Minding Your Own Business
These days, you’re as likely to find Minneapolis-headquartered Faegre & Benson attorneys at a trade show on biofuels, a seminar about wind energy, or a food safety conference as in their offices or with their clients. It’s all part of the firm’s strategy to mold its lawyers into industry experts. And as Andrew Humphrey takes over as Faegre’s new leader, he plans to make this tactic a growth engine.
Elected this spring to chair Faegre’s nine-member management committee, Humphrey views the approach as a fruitful way to provide valuable legal services. Being an expert in, say, clean energy helps attorneys during acquisitions, giving them an advantage when writing purchase agreements and negotiating price and terms like warranties and indemnification clauses. When there’s litigation in an area such as medical technology, industry-specialist attorneys can uncover product liability or intellectual property infractions that generalists might not detect.
“It’s really with an eye toward telling clients, ‘We know your industry. We’re not just excellent lawyers’” that the firm is taking this approach, Humphrey says. “It’s certainly something we’re in the forefront of pushing.”
Though Faegre attorneys have developed industry-specific expertise over the years, the firm began creating industry “teams” a couple of years ago to make specialized knowledge more accessible to clients. Medical Technology and Food, Agriculture, and Biofuels were the first two teams established. Late last year, Faegre formalized its New Energy, Clean Technology, and Climate group, which comprises 60 attorneys.
The management committee elected Humphrey as its new leader, succeeding Thomas Morgan. A member of the firm for nearly 23 years, Humphrey has served on the management committee since 2005. (He also once served as mayor of Wayzata.) He has advised local companies including General Mills, C. H. Robinson Worldwide, and Thomson Reuters.
Humphrey doesn’t plan to expand Faegre’s presence overseas beyond its offices in London and Shanghai. The firm currently has 475 attorneys worldwide. “We’re not trying to grow by saying, ‘It would be nice to have an office in City X,’ and then go there and figure out how to make it work,” he says. “We’re focused on our industry and practice area strategy.”
Faegre’s management committee has made other changes recently. The firm’s partners elected Kathlyn Noecker and Leslie Fields to the management group, bringing the number of women there up to three.