Tom Mitchell is the first new managing partner in 15 years at Moore & Van Allen , one of the largest N.C.-based law firms with about 300 lawyers in Charlotte, Morrisville and Charleston, S.C. A 24-year veteran of the firm, Mitchell succeeded the firm’s veteran leader, Ernie Reigel, in January. Mitchell chairs the firm’s financial services practice, and co-chairs the business development committee. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law. He coached basketball before entering law school. He discussed his new role in a recent interview.
What are the keys to leading a law firm?
Gaining the respect of one’s colleagues is something that is attained over the course of many years. It is imperative that you are highly competent in your area of expertise but it is also necessary that you always play by the rules and demonstrate on a consistent basis such characteristics as integrity, honesty, respect for others and a strong work ethic. In other words, you can’t be an effective leader and garner the respect of your colleagues if you are always looking out for yourself. A big part of the Moore & Van Allen culture is helping others in the firm, because we have learned over the years that we all win when we do the right thing.
What is your personal expertise in finance law?
A large part of my practice is representing the agent bank on syndicated loan transactions. A syndicated loan is a loan that is too large for any one financial institution to make so a group of lenders referred to as a syndicate provides a large loan or tranches of loans to a single company.
What does managing partner do at a big firm?
Without question, my No. 1 duty as chair is to provide leadership and direction to the firm, not just as chair of the management committee and compensation committee, but also as to firm vision, strategic growth and building consensus as to important decisions. Also, I think the law firm chair should take a lead role in the firm’s business development and profile-raising activities, and serve a client-relationship management role with important clients.
What does it take for a big firm to keep the ship moving and the staff motivated?
MVA has a tremendous culture made up of bright, talented and energetic lawyers and staff. Thanks to the efforts of my predecessor Ernie Reigel and other leaders in our firm, we have earned a reputation as being one of the best law firms to work for. We invest in our lawyers and staff intentionally and generously, acknowledging that every individual at the firm is valued and instrumental to the firm’s success.
What are the keys to success for a large law firm in 2018?
There is no one recipe for success. Every law firm must recognize its culture and strengths, and establish a strategic vision reflecting that culture and those strengths. For example, MVA, like many of our competitors, has focused on attracting lateral practices over the past decade. We are consistently on the lookout for “stars” to add to our already first-rate talent pool. However, a successful law firm requires more than just talent.
Another key to our success is that we will not sacrifice our culture and values when adding new lawyers to the team. MVA has also placed great emphasis on service, results and value. In other words, it has always been about the client at MVA, and our focus on providing extraordinary service and winning results at a great value is what keeps our clients coming back to us in an extremely competitive environment.
As a basketball coach, do you face off against AvidXchange CEO Michael Praeger, who also coaches AAU teams?
Mike is good friend of mine. He and I have been involved with Queen City Athletic Association for many years. I will be coaching my son’s ninth-grade team this year. I coached high-school basketball for six years in the 1980’s prior to going to law school so it has been fun for me to get back in the game.