Moritz Law Alumni Six for Six in Partnership Sweep at Jones Day
Of the 33 associates who became partners at Jones Day offices worldwide in December, Columbus associates Colleen Deep, Kelley Griesmer, Gregory Gorospe, Jeffrey Kapp, Elizabeth "Liza" Kessler and Todd Sarver had something special in common: they were all from the 1993 graduating class of the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State. As members of Generation X, a group often characterized by its cynical views of employer/employee loyalty, these Moritz grads at Jones Day stand out among their peers. What makes them different?
Colleen, Liza and Jeff began at Jones Day the traditional way, as interns in the summer of 1992, and were subsequently hired in 1993. That summer experience was key in fostering the cooperative, collaborative atmosphere that the Jones Day Columbus office is known for, says Liza. "It's typical for most firms to overhire for summer positions, and use it to weed candidates out for a small number of permanent positions. That kind of setup pits people against each other from the get-go." Jones Day interns, on the other hand, are only hired if they meet the firm's high standards, and they enter as a close-knit, cohesive class, accustomed to working together. Instead of becoming adversaries, Colleen, Jeff and Liza grew even closer.
Greg, Kelley and Todd came on later in the game. Looking for an additional corporate law associate, Jeff contacted Greg, who was working in Cleveland for another firm. Greg saw a great opportunity at Jones Day—a "step up to a new level of sophistication in work"—where he already knew many of his peers and could return to a city he loved. He jokes that hiring him was just a ruse to lure Kelley—the two have been married for nine years. Her clerkship with Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Deborah L. Cook had just ended; the firm began recruiting her the very next week. For Kelley, the prospect of working with her closest friends from law school made the decision to join the firm an easy one.
Todd made several moves, to three firms and a corporation before settling in at Jones Day in 1997. Guided by Colleen both during the interview process and in "offline" discussion, he chose to join the firm knowing that he was entering a workplace that valued quality work along with collegiality, as evidenced by the presence of so many of this classmates. Since then, he has "never looked back." He says that his previous positions prepared him well, that they "provided me with an opportunity to… bring a high level of experience to the firm. Moreover, I think those other experiences have deepened my appreciation for what a great firm Jones Day is."
Whether they joined after graduation or a few years later, all six can remember the recession of the early 1990's. A climate of layoffs and high unemployment is often said to have fostered the cynicism already brewing in Generation X'ers, as they graduated only to encounter a depressed job market. Greg believes it did just the opposite for members of the class of 1993: "The economy was so bad during interviewing that people were thankful to get jobs at all. I think we believed that we needed to work hard, to show that we deserved our jobs." This kind of gratitude shown through hard work and perseverance has contributed, he is sure, to his and his friends' ability to survive and to flourish at Jones Day.
Once they arrived at Jones Day, all six Moritz graduates experienced what they call a "close" working environment—one in which friendships extend through work and into private life. A self-described "true believer," Jeff says that joining the firm fit his "old-fashioned" sensibilities perfectly. He has had only four jobs in his life, but never feels a sense of wanderlust for greener pastures. Instead, he and his former classmates thrive at Jones Day, and want each other to succeed. He says, "We are there for each other in good times—I stood in Greg and Kelley's wedding, and Greg stood in mine—as well as the bad times, such as when Greg lost his father." When Liza was in Akron for long periods working a tobacco case, Kelley sent her care packages "to keep her connection to the 'homeland,' so to speak," she says. "We wanted her to know that we were there for her." All will attest that Jones Day is a firm in which partners and associates communicate often and well, in which all employees realize that, in Liza's words, "there is plenty of room for all to do well together—you won't succeed if you undermine others."
In the "small" Columbus office, the 85 lawyers enjoy great relationships with their colleagues, yet are still able to work on global issues with larger Jones Day offices in Chicago, New York and those abroad. This "One Firm" concept encourages work assignments by practice area, rather than geography, allowing Columbus associates to work in concert with associates nationally, and even in foreign offices, such as Frankfurt and Singapore. "Not only do I get to meet and work with a broader range of people, I'm also exposed to a much larger pool of clients and projects. Cooperation on a national and international level at this scale really has exposed me to a lot of opportunities I never would have expected," says Greg.
This kind of cooperation with quality as its top goal is indicative of a firm where "the focus is entirely on the highest level of service to the clients," says Todd, rather than about the number of hours one works. "If you are achieving client satisfaction and producing and generating quality work, you don't have to make appearances for appearance's sake," he asserts. Liza echoes his statement in noting that performing at top level is just part of the culture and is understood by all. "Quality of work and efficiency are the keys," she says. Jones Day is "not a 'face-time place'—the number of hours are not important; succeeding at doing high-level, high-powered legal work is." Associates support each other, because "everyone benefits if we all do well."
This focus on outcomes, rather than hours, goes hand in hand with the firm's commitment to encourage balance and quality of life for its associates. Moritz grads with children found the firm to be, in Todd's words, "flexible and accommodating with respect to balancing family and work." He attends important school functions for his three children, and will be coaching all three in sports in the spring. He says, "No one has suggested, nor would they, that my involvement with my children has to be sacrificed for work." Greg and Kelley began their family after being hired by the firm. When Kelley became pregnant, she and Greg were understandably concerned about balancing commitment to their child with their workloads. Kelley was surprised and pleased by what she termed an "outpouring of support" by her co-workers. She says that children are often seen around the office on weekends as parents come in to work, and that colleagues are eager to lend a hand when family concerns are pressing. In Greg's words, "Making both of us partners, knowing the accommodations that would need to be made when both caregivers are members of the same firm, was the biggest showing of the firm's support for families."
Spreading the gospel of how choosing to work in a large firm can feel like finding a second home, Colleen, Kelley and Jeff are all members of the recruitment committee. They find that the graduates of the Moritz College are uniquely suited to thrive in a close-knit firm like Jones Day. The value of cooperation instilled in them by faculty, combined with top skills, and a Midwestern sensibility and work ethic, make them ideal candidates. "Law school is where you learn how to behave, to be cooperative and to act collaboratively," said Greg, noting that the College promoted these values well among its students. Todd adds, "My experience in law school reinforced the principle that it is more productive to be cooperative." Interaction with the legal community in Columbus, through adjunct professors, moot court volunteers, and receptions with alumni, was encouraged through the many College-sponsored special events for students. Greg commented that these made him "feel connected," both with his peers and with others already working as attorneys and scholars.
Seen in this light, these six members of the class of 1993 who chose loyalty over mobility, may not be such an anomaly after all. Their experience at Ohio State laid the groundwork for their choice to be in an environment that favors cooperation, rather than competition, among colleagues. No matter where they land after graduation, law students—and perhaps all of us—can benefit from Kelley's advice to the Moritz students she interviews. She says, "Really consider whether you enjoy the people you're interviewing with—would being with them every day make you happy?" It may be a simple consideration, but it is one that has made the Columbus office of Jones Day a haven in a sometimes cutthroat corporate world.