

Tony Doris: Not much -- add a little bit though and I think what I'm hearing

is -- I think unfortunately the story was about the firm as a whole and some of these

issues that it's dealing with but probably some people would try to grab on to it and

use it as, you know, against Bill McBride in his gubernatorial run. They'll try to pin

it to him. He left the firm last June but a lot of the firm's policies in its growth were

done under him. I mean I've seen somebody sent me an e-mail this morning

saying "ahh, see if he does this living wage thing across the state, it'll cost people

their jobs instead of helping." So, that's the kind of reaction I've had out there. I

think people are quietly reading it and especially in the legal community, but on the

political end, people are looking at it as "is this ammunition I can use."

Joseph Cooper: So, what are some of the cuts that are planned.

Tony Doris: Well, they tell us that as far as cutting expenses...

Joseph Cooper: What was suggested?

Tony Doris: Right. They tell us that they are considering everything but

won't go into detail. One confidential memo that I came across from one partner,

kind of gives a bit of the flavor or some of the things that are being talked about

within the firm and that everything from cutting back the number of lawyers by,

you know, 100, 200 or more, to stopping new hiring, new recruitment this year is a

possibility. Associate wages have been frozen while they try to figure out what to do

about that in the current economic environment.

Joseph Cooper: You know there's parallel to journalism in this, especially

with the major metropolitan newspapers cutting back on newsroom staff, looking

more at the bottom line being owned by corporate entities who pay more attention

to the bottom line than community service.

Tony Doris: It's true. And in a lot of industries, journalism is the one we

know about but, you know, the economy has been tough. It's going to pick up I

suppose but slowly, and in the meanwhile, in the case of law firms, you've got

partners who want to be making more money.

Joseph Cooper: And Brian in Ft. Lauderdale, you're up.

Brian: Hi. How are you doing?

Joseph Cooper: Good.

Brian: I've just been listening for only the last few minutes but the last caller

I heard discussing about the law school and what it's like to go to law school as an

activist or someone with ideals and the experiences that one is likely to go through

as such. I was a very dedicated environmentalist still am, and that's why I chose

to go to law school. I became increasingly disgruntled with doing public education

campaigns or working on particular agendas and making great strides, only later to

find out that the Legislature with a swift stroke of the pen could undo all that

months' worth of work and I can tell you that law school can be an asset, but if one

is expecting to be able to be fully actualized as an activist, using their legal degrees,

it's pretty daunting. I found it difficult to find a niche. And I found very few people

within the legal community who could identify with my position. I just wanted to

offer that and if there is anyone out there who is thinking about attending law

school because they have a particular agenda, they should probably speak to people

who are already within that community who have done that, who have gone to law

school. I'm finding myself strapped to the very heavy educational debt that I fear I

will not be able to pay back anytime soon. So it's definitely a tradeoff.

Joseph Cooper: Okay Brian. Well, best of luck.

Tony Cooper: And one of things I find out about environmental laws, it often

is not the people who are the high paid environmental lawyers, who are the ones

who are defending, you know, the people who are creating the problem.

Tony Doris: Looters or ...

Joseph Cooper: Yeah. Well Tony Doris, our time has come to an end. Once

again, thank you for enlightening us on topical currents. Tony Doris, journalist

with the Daily Business Review. Good to see you again.

Tony Doris: Thanks, Joe, likewise.

Joseph Cooper: And we'll be right back with more.

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