Over the course of 2023, law firms across the country have been launching new offices and recruiting new lawyers to staff them, all in the hope of expanding their practices across different regions and growing their client rosters. On the flip side of the coin, other firms are still trying their best to achieve growth, not by opening new offices, but by enhancing what they already have. Are there any firms that have achieved success by using this kind of a model?
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Simon Malko, managing partner of Morris Manning & Martin, a well-regarded Am Law 200 firm, to get his thoughts on the matter. Here is a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our lively conversation on how law firms can focus on opportunities for growth and innovation by building upon the positive outcomes they already have.
Staci Zaretsky (SZ): This year, many law firms have been growing their headcount by opening new offices and recruiting new lawyers. With just four offices, your firm has taken a different path. Tell us a little more about what Morris Manning & Martin has done to expand its reach.
Simon Malko (SM): Our firm’s reach has always extended far beyond our geographic locations. We handle litigation and transactional matters throughout the United States, and our International Trade practice, for example, has global reach, representing clients across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In a post-pandemic world, we have found it is easier to expand our reach without opening additional “brick–and–mortar” offices, as clients are much less focused on a firm’s physical location.
Our strategy has been to grow and enhance our existing offices, particularly in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., by expanding our depth in core practice areas and enhancing them with new areas of expertise. This year alone, we’ve launched new tax controversy, ADR, LGBTQ, and sports and entertainment practices.
SZ: Last year, Morris Manning added the most new partners in its history. How has this helped the firm enhance its core practice areas?
SM: Our approach is to provide excellence in the practice areas for which we are recognized, including litigation, real estate, and technology, and our large 2023 partner class illustrates our commitment to those practice areas by providing additional bench strength.
Our location has also made it easier for us to recruit quality talent. Atlanta has really become a destination city for both employers and employees. More companies are opening their doors or expanding their footprint in the Southeast, which gives us more opportunity to hire strong leaders to support the additional work.
Finally, we have always been committed to providing our associates with advancement opportunities and a clear path to partnership. We were thrilled to recognize so many talented associates this year and grow the firm’s leadership organically from within the firm.
SZ: Your firm has been named as a regional powerhouse in Georgia. What are your plans for deepening your bench in Atlanta, your largest office?
SM: Atlanta has been our home for nearly 50 years. We have grown from 10 employees to over 400, and we plan to expand our existing national and international practice by continuing to grow our Atlanta office. We are exploring all of our options to make that happen, especially as our current lease expires in mid-2026.
We know that in order to make “return to office” attractive, the office needs to be a destination where attorneys want to come to collaborate. We believe the timing of our next lease is optimal because we can tailor our next office environment to the demands of the post-pandemic world. Regardless of where we land, we will continue to offer the resources that have really resonated with employees this year, including an on-site therapist for employees seeking mental support. Resources like that are what really matter, and they set us apart.
SZ: Size matters when it comes to law firms, and Morris Manning has achieved great success by staying “small” while thinking big. What are your next steps to keep your great progress going?
SM: We will continue to focus primarily on the core practices for which we are recognized. We are not trying to provide all things to all clients. By continuing to play to our strengths, we can continue to be extremely competitive against significantly larger firms. We may not offer as many practice areas as an Am Law 50 firm, but we have the talent and the bench strength to compete against any firm in those practice areas for which we are recognized.
On behalf of everyone here at Above the Law, we’d like to thank Simon Malko of Morris Manning & Martin for taking the time to help answer some pressing questions on how law firms can achieve growth by enhancing their existing offerings.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.