When Michelle Gilboe was thinking about moving her life sciences practice in 2019, she identified the single most important thing she wanted for herself and her group – opportunity. She defined opportunity as being happy and supported in a collegial office environment, having a role in defining your path no matter who you are, and the resources to grow a vigorous practice.
In September 2019, she and three colleagues found opportunity at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, when they opened the firm’s 52nd location in Minneapolis. Gilboe took the helm as managing partner and, nearly a year later, the Minneapolis team is thriving under her leadership.
“Ten of us came over initially, attorneys and staff, and we’re now up to 24 people, including six additional attorneys,” Gilboe says. “I’m excited to grow like this and add great talent to our ranks. The opportunity to start a new office, choose the people we work with and focus intensely on creating a good culture was the part of this opportunity that appealed to me most. The longer I practice law I realize how important a positive work culture it is to everyone’s day-to-day happiness, and even their ability to provide good service to clients. I think happy lawyers are good lawyers.”
Since opening its doors over 40 years ago, Lewis Brisbois has grown to a community of more than 1,500 lawyers in 53 offices across 30 states and the District of Columbia. Offering legal practice in more than 40 specialties and numerous subspecialties, the firm provides a wide range of legal services with a continuity of representation across multiple disciplines.
“My goal is for our Minneapolis office to grow to reflect the diversity of practice in the firm,” says Gilboe. “Adding talented partners like we have with Kari Berman in complex business litigation and Tina Syring in labor and employment is exactly what we hoped to do when we opened. And we expect to add more partners in the near future. For our office to be busy and hiring when others are contracting is nothing short of spectacular. It is a testament to our talented attorneys and the firm’s strength and commitment to smart growth and client service.”
With preeminent life sciences expertise in offices from coast to coast, Lewis Brisbois decided it was the right time to assert its presence in the Life Science Alley.
“Having an anchor for the firm is extremely important here in the Twin Cities where we have such a concentration of life science companies. This is a significant focus of mine and of the firm, and we want to grow that practice.”
A first chair trial attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing life sciences clients, industrial and consumer products, and sports and fitness manufacturers, Gilboe has a distinguished record of complex class action, toxic tort, and MDL litigation, including representation of medical spa services and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Admitted in Minnesota and Wisconsin, she advises clients on key business issues, has served as national and regional counsel, and has broad experience defending complex medical and scientific matters in state and federal courts.
A CULTURE OF PROGRESS
At the end of April, Lewis Brisbois completed the build-out of a new floor in the Wells Fargo Center. For those attorneys looking for an innovative, inclusive and enterprising environment in which to go grow their practices, this is an ideal place to call home.
“I love the entrepreneurial spirit here. We’ve been given a lot of control over what we do in our own office, and we have been so pleased by the way we have always been very supported by the firm and management at all levels, whether in terms of marketing, hiring, business development or serving clients. The firm is responsive, yet doesn’t get in the way. We have the freedom to shape and grow our own culture and office, but with the benefit of an established, well-managed firm with an unparalleled platform.”
Lewis Brisbois’ deep bench of practitioners collaborate to take on complex matters anywhere in the country.
“It’s nice to be able to plug into the expertise of people in the firm who have different but complementary practices. There’s always somebody who will pick up the phone when you call or that you can bring to your team. The firm promotes collaboration, which is good for attorneys and clients.”
COVID-19 has certainly been an unanticipated variable in rolling out the new office, but Gilboe reports that her team remains committed to delivering the same high-quality legal services while observing social distancing guidelines.
“We have a skeleton crew in the office most of the time and are keeping numbers low enough for everyone to socially distance. Although I’ve been here most of the time, we’ve been allowing those who need to be at home to do that.”
Lewis Brisbois maintains a COVID-19 Response Resource Center that provides legal updates across practice areas and is a testament to its nationwide network of sophisticated practitioners. Gilboe attributes the firm’s ability to weather the pandemic more effectively than some other firms to its overall agility and responsiveness.
