Herrick, Feinstein’s 1st Female Exec Chair On Women In Law
Herrick's first female executive chair, Belinda Schwartz, spoke to Law360 Pulse about women in the legal profession, why the firm has kept its middle market focus through the years and the need for firms to keep a sense of perspective in rough economic times.
When Belinda was asked what it's been like being named executive chair, she said, "It's incredible! It is not something I ever imagined would happen; it certainly wasn't the reason I was at Herrick. I love this firm, and I very much appreciate calling this firm my professional home. This is just the cherry on top."
Law360 Pulse asked Belinda how Herrick has been able to be successful as a firm with a deep focus on the middle market in the face of many law firm mergers over the past decade. She responded, "First and foremost, I think we feel that we provide our clients the best service that way. We all know each other; we all can get to know each other's clients. It's very much a place where, while I might represent a client in a real estate deal, if they need a litigator or they need a corporate attorney, they know I'll reach out to someone I actually know and who can actually help them. I think also, for a lot of us, we actually enjoy the camaraderie that comes along with having this kind of firm. The legal business is a tough business. Clients are demanding, as they should be, but by the same token, we enjoy each other and our clients."
When discussing Belinda's priorities as she steps into this role as Executive Chair she noted, "Personally, my first priority is to not undo all of the accomplishments we've already had. But headline priorities are to continue to provide exceptional service to our clients, to grow the profits of the firm and to maintain the firm's culture... To that end, I not only want to double down on our strengths — we have a really good real estate department, obviously, and we do a lot of sports law and state court litigation and financial litigation — but also to figure out which areas we could build on. I think that's something we're going to be focused on at the executive committee over the next couple months."
Law360 Pulse notes that while Belinda is the first woman to be executive chair at Herrick, there are many large and mid-size firms that have never had a female firm head. They asked her what her view of women's leadership opportunities today look like both at Herrick and in the market. She replied, "I think at Herrick, first, I've been here for a long time, and I've worked really, really hard — and in the end, it paid off. That worked. And that's not so much about being a woman as it is that I was good at my job. I brought in business. I was a good counselor, a good partner. I was running the real estate department for a while; I've been on the executive committee. And I would hope that those are the reasons why I got the honor I did.
And the executive committee has another woman on it now, [Carol Goodman] and she is also the co-chair of the Litigation Department. I think putting women in those positions is very wise for the firm. And I don't think [Carol] got her position because she's a woman; she got it because she deserved it. But it does give hope to a lot of the women in the firm that if you do what you need to do, you can achieve at the very top."
When discussing the questions more broadly, Belinda added, "This issue — women in the profession — is something a lot of people have called me about or emailed me about. And I want to say that I took a very linear path to where I am today, mostly because I really didn't have the option to do otherwise... I think women have unique challenges because of childbearing and societal expectations. And I just hope that a lot of women who don't feel comfortable taking the same path that I did understand you can get on and off the bus. It might be challenging, but it can be very rewarding. And I hope we see a lot more women able to do that."
Regarding trends and what's next for the market, Belinda closed with, "You need a lot of grit, patience and confidence to ride through different cycles in the industry... I'm going to be very careful to steer the ship, with the help of my executive committee, through challenging times — and also to provide guidance and services that people need during these times — while knowing the market will cycle, and you have to be prepared for the changes along the way. Law firms need to be nimble, and you can't panic."
Click here to read the full interview on Law360 Pulse. Access may require a subscription.