RADIO BROADCAST FROM WLRN 3/19/02
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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
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.
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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