“We are very large but nimble. We have highly diverse clients, and we have deployed our resources to answer some of the new questions they have needed to respond to during the COVID crisis. The pandemic is changing how many of our clients do business at the same time it’s changing how we do business. We’ve had to be ready to shift to meet that need. There is no ‘normal’ to fall back on in this situation. Our COVID response team has been incredible, and we are well-prepared to deal with the issues that are coming.”
With the goal of continuing to grow in an intentional way, Gilboe is seeking talented professionals who can contribute to established practice areas and provide expertise in areas where demand is increasing due to the pandemic.
“We are looking to grow into new areas that make sense for this office based on the practices here. One of the founding partners in Minneapolis, Rick Morgan, has a robust toxic tort practice as part of our sophisticated products liability base. We will continue growing our products practices as well as complex business litigation, and we want to bring intellectual property talent. Employment law is going to be a key area to grow talent.”
With more people working remotely than ever before, cybersecurity is another rising concern for law firms and their clients. Advisen, an international cyber insurance industry association, recognized Lewis Brisbois as the Cyber Law Firm of the Year in both 2019 and 2020.
“We have one of the foremost cyber security groups in the country at our firm. They provide an incredible level of service to our clients across all disciplines. Just about every client now needs that kind of support and has questions about cybersecurity. As a firm, we’re ahead of the game generally and in this time of COVID. To have this resource inside the firm is amazing.”
A CULTURE OF INCLUSION
Diversity is an integral part of the culture at Lewis Brisbois, and the firm has repeatedly earned national recognition for its diversity initiatives and commitment to hiring, retaining and promoting diverse individuals. Its conviction is that a diverse workforce provides a wide array of views that contribute to the sophisticated and multifaceted legal representation the firm provides.
“Having people here who are multifaceted — whether it’s race, gender, LGBTQ, political affiliation — the diversity of thought and experience you can gather makes you better. I truly believe it makes you better able to serve your clients who also reflect a diversity of experience and thought. We want people here from many different perspectives. It makes a better workplace and provides insights you don’t already have. It’s forward looking.”
On July 15, 2020, it was announced that Gilboe is a member of the trial team representing the family of George Floyd in a civil lawsuit filed against the city of Minneapolis and the police officers involved Floyd’s death.
“This is an incredible opportunity for me to be able to serve on a team that is representing members of George Floyd’s family. For a firm like Lewis Brisbois to support those efforts and give us the resources we need to be on right side of history is amazing to me. I’m so grateful to Lewis Brisbois for wanting to do that and for allowing me, and our office in particular, to have the chance to help. Everybody in the world is reeling from these events, particularly here in Minnesota. I think our firm’s commitment to participating in this team and seeking justice is really a reflection of our culture, how committed we are to making sure everybody is respected and valued. It’s part of our success.”
Another aspect of Lewis Brisbois’ diverse culture is its commitment to identifying, elevating and retaining female talent. With four young children at home, Gilboe says that being a mother, juggling a very active practice and opening a new office is both challenging and exciting. Lewis Brisbois has opened new opportunities for her to both excel and reward excellence.
“Life is crazy and full, but they say if you want something done, give it to a busy person. As a woman with a fulsome practice and a busy family life, I also respect that in other people. I respect that people have lives and different commitments. Giving people the collegial support that allows them to get the work done in that context is important to me. It has been so affirming to be supported by this firm and put in a position to lead. I think it’s important for our attorneys to see people who look like or are like them in their management. Lewis Brisbois has a great commitment to recognizing professional success and an incredible women’s initiative. It invests a lot of effort into promoting women and creating a culture where we can grow our practices. A lot of firms say they’re doing it, but I’m evidence that we are doing it.”
After a year at Lewis Brisbois, Gilboe says she is certain that she and group made the right choice in coming to the firm.
“We say we were meant to be here because it’s a great fit. Providing clients with sound advice is one of the most gratifying aspects of being an attorney. It’s a privilege to be at a place that provides people with the opportunity to grow into and excel in that role.”