Greenberg Traurig’s leaders are traveling for work again – but they’re not flying first class.
The firm’s executive chairman Richard Rosenbaum and chief executive officer Brian Duffy aren’t flying at all, actually. The duo – both vaccinated – are driving and sleeping in a used RV on a road trip from Florida to Georgia to Texas. They’ll eventually visit all 30 of Greenberg Traurig’s U.S. offices, reuniting with colleagues as far away as California more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic hit and halted travel.
Their trip started with a picnic kickoff in Miami on Saturday. Greenberg Traurig will be donating to a local food bank or charity at each stop.
Rosenbaum and Duffy spoke with Reuters about their trip – what it’s like and why they’re doing it – in a phone call from the road. This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.
REUTERS: What is it like to go from a year of isolation to such close quarters – driving and sleeping in the same RV as a colleague?
DUFFY: We’re following all the CDC recommendations, everybody’s masked, social distanced, outdoors. And within the RV we’re vaccinated. So we’re putting the safety and wellness of our folks paramount. But it is fun to be back together.
For all lawyers and staff, it’s not required that they come to the picnic. But so far the turnout has exceeded my expectations. A lot of energy. People have missed each other.... We’ve got a lot of long-term employees who’ve been isolated for over a year.
REUTERS: What’s the importance, if you think there is one, of going to see everyone in person instead of communicating online?
ROSENBAUM: Every firm has to look at themselves and decide who they are and what their core values are. We can’t decide that for anyone else.
We know that plenty of people figured out that if they’re not in the office, they’re all at home, they can actually do quite well for one year of a pandemic. Greenberg Traurig had the best financial year that we’ve ever had last year. There is no financial reason that one might say this was necessary. But early on in the pandemic, and ever since, Brian and I and other senior leaders looked at each other I said, “Who are we? What is critical about our values that make us Greenberg Traurig?”
Number one, to respect every individual. Number two, to empower and trust in the judgment of our senior shareholders, particularly in each market. If you look at how we went through this pandemic, we are doing it a little differently in each office. There are offices that were open through most of the pandemic, there are offices that are still mostly closed.
But the third thing was that we are in this together, we are one unified firm, this is not a verein. We’ve never done a big merger, we are one firm, that means something. That means that we care about the culture – and anybody who thinks that you can all be separate forever and still maintain a unified culture of togetherness is kidding themselves.
We’re telling people, it’s time to turn the page. It’s time to be back together, as soon as you can do so in a healthy manner. That doesn’t mean everyone’s going to be in the office five days a week. We have learned that you can spend some time at home and it’ll be okay. But your primary, as I started to call it the GT gravity, is bringing each other back together.
REUTERS: It sounds like culture is important to you. Does culture require an in-person component?
ROSENBAUM: I think there’s no question. I think the level of Zoom burnout and conference call burnout is there. You cannot train young lawyers in what is essentially an apprenticeship business. You need role models, you need training, to continue the future of your firm. Over Zoom, you just can’t do it. You need the more senior lawyers to brainstorm, whether it’s getting business, developing new concepts – it just doesn’t work the same way.
It worked. It worked for a year, because I had no other choice. I’ll be honest, it worked better than I thought it was going to work. But very few people would think it’s not getting old.
REUTERS: Do you have plans for more in-person gatherings? A partner retreat?
DUFFY: We’ve scheduled a partner meeting for next January. ... We’re nothing if not optimistic. (Reporting by Caroline Spiezio)
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