Baltimore native Brett Ingerman is adjusting to his new role as managing partner of DLA Piper US LLP’s Baltimore office. Ingerman, who has been with the firm for 22 years, focuses on business and commercial litigation and arbitration as well as corporate investigations and global compliance issues. He is also the global co-chairman of the firm’s compliance and governance practice. Ingerman recently spoke to The Daily Record about his vision for the Baltimore office and how it is adapting to client needs. This interview has been condensed and edited for space. For the full interview, go to TheDailyRecord.com.
Now that you’re managing partner, has your outlook on the Baltimore office and the firm as a whole changed at all?
I’m a lot busier. I plan to practice law full-time as well as being managing partner, so it’s an opportunity to balance those responsibilities. I interact with everybody from all the different practice groups through my managing partner role, develop a strategic plan, implement a strategic plan for the office and at the same time generate new business, manage clients, try cases, handle investigations.
Is it common for managing partners to practice full-time?
At DLA, all managing partners continue to practice because the goal is that we do this for some set period of time and then go back to being a full-time lawyer. I love practicing law, so one of the caveats for me taking this job was I get to continue to do that and the firm is totally okay with it.
What has been your process for the past few months to get accustomed to your new role?
I’m in the process of meeting one-on-one with every partner in the office to make sure I understand what they do and how I can help them develop and improve their practice. I want everyone to have input in the future plans of the Baltimore office. I believe in total transparency.
Then, I’m meeting with practice group leaders and we have begun to outline a strategic plan for the next five years for the office. That involves a number of components, including business development, excellence in the practice of law, hiring diversity and inclusion, pro bono and community service.
You’re relatively young for an office managing partner. Why do you think you were chosen for this job?
There were three or four managing partners named across the law firm at about the same time, all of the same age where I am. There’s an idea of trying to get some of the younger folks into leadership roles and giving the partners who have done it for a long time the opportunity to go back and practice law full time. The expectation is this is not a lifetime appointment and that they continue to rotate in the younger leadership at the firm.
There’s a group of us in the 40s-to-early-50s range. We understand the challenges of how the legal market is changing. Our peers within the clients communicate with us about how law firms can continue to adapt to meet those challenges and meet those client needs.
How do you see large law firms changing, in terms of how you do your business and what clients are expecting from you?
The legal market is flat and has been for a number of years now, so there’s not an ever-growing pie to get pieces from. You combine a flat legal market with the evolution of advanced technology and innovation in the legal market and it’s much harder to compete for business. You have clients who have more sophisticated, in-house legal departments doing more work.
The most important thing is that lawyers have to understand that the legal market is changing before they can actually adapt to it. You have to offer creative solutions (and) you’re much more of a business partner with the client and provide them advice that goes beyond this one case or this one problem.
What is DLA Piper’s approach to hiring and promoting diverse attorneys?
We have a national (diversity and inclusion) director who has been here to help the lawyers understand how to make diversity and inclusion work. I’m learning a lot about this from a management perspective. Simply hiring diverse lawyers doesn’t equal a diverse workplace, it’s actually the ability to retain them and giving them an opportunity to succeed.
That starts with the education of lawyers that are already here. We can bring in a ton of diverse lawyers and if they all rotate out in a year or two, we’re actually doing ourselves and them a disservice. Frankly, our clients are demanding it, aside from it being the right thing to do. Clients demand that you staff engagements with diverse lawyers and ensure their success.