Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison - Ten Years Later



January 30, 2012 is an anniversary of sorts.  It marks a turning point in my career... one that did not seem so good on that day ten years ago....., but now is simply a bump in the road of my journey.

It was January 2003.  I worked as the Texas marketing and business development manager for the California based law firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison LLP.  I had been there nearly two years and enjoyed working with this group of lawyers and the rest of the professional staff.  It was an interesting place to work, and these high achievers pushed me to be the best I could be (there was also some dysfunction, but for me.... the good outweighed the bad).

The economy, especially the tech sector, had been rocked by the boom and bust of the "dot com" companies, and the firm had clearly felt the pain of the collapse of the tech and venture bubble that came around 2001.  The firm had financial issues and there had been talk about a merger with a larger east coast firm.  But alas, no white horse arrived to save the day.

While we all knew, on some level, that the firm was vulnerable, few had predicted the total demise.  As the announcement was made that the whole firm would close, it seemed surreal.  Senior partners in San Francisco had voted to close the decades old San Francisco marquee legal firm.

Poof.  It was gone.  The whole place would be shuttered two weeks later (February 14, 2003).  Non-essential personal (think MARKETING) was terminated immediately.  No severance.  Not COBRA.  Nothing.

That was ten years ago this week.

I was fortunate.  A group of attorneys brought me with them to another firm where I served in the same role for another two years.  I then moved onto other industries and eventually starting my own companies.  These days I am still consulting with lawyers on how to grow their brand and increase their visibility within their business communities.  I also speak at legal conferences and at law firm retreats.  I enjoy this part of my job, as the lawyers still challenge me, and I think I do the same for them.

Today I am writing about Brobeck because anniversaries can make us nostalgic.  While the firm had it's issues, I have come to realize it also was a special place to work.  The attorneys respected the professional staff (well, most of them did....  The notable exceptions still are remembered!).  And this firm was always open to unique marketing and business development ideas.

The people I worked with were among the smartest and most aggressive professionals I have ever known.  They allowed me, as a "non-lawyer", to perform my duties as an executive member of their team.  I am appalled when I see lawyers who do not respect their staff or others, as it undermines their own long-term potential business (Those who act like jerks are often leaving money behind, and don't even know it!).

I toast the ghost of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison here on my blog, as even with the bad parts, it was a highlight of my career.  I think about the attorneys who believed in me and allowed me to re-create the marketing position in my own image.  Their faith in my ability has shaped the rest of my career.  Plus many of them continue to hire me to train and consult at their current firms.  Most of them are my friends.

The shock of the closing of the firm leads me to the lesson that time puts everything in perspective.  The day the firm closed I was nervous, confused, unsure and angry.  Today I have my own business and enjoy serving all my clients in a variety of industries.  Time does seem to heal most of our problems.

I realize that not everyone who I worked with will look at this anniversary with the positive slant that I share here.  After ten years some are still bitter about the whole situation.  But I am proud of the work I did at Brobeck and wish the experience had lasted a little longer.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

PS - It still makes me laugh a little that the firm's slogan / tagline was: "Brobeck: When Your Future Is At Stake".  The idea being they were who you turned to when there were serious issues.... of course the firm itself ended up having issues that gave it no future.  ;-)


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