National law firm Quarles & Brady recently developed an executive MBA program for its partner-level attorneys in collaboration with The Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. “It was an opportunity to learn in the way business owners learn all the things our business-owner clients are concerned with,” says Leezie Kim, one of two partners in the Phoenix office who were among the inaugural class.
Kim, whose background spans international business, immigration enforcement policy and campaign finance and includes two-and-a-half years in Washington, D.C., with the Department of Homeland Security, says, “It was a chance to hone skills as a lawyer who understands what it’s like to be a businessperson; to be able to advise someone, looking at all those factors that they must consider.” In addition to a heavy emphasis on accounting, the nine-month program deals with leadership and organizational development and offers critical perspectives in the key elements of a graduate business curriculum.
Noting that spending patterns have “changed dramatically” since 2008, Michael Ostermeyer — a partner in the firm’s Milwaukee office who helped in developing this Partner Development Program — explains today’s economic model is changing toward more concern with the value being delivered than the activity (notably based on billable hours) to deliver the service. “One way to be more competitive is to demonstrate [to the market] that you understand their business,” he says, explaining the program was designed for attorneys at the partner level because “partners set the tone” for the practice.
Another significant benefit the program offers participants is the opportunity to work together with their cohorts. This was an aspect that attracted Kim going into the program. “Clients are multi-dimensional, so they need law firms that also work like they do — in teams rather than silos,” she says. Recognizing that dealing with a single event or decision in a business could have broader implications such as affecting its real estate, employment and immigration strategies, Kim says, “It’s important for everyone in the firm to know and understand what’s going on in the [client’s] company.”
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