Law Firm of the Year Finalist 2022: Jones Day

Rebekah Kcehowski, partner-in-charge, Pittsburgh office

What’s one of the biggest challenges law firms face today?

Striking the right balance.

Lawyers have found ways to work remotely for years—whether at trial sites, at clients’ far-flung locations, or at home tending to after-hours client matters. So, pre-pandemic, law firms had generally facilitated and implemented remote work options. But the pandemic precipitated an abrupt technological revolution across the profession. Rather than expanding gradually and organically as pre-pandemic, remote work options are suddenly a new normal for law firms. Simultaneously, legal professionals at every level are making clear that they want to be meaningfully seen and heard by firm management, and the ways in which we as lawyers live, work, and give back to our communities continue to change. Yet fully remote platforms can, in various ways, inhibit the depth of communication and understanding necessary to build relationships, mentor junior team members, and foster open dialogue among law firm colleagues. Finding the right balance between the benefits of remote work such as reduced costs for clients and job satisfaction for lawyers, on the one hand, and necessary in-person engagement with colleagues, clients, and courts, on the other, is a now-more -than-ever important goal for law firms, as well as for individual lawyers and staff.

Conversely, name one opportunity available to law firms in the current climate.

As we look to strike the right balance going forward, and as we face an increasingly and often paralyzingly polarized political climate, there is opportunity and responsibility for lawyers to step up pro bono and public service initiatives to help solve challenging civic and community problems . Our attributes and skills match what is needed: integrity, candor, advocacy, ability to untangle complex problems into a clear sequence of tasks, creative problem-solving, mediation techniques, understanding of existing legal frameworks, and recognition that higher principles like rule of law transcend issues of the moment.

This week’s launch of the HEAR Foundation in Pittsburgh, as reported here among other places, is an illustration of those principles in practice. The HEAR Foundation was founded by Leon Ford, a Black man shot five times by Pittsburgh police and rendered paraplegic in a mistaken identity stop, and by Pittsburgh Chief of Police Scott Schubert. These two leaders—brought together by a lawyer, Jones Day’s Laura Ellsworth, who is receiving an Unsung Hero award from the Legal Intelligencer for her work on the global Eradicate Hate Summit—formed an authentic friendship and founded the HEAR Foundation to bring the community and police together on issues of gun violence reduction, trauma care, and workforce development. And when these two leaders articulated their commitment to advance community healing, it was lawyers at Jones Day who identified a foundation structure, created the 501(c)(3), and addressed issues of IP, tax, and governance necessary to make it operational . Genuine heroes exist in all of our communities, and lawyers working alongside them enable and drive change.

In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation?

Present them with challenging and fulfilling work assignments; provide opportunities to lead, both inside and outside the law firm; clearly incorporate their input into decision-making; and be flexible and nimble in approach, recognizing the world and practice continue to change.

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