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Ogletree Deakins’ New Leader Predicts Smart Growth

Feb. 5, 2016, 9:14 PM

The labor and employment firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart announced Friday it has elected C. Matthew Keen as firmwide managing shareholder.

Keen, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, has been with Ogletree since he started his legal career in 1987.

The managing shareholder role means he will step away from his practice as an employment discrimination litigator and focus on recruiting, leadership and charting the firm’s strategic vision.

“We feel good about where we are in the U.S.,” said Keen. “We’ll continue to consider international expansion.”

Since Ogletree was founded in 1977, it has only had three other managing shareholders before Keen.

The outgoing managing shareholder Kim Ebert, based in Indianapolis, will return to his practice as a labor lawyer who focuses on negotiating collective bargaining agreements, assisting with due diligence in acquisitions and divestitures, handling arbitrations and other matters.

During his tenure as managing shareholder, which began in 2010, Ogletree experienced significant growth: It added more than 300 lawyers, bringing the total headcount to approximately 770 lawyers. It also opened offices in 11 new cities, and expanded outside the country with offices in Berlin, London and Mexico City.

According to the American Lawyer, the firm had gross revenues of $373 million in 2014 and profits per partner of $615,000,

Earlier this year, the law firm announced the opening of a Toronto office, its first in Canada. Keen pointed out that the firm opened two offices in 2015, in Milwaukee and Seattle, and its expansion rate has slowed down a bit as it filled out a broader U.S. footprint. It won’t pursue growth for growth sake, he said, explaining there has to be a strong reason to open an office in a new location.

“We actually have more lawyers in California than any other state,” said Keen, who noted the firm’s origins were in the southeastern U.S., specifically Georgia and South Carolina.

As the firm’s footprint has grown, he said it has made an effort to ensure its lawyers work together and provide a consistent level of service: For instance, at its firm retreat last fall, it asked all lawyers to sign a “client pledge” to implement premier service by focusing on business objectives and collaboration among other points.

“I think what we’re doing through that is getting the awareness and attention to it,” Keen said.

With the legal market so competitive, he said Ogletree will continue to invest in collaboration technology and other tools, such as Intellicase , a dashboard that clients can use to monitor their discrimination charges and assess the risk that any one charge will escalate to litigation.

“We’re [also] invested heavily in Knowledge Management,” said Keen. “Internally, it helps lawyers share information, know the client, understand the needs and be more efficient.”