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David Hashmall: Differentiation is the biggest challenge

David Hashmall:  Differentiation is the biggest challenge interview image

Goodwin’s chairman explains how diversity can lead to smarter decision making, how a firm’s strategy should drive its growth, and how money is not the only way to retain top talent

How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is firm culture to you?

Goodwin’s history spans more than a hundred years and we have prioritised our firm culture since our founding. It is our most valuable asset. Collaboration is at the heart of our culture, and we promote and prioritise it every day, particularly as we grow and expand globally. We believe our culture differentiates Goodwin in the marketplace, and it has and always will play a major role in our success.

Since becoming chairman, what’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

Promoting diversity and inclusion is one of my priorities. When I became chairman, we established the firm’s Inclusion Advisory Committee to bring increased focus and urgency to this issue. We strive to be diverse and inclusive not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because multiple perspectives lead to smarter decisions and stronger outcomes for our clients, for Goodwin, and for the legal community. We have made great progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. I am happy to see that our industry is increasingly focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion.

What are the biggest challenges facing US firms of your size?

Differentiation is the biggest challenge in today’s competitive market. There are a lot of great law firms, so what compels a client to choose you over your competitor? All top firms do great work; that’s not a real differentiator. Neither is price. The key differentiator is something law firms talk about all the time but rarely master: developing a true strategic relationship with clients – the kind of a relationship built on a deep understanding of your clients’ industries, flexibility, transparency and communication, and shared risk and reward. We pursue these elements in every client engagement, and we believe this approach sets Goodwin apart.

What are your biggest success stories to date and what is your growth strategy?

Growth is not our strategy; our strategy drives our growth. We have set out to be a dominant player in specific client industries and practice areas – private equity, real estate, financial services, technology and life sciences, intellectual property litigation, and securities litigation and white-collar defence.

We have had great success in the most competitive legal markets because we have focused strategically on these areas. This has led to our significant expansion in London and to the opening of our new offices in Frankfurt and Paris over the past several years. At the same time, we have attracted best-in-market lateral talent that is also a perfect fit for our culture. Our growth has not been dilutive to our culture, and this, undoubtedly, has been one of Goodwin’s biggest successes.

What do you think are the top three things most clients want and why?

Responsiveness has to be at the top of the list. I’m a big believer in being responsive 24/7. You must also, of course, provide the quality legal advice expected of a top firm. You must excel at what you do, period. In addition to outstanding legal judgement, you must have a thorough and up-to-date understanding of your clients’ industries. You must be an industry expert because to be a true partner you must know your clients’ business as well as or even better than they do.

You mentioned attracting top lateral talent, but how have you found is the best way to retain talent – both at partner and associate levels?

We are a profitable and successful firm, and of course compensation is important to retaining talent. But there has to be more. If you are going to look forward to coming to work every day, it has to be about more than money. People at Goodwin want to accomplish collectively what we cannot individually. That attracts people to our firm. Lawyers and staff at Goodwin like working with each other, and they appreciate the firm’s collaborative spirit. So they stay.

Looking back over your time as chairman, what’s surprised you most about running a firm?

How much I have enjoyed this job. Frankly, I was not sure what to expect taking on this big responsibility. Being chairman of a global law firm is a completely different job from being a trial lawyer for the pharmaceutical industry, which is my background. What I have enjoyed most is the opportunity to meet and connect with so many of our people around the world. I have also developed a deep appreciation for how much our staff contributes to Goodwin’s overall success. Our success is driven not just by our lawyers doing excellent work, but also by the incredible contributions of our professional staff – our global operations team – to our clients’ and the firm’s bottom line.

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