SOURCE: Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP

June 05, 2013 13:49 ET

Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass Brings on Bay Area's First Non-Lawyer CEO

Carter W. Brown Joins Iconic Firm as Industry Evolves to Embrace Executive Management Models

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - Jun 5, 2013) -  Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP, a 123-year-old law firm with 75 attorneys located in San Francisco's historic Ferry Building, has hired non-lawyer MBA and serial entrepreneur, Carter W. Brown, as its chief executive officer. Breaking ranks with firms across the country that continue to subscribe to the managing partner model, the mid-sized, regional powerhouse is the first in the Bay Area and among only a handful of firms nationally to embrace an executive leader or more corporate management structure. 

In meeting the demands of legal market contraction and the economic recession, in 2008, Coblentz was among the early adopters of a shared managing partner role -- opting for a trio of partners, Danna Kozerski, Alan Gennis and Jeffrey Knowles, each focused on a different functional area supported by an executive director, responsible for managing the staff and providing the attorney management team with financial data and operational direction on which to run, both day-to-day and strategically. With the addition of Brown, the three have become the executive committee for the Firm's board, working closely with Brown on all strategic and policy issues.

"We look to our lawyers to do top-level work for our clients. The skills and talents critical to being a great lawyer are not necessarily the same ones that go into being a great business executive. While an individual might be both a great lawyer and a great business executive -- and we do actually have a few of those rare birds here -- we determined our preference is for our great lawyers to continue to practice law and provide that benefit to our clients," said Jeffrey Knowles, Managing Partner.

The move toward installing a professional business executive at the firm's helm was driven by the ever-increasing challenges of managing a substantial business enterprise. Coblentz's attorney-led management team identified a set of strategic skills necessary for 21st Century success and determined they were more likely to find the right combination of those skills in the ranks of business leaders rather than within the firm's attorney ranks.

"We've always been a bit unique as far as law firms go. For example, we have more former partners on the state and federal bench than any other San Francisco firm, including the recent confirmation of William Orrick. Such appointments are one of the very few reasons seasoned attorneys leave us. In the past decade, only a few partners have left for anything other than a judicial or government appointment or their retirement. It stands to reason that we are committed to practicing law at the highest levels, and as such, we were fairly comfortable thinking outside the legal box when it came to selecting a business leader to steer us toward continued success," said Name Partner Richard Patch.

Brown's career path evidences both his proven leadership abilities and entrepreneurial approach. Most recently, he was CEO of Law Finance Group, where he repositioned the firm to become the dominant player in the U.S. marketplace for non-recourse investments in judgments on appeal. Prior to that role, for more than a decade, he was with Major, Lindsey & Africa, serving as CEO and leading its growth from four independent offices to the world's largest legal search firm with 24 offices around the globe. Brown also brings to Coblentz experience gained as co-founder and CEO of Omega Performance Corporation, a global educational software company focused on risk assessment, sales and service.

"I thoroughly enjoy working with attorneys -- with their intelligence, confidence and assertiveness, they are the most challenging group of professionals I've ever led; and at this stage of my career it's the challenge that I'm most interested in. It certainly doesn't hurt that I've also had sufficient experience and success in growing businesses within the legal space and that our talented attorneys are willing to thoughtfully consider my proposals."

Brown holds an MBA, with honors, from Harvard Business School, where he concentrated on finance and marketing; a master's degree in psychology, with concentration in learning theory, from the University of the Pacific; and a bachelor's degree in renaissance liberal arts from the Raymond College at the University of the Pacific.

Long known for its high-end work in the real estate, litigation, tax and corporate arenas, Coblentz boasts a prestigious client roster, including: the San Francisco 49ers; San Francisco Giants; Exploratorium; California Academy of Sciences; California Pacific Medical Center/Sutter Health; Dish Networks; Cox Communications; Time Warner Cable; TMG Partners; Equity Office; Wells Fargo; and Sony Entertainment; among many others.  

About Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP
Established more than 100 years ago, Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP is a premier provider of innovative, results-oriented legal services specializing in real estate; litigation; business; intellectual property; exempt organizations; employment; tax; and family wealth. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report recognized Coblentz as one of the nation's top law firms in the Best Law Firm list, with national ranking and prestigious "Tier 1" rankings in the highly competitive San Francisco law firm category. For more information: www.coblentzlaw.com

Contact Information

  • Contacts:
    Traci Stuart / Laura Benton
    Blattel Communications
    415.413.4522 / 415.413.4527
    traci@blattel.com / laura@blattel.com

    Sarah Hickman
    Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP
    415.391.4800
    shickman@coblentzlaw.com