Chief Operating Officer Arthur Greenberg recently told us about his role at Goodwin Procter, the firm's practices, and the challenges that the legal industry is facing.
How has your role changed as the firm has grown?
I started at the firm in 1996 as the Executive Director (ED). Back then, we had nearly 300 attorneys primarily in Boston. In the last 13 years, the firm has changed in both scale and complexity. I was the first ED at Goodwin so I had the opportunity to create the role. My charter was initially to manage the various administrative departments and control expenses. In my early years at the firm, we built a stronger administrative support structure by hiring strong leaders in those areas and developing better systems. This helped support the firm's growth. I now spend a considerable amount of time "managing" the revenue side of the firm. This has been particularly challenging, recently, as clients are asking for more price concessions. I had to earn, and continue to earn, the respect of our partners by understanding how to add value to their practices and helping them manage client relationships.
Why is successful project management important when managing client relationships?
In today's economic environment, there is growing pressure from clients across the legal industry to be more efficient and manage projects more effectively. They want greater value and more cost certainty. Goodwin Procter has been proactive in this area by partnering with our clients to understand how we can deliver services more efficiently. Through this process we look at how we manage and staff matters, provide fee estimates and budgets, and communicate with clients about complex issues that may impact the fee arrangements. In the long run, I don’t see billable hours disappearing, but we will need to be more creative in our approach to billing. We recently assembled an Alternative Billing Strategies Task Force to look at these issues.
What challenges will the legal industry face in the future?
Some believe that when the economy improves, it will be business as usual. I am not of that mindset. The successful firms of tomorrow will need to look closely at their operations and how they can deliver services more efficiently to clients. Those firms that are not proactive could be left behind. The industry also needs to take a closer look at its recruiting and staffing models. I also think competition for work will continue to increase as clients begin to hire a range of firms to meet their needs or consolidate their existing firms.
If you weren’t the firm's COO, what might you be doing now?
I always wanted to become a professional sportscaster. When I was an undergraduate at Brown University in the ‘70s, I did the play-by-play for their hockey team. At the time, my assistant was Chris Berman, who now works at ESPN. I would trade places with him in a heartbeat!
Is it true that you are a die hard rock music fan?
I've seen some of the best music legends ever in concert. A small sampling includes: Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Chicago, The Who, Rolling Stones, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Beach Boys, Boz Scaggs and Neil Young.>> Featured in the Summer 2009 Goodwin Procter Connections Newsletter