Opening Statement

Changing names and a changed game

Opening Statement

Pat Milhizer


By Pat Milhizer

With all the law firm mergers and acquisitions we’ve seen over the years, plenty of Chicago institutions have gone the way of the Sears Tower, Comiskey Park and Marshall Field’s.

Just as the law and case precedent changes, so do the law firm names. Many of the lawyers and offices are still here; law firm mergers sometimes mean the names on the door are not.

Paging through our Large Law Firm survey from 10 years ago, several names jump off the page: Wildman Harrold Allen & Dixon, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Lord Bissell & Brook, Bell Boyd & Lloyd, Sachnoff & Weaver and Shefsky & Froelich.

They’re still here, of course, just under a different brand name. You’ll find them all in one form or another in our annual law firm surveys, which kick off this month and continue through September.

The practice of law, too, is always in a state of evolution.

Clients want the same high-level services, but they don’t want to pay as much.

I often read that more automation is coming, and case files and their likelihood of success can be broken down to a science no different than the ways a baseball scout evaluates a prospect.

Others say the billable hour is destined to go the way of the landline telephone — still here but not the popular way to operate.

Another effort, which we profile in our cover story this month, is SeyfarthLean, an initiative by Seyfarth Shaw which puts a case file in a process map to reach a conclusion faster, cheaper and with the height of accuracy.

Is it working? You tell me.

In its 10th year, a division of the program worked with 100 clients who collectively spent $140 million with the firm.

In Strom’s other feature story, you’ll read about the administrative members of law firms who are becoming more and more influential. As I was editing the story, with my mind on what to do with my mom for Mother’s Day, the title of a recruiting director reminded of a moment from my past.

There are many childhood memories of my mother that are tattooed in my mind, but few are like the time she showed me one way to get a job.

I was 7 when my commute to and from a Catholic school on the Northwest Side consisted of two CTA buses. My mother always joined me on the daily journey because, well, she was a teacher at the school.

Every day on the halfway point of the trip, we passed a school that, in all aspects, was better than the one we attended.

The better school was in the market for a new teacher for the next school year, and when we got off the first bus, mom handed her resume to a student. She asked him to give it to the principal.

That next fall, she had the job, and my brother and I had a new school.

Mom soon became the vice principal. She always knew how to help students learn, develop self-confidence and overcome learning disabilities. She taught children to confront their internal and external challenges, providing encouraging advice on how to do it.

She had a short fuse for nonsense, and discipline was quick. And since she is a former high school cheerleading captain — it was often loud.

These days, mom is more like a friend.

She’s likely to be the first one on the dance floor and the last one at the bar. When she retired, there were at least three retirement parties.

I got into journalism because my father brought the newspaper home every night. But I maintain a job in this profession because of the tools my mother gave me.