Michael Nannes

Michael Nannes
Chairman, Dickstein Shapiro LLP

Corporate Headquarters: Washington, DC
Website: www.dicksteinshapiro.com
Primary Business: Law Firm
Revenues: $297 Million
Employees: 780

2011 CEO in Action

As the leader of a large national law firm, I have learned that it’s impossible to put too high a premium on diversity. That may sound like overstatement, but it’s not. The legal industry has evolved to a point where diversity issues are enmeshed with the core of our business—finding and retaining the best attorneys and representing top corporations. In other words, firms that don’t understand diversity will get left behind (which isn’t a bad thing).

Most law firm leaders understand this. However, generating new ideas about diversity and finding creative ways to enhance it is a constant challenge. To other leaders, I only have this advice: find inspiration anywhere, and everywhere, you can.

I have been lucky to find teachers in all corners of my work and life, from my wife to colleagues and clients. My education began, in many ways, with women’s issues, as I watched my wife Nancy successfully balance her own legal career with motherhood, blazing a part-time path in 1987.

Around the same time, a new associate arrived at the firm who would later demonstrate the importance of flexibility. In her first month on the job, Deborah Kelly learned she was pregnant with triplets, and immediately chose an alternative schedule, which she maintained even as she made partner. A responsive management team is paramount in making such arrangements work. She has remained with our firm as her children have grown, providing clients consistent representation and pride in the firm’s flexibility.

I have also found guidance in clients, like Stacey Mobley, the longtime general counsel of DuPont, who joined our firm a few years ago. Stacey developed the “DuPont Model,” one of the first legal-preferred provider networks. Diversity became a heavy factor in how DuPont picked its legal representation, and the move sent a message to firms around the country: diversity needed to be a business priority.

And, at Dickstein Shapiro it is. My firm continues to find new ways to support and promote our diverse attorneys. Most recently, we launched a mentoring and retention program that pairs African American partners with associates. We also maintain a thriving Women’s Leadership Initiative that supports business development for our women attorneys. And, I’m proud that our efforts are have been recognized by the MCCA, the DC Women’s Bar Association, and the ABA’s National Association of Women Lawyers. My involvement in these and other organizations, such as the Advisory Council of the Project for Attorney Retention and the Board of Directors of the Duke Ellington Fund, are crucial in advancing inclusion.

Family, friends, colleagues, and clients—I’ve learned about diversity from all parts of my life. Every leader should.

Education: University of Michigan, B.B.A., with High Distinction; Georgetown University Law Center, J.D.
First Job: My first non-legal job was as a truck driver for grain mill
What I’m Reading: Citizens of London, by Lynne Olson
My Philosophy: Take a deep breath; realize how fortunate you are.
Best Advice: Did you really mean to email that….?
Family: The best part of my life (31 years of marriage and three kids in their 20s)
Interests: My kids; multiple sports (when talent doesn’t matter)
Favorite Charities: Legal Aid Society; Duke Ellington Fund