Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith has been diligently growing its footprint in Los Angeles, expanding in 2019 to its 11th floor in downtown’s U.S. Bank Tower.
The space now houses more than 650 employees in L.A., including 300 attorneys as well as hubs for Lewis Brisbois’ accounting, human resources and finance departments.
Thanks to that growth, the firm again finished atop the Business Journal’s latest list of the largest law firms in Los Angeles. Managing partners Steven Lewis and Jana Lubert recently spoke with the Business Journal about the firm’s success.
Lewis, who has more than 29 years of experience as a lead trial attorney, specializes in product liability claims brought against manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
Lubert, who has been with the firm for 31 years, is general counsel to the firm and represents insurance companies in litigation, arbitration and mediation. She also led the formation of the Women’s Initiatives Committee, which provides development and marketing resources for women attorneys at the firm.
What factors helped Lewis Brisbois retain the top ranking among L.A.’s law firms? Lubert: One, we really stress making a nice work environment. We want people to treat each other with respect and courtesy. We recognize that we all spend a lot of time at work, and we want to make an environment that is both productive and a nice place to come to every day.
I think the other thing that we do is our groups in our Los Angeles office have a lot of autonomy and strive to make sure that the work done for our clients is what should be done and is appropriate. We’re also courteous in the community at large. I think we have a lot of great respect from our fellow lawyers and judges and courts.
Lewis: We don’t like to micromanage. Our management’s view is to allow our people to do their jobs and assist only when necessary and not get in their way. I think that freedom is something that a lot of folks welcome.
Have you had any big changes over the past year? Lewis: We’ve gone up to over 300 lawyers now in our L.A. office in the last year and a half as we took another whole floor here. So, we now have over 300,000 square feet here in the U.S. Bank building. Our growth, for the most part, has been internal growth, where our clients are sending us more work. We’re out hiring people to service those clients, as opposed to lateral acquisitions here in L.A.
Is there a reason you’ve focused on internal growth as opposed to acquisitions? Lewis: It’s something that has just occurred. The great work that our attorneys do has resulted in our clients providing additional work and new clients coming to our firm.
Looking forward to 2020, what should we expect in the new year? Lewis: We’re going to continue to grow and expand. I don’t think there’s anything that we’re planning that’s different than what we’ve done in the past. Our path has been a good one, and we’re going to continue on it.
Lubert: We always are looking for the right folks. When we do grow, we really take a hard look at them as people because it’s important to us to make sure that we keep and maintain the personality of the firm and make sure those folks are going to fit in with the rest of us.
Jana, what have been the main influences that have formed your decision-making and leadership skills, helping the firm to be so successful?
Lubert: For me personally, I’ve always had great opportunities, even starting out with being able to litigate matters and being involved in depositions and meetings and mediations probably earlier than I would have thought at most other firms.
That confidence-building and support that I always received throughout my career has helped me. I think those opportunities that we give young lawyers really help them develop into very good lawyers, confident lawyers and good managers.
You were the first woman named to the firm’s management committee in 2017. Lubert: I’ve been general counsel to the firm for over a decade and so I’ve been involved in management. But I had wanted to be an elected member to the management committee and got that opportunity, and I’m proud of that opportunity. And I’m proud of the firm for where we are with regard to women in management and across all layers of the firm.
Steve, what have been your main influences? Lewis: Jana hit the key point there, which is this firm gives everybody the ability to choose what path they want to go down. If you want to litigate, our firm gives you an opportunity to litigate at a very young age. Having the ability to choose what path you, as a lawyer, want to go down, allows all of us to pick a path that is something we each desire.
As far as influences, obviously I’m blessed to work with my father every day. Roy Brisbois was a huge influence for me. I’ve had, certainly, mentors in the firm like everybody has here, and it influences how you think. As you get older, you become much more understanding that things aren’t black and white. You have to be much more in the gray area where management really exists and be willing to understand and listen to everyone’s positions before you make any decisions.
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