Butler Snow’s Firm Chairman, Donald Clark, Jr., was recently covered in The American Lawyer’s article A Transformed Butler Snow Re-Elects Its 68-Year-Old Leader about his re-election as Firm Chairman:
Since Donald Clark Jr.’s election to chairman of Butler Snow in 2006, the partnership with Mississippi roots has grown from the three-office, 140-lawyer outfit it was a decade ago, to a 330-lawyer international firm with offices in 24 locations.
Clark, 68, will have another two-and-a-half years to continue his firm’s Bull Run. The Jackson, Mississippi-based partner was re-elected chairman this week to serve in leadership until January 2020. His term was set to expire at the end of the year.
“When the firm asked me to continue on for the next couple of years after this year, I told them I’d be happy to do that,” Clark said Thursday. “I think after 10 or 12 years, you kind of learn how to do this job.”
A leader with a self-deprecating wit, Clark said that Butler Snow actively pursued growth in the wake of the financial crisis. Seeing it as an opportunity to “buy low,” the firm ramped up its lateral hiring efforts and has mostly grown by adding one or two partners at a time. The largest single group of lawyers it hired was in 2012, when 37 lawyers joined from Miller & Martin in Nashville, where Butler Snow would scoop up another local firm in 2015.
Growing larger was not the only opportunity that Clark saw in the wake of the worst recession since the 1930s. He said Butler Snow anticipated client demands for better price predictability, and so the firm began aggressively offering alternative fees. More than 50 percent of the firm’s gross revenue is now based on alternative fees, Clark said.
Helping Butler Snow’s growth efforts, Clark said, is a culture based on a completely subjective compensation system. The firm does not track origination credit and the only people with access to a lawyers’ billable hour records are the lawyer, their practice group leader, one of two department chairs and Clark. A compensation committee interviews the practice group leaders, the chair and the partners, who are allowed to voice their opinion of themselves and their peers. Compensation is set every two years.
It is a process that Clark said allows Butler Snow’s partners to work more collaboratively.
“We are lawyers, of course. I’m not going to say that every lawyer is completely happy with their placement,” Clark said. “But at the same time, we’re very constructive. And we don’t have people leaving because of their placement.”
The firm continued its head count growth last year, increasing its attorney ranks by 9 percent, according to ALM Intelligence data. That momentum has rolled into this year.