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our mission to attract, train, and retain talent

We are well aware of the fact that we have only one thing to sell to our clients and that is the skill and expertise of our lawyers, and without superbly talented lawyers we have nothing at all.

Our Mission

Indeed, what is a law firm but a collection of lawyers who are together because they wish to be together.  If they don’t wish to be together any more, then they leave and the law firm ceases to exist.  Taking this further, a top-quality law firm is a collection of highly-talented lawyers who are together because they wish to be together.  

This thinking led us to the obvious conclusion that our mission should be to make the Firm “about” the lawyers and our administrative personnel.  

This results in our core mission:

          “To Attract and Retain Talent”

We have to make the Firm a place where “talent” wants to go.  Then when talent gets here, we have to train that talent so that it can provide exceptional service to clients.  Finally, after we have poured our hearts into training that talent, we don’t want our talent to leave, so at that point we have to make the Firm a place where talent is provided opportunity and career fulfillment and wants to stay.  

Training Talent:

We seek to make our attorneys INTELLECTUALLY FEARLESS®.   This means that we will train them in a way that prepares them to not only meet our clients’ needs but exceed them all while practicing at the highest level of the legal profession. 

  • We try to hire lawyers from the top law schools in the world.  Indeed, the heads of our Tax, Litigation, and Not-For-Profit Practices, and the founder of our Real Estate practice, are all graduates of Harvard Law School.  In addition, in a statistic that we don’t know what to make of, by happenstance, over 25% of the equity partners in the Firm are graduates of Harvard Law School.  We suspect this is probably more than any other law firm of significant size. 

  • Our junior lawyers who come to us from law school all must graduate from DSU (Duval & Stachenfeld University) – now upgraded to be called “DSU3.0”.  This training, which is taken very seriously, is interactive in nature and is focused on the things that attorneys typically do not learn in a law school setting, such as: negotiation, working with adversaries, thinking on one’s feet, interactive skills, pleasing clients, and doing excellent legal work no matter what the cost. Notably DSU3.0 includes training in critical skills for associates, such as marketing and client development.  We expect lawyers to attend at least 15 classes in their first year at the Firm. 

  • In recent years we have developed an Apprentice Training Program, which is intended to replicate the intensive training some of our most senior lawyers experienced early in their careers.  Sometimes there is no better way to learn than by doing “everything” with a true “master” and learning the essence of the legal craft from the foot of the tree of knowledge in real-time as deals and other complex matters unfold.  Although this is a new program, we think this may be the “best” way to train the future superstars who will someday be the great lawyers practicing at the Firm.

  • We encourage all of our attorneys to gain as much background knowledge of the real estate industry as possible.

  • We believe that young lawyers should not be “crippled” by being shunted into a single practice area (i.e. pure lending – pure leasing – pure development, etc.).  Instead, we make a commitment to ensure that all of our junior lawyers are exposed to work at all levels of the capital stack.  This way, in roughly five years, our attorneys emerge as “complete” real estate lawyers, who understand it all. 

  • On the drawing board but not yet enacted, is a plan to have our real estate attorneys take real estate business courses to gain industry knowledge.  We hope to roll out this program soon. 

  • With respect to administrative personnel, we mine for talent – just as we do with the lawyers.  When we see talent in our new hires, we promote them to positions of greater importance and train them for these positions.  Indeed, most of our administrative management team started at the entry but developed expertise and training over the years to become extremely expert and knowledgeable in how to run the Firm effectively and efficiently.

  • Finally, we believe that part of the education of lawyers at the Firm is to (i) deeply learn the Values and their meaning and (ii) impart these Values to others.  Only in this manner will the culture of the Firm continue to grow as time goes by and new lawyers enter the Firm. The most critical part of this education is the realization that without the Values we simply are nothing at all but a bunch of lawyers sharing office space until someone gets a better job offer.

A Duval & Stachenfeld attorney cannot be an “average” lawyer going through the motions, but must be (i) thoroughly knowledgeable about the business environment in which our clients function, (ii) an impassioned advocate for our clients, and (iii) a powerful force for building the strength and depth of our culture.  These ingredients can never be learned in law school or at another law firm, but is something we largely have to teach ourselves.

Finally, for the benefit of our clients, it is important to emphasize that we believe that our clients should not pay for the training of our young associates.  To that end we have lowered the billing rates for first year associates to a rate which is less than almost all major law firms charge for paralegals.  Our clients have appreciated this greatly. 

Retaining Talent

So why is it that our talented associates and partners don’t just quit for a better offer?  Indeed at major law firms, associates routinely quit within the first 2 to 4 years, yet ours do not and we think we know the reason.  Our attrition has always been, and remains, exceptionally low.  Why is this?

We believe there are quite a few reasons that our attorneys and administrative personnel stay with the Firm:

  • The legal work at The Pure Play in Real Estate® is without par anywhere except a very few competitor law firms, and almost none of our competition permits the full training of lawyers for representation throughout the capital stack.  We work on cutting edge matters and our lawyers get to work on the most challenging and sophisticated matters. 

  • As we say, “we are not in the law business – we are in the lawyer business.”  This is because we are “about” creating careers for our lawyers. In this regard, for those building careers in the real estate world, whether as lawyers or with an eventual plan to go into the business world, the connections that can be made here are without par anywhere.

  • For both lawyers and administrative personnel, the training is exceptional. 

  • The culture is just great.  We are a fun place to work.  People have a good time. 

  • For those who are believers in our Values and Hedgehog Principle, there is no better place to work. They are in harmony with a group that shares these same values and principles. 

  • We make partners of associates based on their quality rather than “a numbers game.”  This gives talented associates the likelihood of a long-term future with the Firm, as opposed to the expectation that their careers will end in an unsuccessful attempt to “make partner.” 

  • For partners we push hard to create business opportunities for both our partners and our partners’ clients.  This is an outgrowth of the concept of being in the lawyer business – we are creating opportunities and enhanced careers for our partners.  In the Recruiting Section, there are testimonials from all of the partners who have joined the Firm laterally in recent years. All attest to the commitment of Firm management to help both them and their clients build their careers and businesses.

  • When the chips are down we do everything possible to avoid terminating personnel.  We have had two severe downturns in the demand for our legal services during the life of the Firm.  In each situation, our business fell on difficult times.  Each time this occurred we went out of our way to avoid firing people and tried to keep the entire team together.  This fostered a great sense of loyalty and commitment.

  • We go out of our way to treat people well.  Indeed, our values state clearly that “employees are entitled to respect.”  For example, we will not put up with a big rainmaker abusing associates.  A big rainmaker who acted in this fashion would first find his/her compensation reduced and ultimately would need to find a home at another law firm more tolerant of this type of behavior, as we will not stand for it.

  • Oh yes, we pay very well.  First through third year associates are scheduled to earn more than almost all lawyers at major law firms. For more senior associates we generally match so-called BigLaw market.  Finally, for partners we are as profitable as all but a very few of the major law firms.

Due to our exceptional reputation, headhunters typically swarm like locusts around our highly-trained associates and partners, yet we are proud that attrition continues to be extremely low.  Associates rarely leave and the Firm has not lost a single partner in over four years.  This means we are succeeding in our mission to “attract, train and retain talent.”

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