The E-Interview: Justin Klimko

Butzel Long Attorney Tells the Business Side of Operating a Law Firm
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Justin Klimko: Shareholder and director, Butzel Long, Detroit

DB: Where are you?

JK: In San Francisco. I’m at the managing partner’s meeting of Lex Mundi, the world’s leading association of independent law firms. We are the Michigan member. Generally there is one member per state, and there are 160 total members around the world.

DB: What’s the focus of this year’s meeting?

JK: We’re covering information-sharing, collaboration, and referrals, and we discuss any pressing or future challenges. The focus is more on the business side of running a major law firm. We’re looking at trends in law, how to deal with the economic difficulty we’ve all experienced over the last few years, how to better serve clients, and the sharing of best practices.

DB: Doesn’t every client want to save money?

JK: There’s been a lot of economic turmoil in the last few years. Some of the major law firms have been broken up nationally. There is a lot of pressure on the fee side. We are continually adapting to changes in the economy, both here and around the world. There’s been a lot of focus on Michigan’s turnaround. You’re also seeing more Michigan law firms that have an office or affiliation in New York, Washington, D.C., or overseas. That becomes increasingly important as the economy becomes more global.

DB: What other issues are pressing?

JK: We’re dealing with fallout from starting salaries for new attorneys, which have gone down a bit. We’re also looking at how to use bricks and mortar more efficiently, and exploring new growth areas. Running a law firm is like any business. You have to manage the day-to-day and look to the future to drive growth.

DB: What’s new on health care?

JK: Next year there will be a lot of new provisions … as well as taxation issues. It’s causing a lot of concern among our clients. Our clients, especially among HR departments and CFOs, want to know if they should keep the health care plans they have now or go to a different model. It brings a new dynamic to the whole process. db

—R.J. King

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