Harness Dickey CEO Bill Coughlin recently spoke to Aebra Coe of Law360 about rejoining the firm where he was a Principal in the 1980s and 90s and what his plans are for Harness Dickey in the 2020s and beyond. The interview is part of their ongoing “Law Firm Leaders” series.
Law360: Why did Harness Dickey decide to create a CEO role for the firm?
Bill Coughlin: It’s really a testament to the wisdom of the leadership here. It’s a great firm, profitability is strong. You can rest on your laurels and continue doing what you’re doing, or you can look at what you need to do in the future to win. The great businesses continue to do that. You don’t see Amazon resting on its laurels and coasting. It’s always being aggressive as to what services and products its customers need. The firm here had the same point of view.
How has your experience in the automotive industry and in-house shaped how you approach law firm management?
This really started with Chrysler sending me to the Stanford executive program at Stanford University’s graduate business school. They saw me as a lawyer that could use business-level skills. That really lit a fire in me to not just think about how to deliver great legal service, but legal service that is tuned to the business and helping the business foresee the challenges they’re going to be facing from the legal perspective and offering solutions that really help them.
What are your goals for the law firm over the next five years?
I would like the firm to be the envy of every other intellectual property firm on the planet. A high standard to be sure, but that’s really where I’m starting from. What can we become that really is compelling for future business needs? I’m in a wonderful position to be able to step back and think about how to serve the clients better, how we operate the business of law in its professional aspects, in a way that Harness Dickey comes into its second century strong and is really positioned well to be one of the remarkable IP firms in the next century.