What does a law firm leader do when his biggest client goes under?
Today, Lowenstein Sandler has some 300 lawyers, mostly in the New York metropolitan area. But in 2008, it was predominately a business law firm with hedge fund and private equity clients. Chair and managing partner Gary Wingens’s biggest client was Lehman Brothers. One month after he took over the firm’s leadership, Bear Sterns went under. Within a few months, Lehman Brothers also went under.
“It was a really scary time,” Wingens says a video by Josh Block for Bloomberg Law. “There were really points in 2008 when the world felt like it was standing still on its axis. And you really had no idea what would be coming next.”
How does a law firm stay strong under those circumstances? Cut costs. For the first time in Lowenstein Sandler’s history, the firm laid off attorneys. “It was a difficult decision I’ve ever made as a leader,” Wingens says, but it was a decision that protected the firm and set it up for later growth.