Mintz Levin’s Bob Bodian is looking to coax lawyers back to the office, beginning with the firm’s partners.
“It starts and ends with the partners,” Bodian said of getting Mintz’s 500-plus attorneys to show up in person. “They have to buy into it and see a reason to be in and start coming in more. It’s definitely an issue.”
Many Big Law firms require attorneys to hit the office at least three days per week. Some—like Simpson Thacher and Sidley Austin—are threatening to hold back bonus money for associates who don’t reach that goal.
Mintz has taken a “flexible” approach: lawyers generally are expected to spend 60% of their time in the firm’s offices. Bodian is hesitant to impose strict attendance mandates on junior lawyers, especially if the firm’s partners are still largely working remotely.
“It’s not really our style,” said Bodian, who has led the Boston-founded firm for 14 years. “Once you do that, you have to enforce it.”
Mintz recently launched an office in Toronto, bringing on four practice leaders from Canada law firm Torys. It also moved into a new, larger space in Manhattan—919 Third Avenue—which can accommodate up to 175 lawyers in single-sized offices.
“The trick is to get people to actually come in and use it,” Bodian said of the new digs.
“We have less attorneys coming to the office than I’d like to see, or less frequently than I like to see,” he added. “So, I’m trying to figure out how to sort of change that without making too many rules.”
Bodian has committed to another three-year term at the helm, starting in 2024. He’s upbeat about how the firm will fare this year, even as deals work slows and others have resorted to layoffs to cut costs.
“I’m more optimistic about what this year is going to look like than what I thought last year was going to look like,” he said.
Mintz brought in more than $617 million in gross revenue last year, up about 5% from a year earlier. Profits per equity partner rose by nearly 3%, reaching $2.2 million.
The firm’s Toronto office has grown to 20 lawyers since it was officially launched in March. Eric Foster, ex-head of the Canadian cannabis practice at Dentons, is among the new hires, along with intellectual property lawyer Lee Johnson from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
The firm expects to soon reach the 50-lawyer mark in Toronto, Bodian said.
He has more modest ambitions for Miami, where Mintz is set to open a new office later this year. Mintz brought on Milbank capital markets partner James Ball Jr., a New York lawyer planning to sit for the Florida bar exam, to lead the new office.
The firm’s pillars in life sciences, technology, and private equity remain strong, Bodian said. Intellectual property litigation has bounced back after being hard hit during the pandemic.
Mintz clients have included The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Apollo Global Management Inc., Wynn Resorts Ltd., and OPKO Health Inc. The firm last year won a $150 million settlement for Nanoco Technologies in a patent infringement suit against Samsung. Its lawyers also represented the British nanotech company in IPR proceedings before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The firm also is in the process of completing a diversity audit, reviewing origination credit and assignments, according to Bodian. It’s looking ensure that diverse attorneys are included in client pitches, he said.
Mintz hasn’t had to make layoffs in the recent downturn, Bodian said, despite cuts by major firms like Cooley LLP and Gunderson Dettmer. He doesn’t anticipate reducing the firm’s workforce.
He declined to say whether Mintz is joining competitors in exploring merger talks. Partner defections have forced some major law firms to talk about combining, seeking scale in an uncertain market.
The planned merger of Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling will elevate the combined firm into the five largest by gross revenue. It follows a raft of departures from Shearman.
Stroock Stroock & Lavan has engaged in merger talks with Nixon Peabody, Steptoe & Johnson, McGuireWoods, and Squire Patton Boggs since a group of more than 40 lawyers left last year.
“I’m trying to balance the size of the place, and the profitability and the culture and not getting picked apart,” Bodian said.
His approach to office attendance is part of the calculus.
“I think about making sure that the firm is someplace where my partners want to be, and where associates want to be,” Bodian said. “Not make too many rules, but also try to make it more business-like and be big enough to continue to drive the profit.”
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