They say it’s better to be lucky than good. But smart lawyering is the next best thing to dumb luck.
Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis is a boutique firm that focuses on solving serious legal problems that call for seasoned judgment and experience. Our lawyers have the skills, experience, creativity, and concentrated know-how to solve complex legal problems in a way that makes business sense and mitigates risk. As a result, we have earned a first-class reputation for excellence in telecom and technology regulation, trial and appellate litigation, legal and governmental ethics, energy, national security, and privacy.
We strive to represent our clients with unsurpassed effectiveness and professionalism. Toward that end, we hire the most talented lawyers we can find, and we maintain a collegial, high-autonomy working environment that maximizes the value of sound judgment among extremely talented peers. We aspire to attract the most challenging matters, because that is when we are at our best. An important measure of our success is that clients who come to us with emergency problems often continue to rely on us after the emergency is over, to help them navigate even ordinary risks. We can do this very efficiently, without the indolence or bloat found at many larger firms.
In 1998, our firm opened its doors with a handful of lawyers doing superlative work for leading-edge communications and technology clients. The lawyers of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis deliberately set out to run our firm differently. While the big law firms were busy merging and hiring business consultants, we focused on our clients rather than our profits—and in the process, we quietly established ourselves as a nationally recognized communications and information technology law firm.
After gaining prominence in the field of communications regulation, we steadily entered other practice areas in which we saw the same potential for excellence. Our criminal defense practice is extensive and aggressive, and our trial litigation group handles civil matters from investigation and fact gathering through trial. The attorneys in our Supreme Court and appellate practice have argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court, and routinely handle major appeals before federal and state appellate courts. Our legislative practice includes attorneys who have worked for Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and have served as senior officials in the executive branch and at the FCC. Our international trade, investment, and national security practice has achieved many firsts in matters involving regulation of foreign investment, transactions with foreign-policy and national-security components, and technology exports. Our energy practice, led by former senior officials at the Department of Energy, provides guidance and representation to the largest and most well-known companies in the sector. Our legal ethics practice is routinely rated as one of the very best around.
We firmly believe we are better able to solve our clients’ legal problems when we have time to lead balanced lives and to pursue personal fulfillment as well as professional excellence. How, specifically, do we maintain this culture?
First, we hire people who are already well-rounded, because those are generally the people who have already figured out the work-life balance problem. Second, we clearly communicate our expectation that people at HWG will continue to live rich, full lives even as they provide our clients with legal services of unsurpassed quality and effectiveness. Third, we staff appropriately, with enough capacity within the firm to handle whatever our clients need on very short notice without hollowing out the rest of our lives as spouses, parents, and friends.
Obviously we can’t take the stress out of legal conflict. We solve legal problems for a living, and our clients often have “house on fire” problems they need us to solve quickly. So, like any other good lawyers, we have worked through vacations and burned our share of midnight oil. But eventually, every crisis ends, and it is at that point that we encourage our lawyers to recharge instead of getting back on a treadmill toward some arbitrary billable hours target. And that’s good not just for us but for our clients, because research suggests that people under intense and unremitting time pressures quickly become less productive, less creative, less motivated, and even less ethical.
We also stress genuine collegiality. We know our work is important to our clients, and we find it personally fulfilling to help them achieve their purposes. So we help each other as much as we can, and we know we can depend on each other for that help. That can make a world of difference both in the quality of the lawyers we retain and in the quality of the lawyering we do.
It’s very unusual for a law firm to combine professional excellence and personal fulfillment in the way we do. We don’t see quality of work and quality of life as a tradeoff; we think the balance in our personal lives makes us that much better as lawyers when our clients need the very best legal representation they can get. That may not be unique to us, strictly speaking, but it’s very unusual.