Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?
Fennemore’s greatest strength is its people. I’ve seen that first hand since I started at the firm as a summer file clerk when I was 19 years old. In my current role, I have the great fortune of collaborating with talented, smart, caring people throughout the firm. Together, we focus on understanding market trends and the steps we need to take to prepare for tomorrow. It’s this mindset that has allowed us to adapt to a period of rapid change, thrive in the face of difficult market conditions, and position our 137-year-old firm for what’s ahead.
Our vision for the future involves strategic growth. Over the past two years, we’ve doubled in size — adding nine offices around the western United States. Our growth revolves around taking the steps we believe are needed to better serve clients with a deeper bench and greater resources. We’re thrilled to see the number of lawyers and legal professionals who share our values and vision for what’s possible in a law firm and have decided to join forces with us.
We also have significantly increased the investment we make in our people. We’ve spent considerable time launching initiatives focused on professional development, leadership training, DEI, internal career progression, mental health and much more. When our people are strong and feel fulfilled at the firm, they will be happier and do their best work.
It’s our consistent focus on the future and our people that has, in my mind, contributed to industry-leading job satisfaction and retention statistics. We want Fennemore to be a place where the most talented legal professionals want to practice for their careers.
What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?
COVID changed the game for law firms —adding rocket fuel to a series of changes that were already underway.
For us, COVID has caused us to reevaluate how we work and deliver legal services. Hybrid may grab the headlines, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Last year, we launched a new strategic plan that focuses on deploying new technology, workflows, communication systems, training programs and ways of practicing.
The law is a precedent-driven profession, where attorneys and legal professionals often look backward to determine how to move forward. COVID taught us that by sensing, seeking and seizing opportunities, Fennemore can further fortify its position as a market leader.
At Fennemore, finding these opportunities means systematically evaluating how we operate internally, looking at best practices, and exploring what works in other industries. We do this in formal and informal ways that allow us to use pilots and controlled experimentation to see which of our ideas take hold and which need to be collaborated. We embrace a learning mindset that I believe is unique among law firms and has helped us pull ahead of competitors.
What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?
Empowering economic growth within the communities we serve is a core firm value. Our lawyers and legal professionals pursue this goal in the work we do representing leading businesses, and in the time they devote to pro bono community support — taking leadership positions in organizations and working with others in the community to help realize a vision for a more vibrant local economy.
To realize meaningful economic growth, the key is communication and collaboration. That is true across industries and also between the public and private sectors. We’ll never unlock our full potential unless we listen and coordinate to work toward the same vision.
What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?
Since our founding in 1885, Fennemore has been at the epicenter of economic and business growth in our markets. That is part of our DNA. We have a lot on deck in 2023. Here are a few highlights:
Growth: Fennemore was named the fastest-growing law firm in the U.S. in 2021, and we appear to be on pace to repeat in 2022. I would foresee continued growth that supports our clients and market position.
Supporting emerging businesses: We also intend to amplify the work we do for emerging businesses in all our markets, including through our Venture Accelerator that supports startups that are often growing technology-based businesses. These are the businesses that are pursuing the ideas that will change how we all do businesses — and certainly contribute to economic growth.
Sustainability: Sustainability will be a top priority for Fennemore going into the new year, and we’ll make investments in the firm and community by setting up an infrastructure that allows us to meet our obligations to the community.
We have a deep commitment to giving fuel to the economic engines that power our markets — both in the work we do and in our direct community and civic involvement. That won’t change in 2023, and in fact we only see it accelerating.
Name of Leader: James Goodnow
Position of Leader: CEO
Organization Name: Fennemore
No. of Years with Organization: 22
Main Local Office Address: 2394 E. Camelback Rd., Suite 600, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Phone: (602) 916-5000
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 1885
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix