As the new managing partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters, Laurie Carr Mims is looking to transform the role by bringing in executives to offload managerial duties.
The San Francisco-based litigation firm seeks to add a chief operating officer to help oversee its 115-attorney operation, which brought on a chief financial officer in 2020. The jobs free up Mims to work on her litigation practice, focusing on life sciences for clients like Roche Holding AG’s Genentech and Veeva Systems Inc.
“Shifting more of the everyday operational management to professionals is something I think will be good for the firm,” Mims said in an interview.
Keker is part of a trend to have professional managers work under law firm leaders and boost the quality of management. The arrangements are designed to boost firm efficiency, bolster bottom lines and free up time for the attorneys to focus on legal work.
Timothy Corcoran, a management consultant who has served in managerial roles at Big Law firms, said running a business is complex and firms greatly benefit by offloading tasks to experienced managers.
“There’s been an evolution for those firms that are busy, complex, and have a high amount of revenue,” Corcoran said. “Lawyers don’t have the time to do all the business operations, so let’s find people who can.”
Bob Baradaran, managing partner at Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, said firms should weigh their options closely.
Firms should explore a mix of managerial professionals along with attorney leadership, Baradaran said. “It depends on the size, the type, and most importantly, the culture of the firm,” Baradaran said.
Keker is known for its work in the tech and intellectual property spaces, including representing clients such as Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Netflix Inc., and Western Digital Corporation’s SanDisk.
Mims has practiced at the firm since 2005. She succeeded Steven K. Taylor, who served in the top job since 2013. During Taylor’s tenure the firm said it grew from 79 lawyers and increased revenues by more than 80%.
“It’s an exciting time to be making a transition when we’re in a period of success and measured growth,” Mims said.
She said she wants to continue growing the firm and increase diversity, an area where the firm has established new roles. LaNitra Webb last year joined Keker as the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion lead.
The firm also rolled out billable time credit hours for attorney efforts on DEI.
“A priority for us is making sure that we’re hiring people who are the top talent and reflect our community and our clients’ communities,” Mims said.
Mims also wants to continue the firm’s effort to grow its pro bono practice—and to increase the amount of work it does on contingency.
“What’s gratifying about it is that often times clients wouldn’t pursue a very important matter, either financially or or policy wise, if they had to pay for high end legal representation like our firm delivers,” Mims said. “It’s an opportunity for us to bet on ourselves.”
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