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Morgan Stanley Top Lawyer Demands Law Firms Return to Office (2)

July 16, 2021, 3:41 PMUpdated: July 16, 2021, 10:00 PM

One of Wall Street’s top paid lawyers is telling his outside law firms to put an end to remote work and force their attorneys back to the office.

Eric Grossman, chief legal officer at Morgan Stanley, sent a memo Thursday to law firms and legal service providers encouraging them to improve client service by having lawyers and employees return to the office, according to a company official. Grossman’s memo suggested that those continuing to operate remotely risk their relationship with the financial services giant.

Grossman declined to comment on his missive, which comes as Big Law grapples with updating remote work policies stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Morgan Stanley has asked its own employees to plan on returning to the office by Labor Day. In a Thursday earnings call with analysts, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman said the best mentoring comes from watching others in the workplace.

“I don’t think you can do that sitting at home by yourself,” Gorman said. “I think there is a limit to how far, as good as the Zoom technology is, how far that can take you.”

Gorman, who was born in Australia and started his career as an attorney working for a predecessor to DLA Piper, said his personal development was “dramatically” affected by being able to hone his professional skills in the office.

Still, Gorman said that Morgan Stanley will remain flexible for certain employees with health issues or those caring for family members.

Morgan Stanley works with a slew of outside law firms, including some of the largest in the U.S.

Shearman & Sterling; Greenberg Traurig; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Davis Polk & Wardwell; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison have collectively handled roughly 33% of Morgan Stanley’s federal litigation work in the U.S. over the past five years, according to Bloomberg Law data.

Richard Rosenbaum, executive chairman of Greenberg Traurig, said in a statement to Bloomberg Law that “we received Mr. Grossman’s memo and deeply appreciate our long-term relationship with Morgan Stanley” and other “similarly inclined” clients both in the financial services space and elsewhere.

“Eric and several others have shown the courage and leadership to speak out during these times, and are uniquely positioned to influence the profession,” said Rosenbaum, who along with other firm leaders has been traveling across the country as Greenberg Traurig brings its lawyers back into the office.

Bradford Kaufman, co-president of Greenberg Traurig and a partner in West Palm Beach, Fla., is the firm’s relationship partner with Morgan Stanley. Greenberg Traurig’s own chief legal officer, Martin Kaminsky, is part of an eight-member New York State Bar Association group that has issued recommendations to law firms about reopening their offices.

Rosenbaum, in his statement, said that his firm’s core values of trust, training, teamwork, personal respect, individual relationships, and client service are best in an office environment. “Most of us recognize that these values are best served by being together and doing so in person as much of the time as possible,” he said.

Grossman, a former partner at Davis Polk in New York, joined Morgan Stanley as its global head of litigation in 2006. The New York-based company promoted him to legal chief in 2012, replacing Francis Barron, who held the role for just 18 months after succeeding Gary Lynch in 2010.

Lynch, a former Davis Polk partner, is now counsel at the firm after leaving Morgan Stanley in 2011. During the next decade Grossman became one of the top paid lawyers in the financial services industry.

Bloomberg data show that Grossman currently owns nearly $27 million in Morgan Stanley stock. The company didn’t list Grossman as one of its five highest-paid executives in 2020, but he received a total pay package valued at $11 million in 2019.

Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s CEO, earned $29.6 million in total compensation last year. About $9.4 million of that sum was in cash. Gorman currently owns more than $114 million in Morgan Stanley stock, according to Bloomberg data.

(Includes comments from Greenberg Traurig in paragraphs nine through 12.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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