“Leading from the front lines”

Missouri Lawyers Weekly Recognizes Jim Bennett as a Law Firm Leader of 2010

Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly has named Jim Bennett among the most visionary Missouri law firm leaders of 2010.   Bennett was recognized at the Missouri Lawyers Award luncheon held on January 28, 2011 at the Ballpark Hilton in St. Louis.  The article below was published by Missouri Lawyers Weekly as part of that publication’s recognition of Bennett’s leadership.

Jim Bennett: Leading from the front lines

By Christine Simmons
Missouri Lawyers Weekly

Jim Bennett is the co-founding partner of a St. Louis litigation firm, overseeing the work of 11 attorneys and seven staff members in a firm with growing business.

But you won’t find Bennett pouring over the firm’s financial records or leading administration meetings.

You’ll find him in the courtroom, in meetings with clients and sometimes just doing document discovery work for his firm Dowd Bennett, which Bennett and Ed Dowd started in 2006 after leaving Bryan Cave.

About 5 percent of Bennett’s time for the firm is devoted to matters that aren’t client cases, he estimates. Dowd and Bennett outsource matters such as accounting and IT, he says.

“My version of law firm leadership is leadership on cases rather than making sure every 401(k) is right,” he says.

Bennett leads client teams and structures his firm’s attorneys around clients. He also leads meetings of case strategy and developments.

“There’s nothing in the cases I won’t do. I review documents. I interview witnesses. I write pleadings,” he says. “I try to lead by example by just showing how hard we all work.”

Bennett and Dowd also decide when to take a back seat to other firm attorneys who are ready to make closing arguments on their own or write their own summary judgments.

“We make that kind of decision three or four times a day,” he says about deciding what level of supervision attorneys need. “That’s the kind of management I do all day, every day, long.”

By the sounds of it, the firm’s partners and associates he oversees are getting a fair training. As counsel for corporate clients, Bennett and teams of firm lawyers won a string of verdicts in the past year.

Last February, a jury deliberated for 45 minutes before announcing his client, Fresenius Medical Care, was not liable in a whistle-blowing suit in Texas. In a separate verdict two months later, a jury found there was no age discrimination in a lawsuit brought by the government against the firm’s client, Walmart Inc. And in June, the firm’s attorneys won a $7.6 million verdict for client Monsanto Co. in a suit against ConocoPhillips.

But focusing almost entirely on client matters can sometimes come at a cost. When asked if he regrets any part of his time at the firm, Bennett said he thought he could have done better in integrating new lawyers into the firm’s culture. Bennett said the firm has experienced “growing pains.”

“I am sure that with the amount of time I was presiding over cases, I probably could have spent a little bit more time integrating those people,” he says.

Still, the firm’s business is growing rapidly. Its revenue has increased every year since it was founded in 2006, he says. And in 2010, the firm’s revenue experienced a 25 percent jump, says Bennett, who declined to provide a dollar figure.

Although he spends much of his time on client cases, Bennett said he’s active in recruiting attorneys for the firm. Every year, the firm has grown in headcount.

Bennett and Dowd decided early on to promote associates to equity partners as soon as they were ready. Nine of the firm’s 13 lawyers are partners.

“We want them to feel like they own a piece of it,” he says. “We felt like a lot of firms have lost a lot of talented people by not giving that kind of recognition, and we would rather have the whole firm succeed by many partners of ours rather than have it designed around just a couple people.”

To see the story as published by Missouri Lawyers Weekly, please visit: http://molawyersmedia.com/blog/2011/01/16/jim-bennett-leading-from-the-front-lines/

Copyright 2011  Missouri Lawyers Media

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Dowd Bennett is a litigation firm with extensive courtroom experience. Led by trial-seasoned lawyers, including former federal prosecutors and judicial law clerks, our team shares tenacity, a passion for seeing cases through trial and a complete commitment to client service.