December 2018 | Around the ABA

New managing principal on leveraging his transition

After 20 years as a litigator, Vito A. Gagliardi Jr. was elected managing principal of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman in Morristown, N.J. In a recent issue of Law Practice Magazine, he wrote about the move into his new role in “Managing to Succeed: Leveraging a Leadership Transition.”

Porzio is a full-service firm of more than 90 lawyers in six offices from Washington, D.C., to Massachusetts. In addition, the firm has three wholly owned subsidiaries: Porzio Life Sciences, Porzio Governmental Affairs and Porzio Compliance Services.

The leadership transition was part of the firm’s three-year strategic plan, Gagliardi writes.  To smooth the process and make sure all six offices were in sync, they used an outside consultant and gathered “external and internal feedback to ensure that we were working collectively to strengthen our capabilities to serve our clients,” he writes.

The information informed three priorities for Porzio:

  1. Hiring more lawyers
  2. Selecting emerging industries to expand into
  3. Putting an emphasis on diversity to aid the firm’s culture.

To execute these priorities, the firm created a management committee to replace a single head of the firm, and tasked the committee with cultivating new leaders.

Porzio then set out to aggressively recruit lawyers to the firm by leveraging “relationships with clients, referral sources and industry contacts.” That resulted in 50 new employees, including three principals, who were targeted for their backgrounds in the industries Porzio was eyeing for expansion.

The growth sparked a restructuring of the firm’s administrative departments, and a new leadership team composed of a chief administrative officer, a chief financial officer and a chief marketing officer. Two of those positions were filled by in-house promotions.

With the new talent in place, the firm could expand into the emerging arenas of cannabis, data privacy/cybersecurity and gaming/e-sports, all of which intersected with Porzio’s “core competencies.”

Gagliardi admits that amidst all this change, the firm took a “hard look and recognize[d] not every area of the firm can be identified as a priority,” and that they had “to make hard choices to ensure resources will be aligned with the stated priorities.”

He describes the “balancing act” this way: “Leaders who commit to consistent, clear communication of goals and priorities throughout the organization will be able to break down the negative perception of change and successfully illustrate the benefits, to the firm and individuals, of focusing on the identified priorities.”

Finally, determined to maintain its diversity, Gagliardi reports that post-transition, “women make up 40 percent of our management committee and 100 percent of our C-level executive team.”

Looking back, Gagliardi writes that by keeping its focus on client service, “the firm leveraged its leadership transition into an opportunity to reframe and refocus its efforts on clients, people and progress.”

Law Practice Magazine is a publication of the ABA Law Practice Division

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