In the 26 years that Donald L. Mrozek was the chairman of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, he said it would have been handy to have someone outside the firm to turn to for advice.
“I can’t tell you how many times when I was running the firm I wish I had somebody to talk an issue through,” Mrozek said. “You need some outside perspective. You need to get away from the insular nature of the law firm.”
That need is part of the reason Hinshaw & Culbertson has established a new practice, called Consultants and Coaches for the Profession, in which some of the firm’s experienced partners will serve as consultants to other firm leaders by offering them advice on the management aspects of running a firm.
Mrozek, who is leading the new practice, said he thinks it’s one of the first established practices that combines the idea of executive coaching, in which industry leaders work directly with consulting advisers, with the legal practice.
Executive coaching, Mrozek explained, has become a large industry, but not within the legal sector.
“What it is, simply, people with expertise in dealing with issues, called coaches, sit down and help executives talk through issues,” he said. “You can’t do it on a hotline basis. In order to be effective, you do need to establish a relationship so that you’re understanding the bigger picture, so to speak. It’s become very popular in corporate America.”
Mrozek said he’s had non-lawyer friends who were required by their companies a few years ago to retain executive coaches from outside their organizations with “fresh perspectives.”
“They have all told me as the years developed that they have gotten great value out of it,” he said.
In addition to the one-on-one coaching service, the new Hinshaw practice is aimed at offering firms advice in business and management as well as consulting services in areas including succession planning and organizational changes.
Leadership succession planning and execution is “huge” right now, Mrozek said, and it’s something he’s handled at Hinshaw on more than one occasion.
Partner compensation is also an area that the new practice can advise clients on that Mrozek said he thinks is always going to be an issue within firms.
Expertise on contraction, expansion and mergers is yet another area where the new team plans to offer its services.
“We all want to grow … but sometimes if you want to grow, you have to shrink first, and do a little bit of gardening along the way,” he said.
The idea to form the practice originated with Mrozek, who said he realized he missed managing and coaching lawyers after stepping down as the firm’s chairman a little more than a year ago.
After receiving encouragement from others to start the practice, Mrozek also considered that the resources were already available at Hinshaw through its Lawyers for the Profession practice group, which consists of more than 60 lawyers who advise other firms on business-related issues including legal malpractice defense, ethics counseling and risk management services.
The core members of the new Consultants and Coaches for the Profession Practice group currently are Mrozek; Anthony E. Davis, who focuses on ethics and risk management; Janis M. Meyer, who was general counsel at the former Dewey & LeBoeuf; and J. Richard Supple Jr., who is experienced in ethics issues and other law firm business consulting.
While the practice officially launched Monday, Mrozek said he’s already been working with some clients on an ad hoc basis.
According to Hinshaw & Culbertson, the firm grew from a small Chicago firm to having 25 offices around the country under Mrozek’s chairmanship between 1989 and 2015. The firm today has about 500 attorneys and more than $225 million in revenues.