Matthew Weaver, Executive Director of MLA’s Interim Legal Talent Group in an Interview With High Performance Counsel

WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR ROLE – HOW DID YOU END UP IN THE LEGAL BUSINESS?

Matthew Weaver, Executive Director of MLA’s Interim Legal Talent Group.

I joined MLA in 2010 to start our interim attorney offering after overseeing business development & recruiting initiatives for Aerotek Engineering & Construction’s interim recruiting services offering from 2004-2010.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION YOU’RE PART OF – AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT MOST?

MLA is the global leader in legal search and staffing. Our goal is to be the go-to, the first call, when an attorney is thinking of making a career change or an organization is seeking to hire an attorney.  We pride ourselves on being the most knowledgeable legal services entity with the capability to assisting any AMLAW firm or corporate legal department during all times of change and innovation.

DESCRIBE THE BUSINESS YOU RUN AND THE TEAM YOU LEAD. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT BOTH?

MLA’s Interim Legal Talent is a group of talented, gritty, and determined legal professionals who have chosen to join one of the legal industry’s change agents and model disruptors.  The MLA platform has always been one of supreme insight and informed minds operating together to further the careers and goals of individuals and organizations alike.  Now, with the Interim Legal Talent group, MLA is able to add innovation and industry leading responsiveness to the depth and breadth of our suite of services.

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL CLIENT LOOK LIKE – WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THEY’RE FACING?

Our typical client, ranging from law firms to corporations, finds themselves with challenging corporate legal and regulatory matters that require niche, expert, and elastic answers in the matter of days.  MLA Interim Legal Talent provides clients with more than just capable attorneys and legal professionals for interim assignments.  We offer answers to questions that demand cost efficient, timely and nuanced solutions without keeping our client beholden to centuries old legal offerings.

IN YOUR WORDS, WHAT NEW OR BETTER OPPORTUNITY DO YOU CREATE FOR LEGAL INDUSTRY CLIENTS?

We’ve taken the trusted MLA model of confidentiality, insight, expertise and capability and turned a search process into a successful interim talent engagement process.  We have many competitors but no one has the legacy, contacts and insights of MLA.  Our 35 years in lateral recruiting and legal executive search have allowed us to build an emerging interim attorney talent management platform that can satisfy all corporate legal & regulatory projects.

DESCRIBE YOUR SOLUTION – FROM A CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE – NOT YOURS. HOW DOES IT HELP YOUR CLIENTS. WHAT ARE ITS UNIQUE QUALIFIERS AND STRENGTHS?

It’s our people.  Our people know how to help our clients and our people are our strength.  Every engagement is different.  No matter how common the issues; a client’s culture, nuance, timeline and costs vary from project to project and client to client.  You cannot implement an assembly line, off the shelf model to address changes in landscape, process or time sensitive matters.  Many try and sufficient options exist but sufficient cannot ensure expertise, cost containment and nuance is addressed. Simply put, our clients are made to feel like they are our best and only client.

WHAT STAGE ARE YOU AT? HOW’S IT GOING? GIVE US A SENSE OF THINGS – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

We’re in maturation stage.  We are 7 years into this business and have many satisfied clients.  We also have many competitors of various types.  We know our model and capabilities are heavily desired in a marketplace that is trying to commoditize and streamline process. There is no technology that can take the place of art and we believe what we do takes as much art as science and the way we engage with clients and cultivate our talents is industry leading and special. The marketplace is a seller’s market.  Every law firm and corporation is seeking to hire an FTE or interim attorney.  The bad and the ugly is the war for talent however we believe that operating our interim attorney business on the MLA platform is our true competitive advantage.

WHAT ASPECT(S) DO YOU FIND BUYERS ARE MOST RECEPTIVE TO?

The combination of speed and quality.  We are always met with a raised eyebrow on the ability to provide talented, pedigreed attorneys in quick fashion for interim engagements.  Buyers are extremely receptive to the idea but its met with skepticism.  That’s when we say, “let us show you how it works…challenge us” and we will succeed.

WHERE DO YOU SEE MORE QUESTIONS OR PUSH-BACK?

Old habits die hard. Law firms and corporations, people, have been addressing legal matters and growing their law businesses and legal departments one way for a long time.  Hiring FTE attorneys and running lean has always been the standard.  Covering for an FMLA scenario is just the beginning of the old habit dying hard. We receive push back all the time on how we can find the talent to address a project that typically would be tackled by an individual or team of currently employed attorneys. We receive a ton of questions such as, “how do you find folks, that can operate like our attorneys, for interim assignments” is a very common question and one that can easily be answered by considering what MLA has become in 35 years…the largest connector of legal professionals in the world.  We know everyone, well almost everyone.

WHICH DO YOU THINK IS DRIVING MOST ACTIVITY FOR CLIENTS: COST SAVINGS, TIME SAVINGS, ACCESS TO BETTER TOOLS – OR WHAT ELSE?

The desire to expand and contract and not suffer quality and process. It’s positioned as cost savings that Partners and GCs are seeking, and that’s certainly in there, but that’s the case in every walk of life.  We certainly can control costs for our clients, we don’t have fancy lobbies and tons of overhead but it’s the elasticity + quality = ease of addressing matters that all client seek.

DO YOU FIND LEGAL INDUSTRY BUYERS TO BE RECEPTIVE TO INNOVATION? HOW READY FOR CHANGE DO YOU THINK THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IS?

Corporations, yes. Law firms, some. Most everyone in the legal industry wants to evolve and innovate their practices.  Some were early adopters to the PC and others weren’t.  Now we all operate from an iPhone. It’s like getting into shape.  Everyone wants to be or get into shape. It’s those that plan and execute on that goal that experience the satisfaction of being in shape. We have never had a client that said, “your model doesn’t work for our business” OR “your solution is a waste of time”.  There’s the human and culture element, so not every candidate is perfect for every client but implementing interim talent to addressing workflow is for everyone. It’s a win win for everyone and who wins most are the FTE attorneys who don’t have the massive workload that is now supported by interim attorneys.  I guarantee attrition is reduced as well.

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS BEING THE GREATEST CHANGE IN THE LEGAL INDUSTRY IN THE NEXT DECADE?

It’ll always be technology. We’re in the golden age of tech. But, real estate/overhead, procuring talent and business process will be forced to change and those who embrace those changes will succeed.


AND A LITTLE FUN:

FANCY RESTAURANT OR GASTRO FOOD TRUCK – WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO FAVORITE FOOD?

Fancy restaurant with a killer burger.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE? JUST ONE. AND WHY?

Gangs of New York.  New York is a fascinating place and its settlement and evolution has always amazed me. But I do love The Departed…its just the Boston aspect that a NYer cant admit to being his favorite.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOBBY WHEN YOU’RE NOT BUSY IMPROVING THE LEGAL INDUSTRY?

Golf, anything sports really – watching or performing, but nothing beats a day on the course!

IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND, WHAT ONE BOOK WOULD YOU WANT?

How to survive and escape being stranded on a desert island.

A FERRARI, A PRIUS OR A BICYCLE – WHICH WOULD YOU PICK?

A Ferrari with a bicycle as a close second.

This article originally appeared on High Performance Counsel

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