By Bennett Loudon  |  The Daily Record  |  9/20/16

A conversation with Phillips Lytle’s new managing partner

Kevin M. Hogan will take over as managing partner of Phillips Lytle LLP on Jan. 1.

Hogan, 54, will succeed David J. McNamara, who has been managing partner since 2007. McNamara will resume his practice focusing on business litigation and project development.

A Buffalo resident who has worked at Phillips Lytle for 25 years, Hogan became partner in 2000. He has served as the Buffalo trial department administrator and was a member of Phillips Lytle’s governing committee.

He recently chatted with The Daily Record about his new position, his path to the law, the impact of technology on the industry and some of his thoughts about the future.

How he got started

Hogan received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from University of Connecticut in 1983 and worked for five years as a manufacturing manager for General Electric before entering Vermont Law School, which specialized in environmental law.

“I was intrigued by the idea that a VLS law degree might allow me to leverage my technical background and manufacturing experience in an emerging legal field. I also suspected that the fields of engineering and the law might be pretty similar, in that both involved problem solving and required strong analytical skills,” Hogan said.

After graduating from law school in 1991, before joining Phillips Lytle, Hogan clerked for a year with Richard J. Cardamone, a judge on the U.S. Court for Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“Because I’m an engineer I’ve done a fair amount of IP dispute resolution, but primarily it’s been environmental law I’m probably the busiest litigator on the environmental team,” he said.

How he sees his role

Exactly how his new role will affect that work remains to be seen.

“I’m going to definitely retain my relationship managing role for all the various clients. I’ve spoken to the clients an told them they’ll be hearing from me just as much as they have been,” Hogan said.

“On the other hand, the day-to-day work, the project management, that will be transitioned to some of my partners,” Hogan said.

As managing partner, he won’t be making unilateral decisions about the firm’s direction, but he will play an important role.

“We have a governing committee on which I will sit, which collectively sets the direction and the tone and especial the major decisions for the firm. As the managing partner I’m in charge of implementing those directions, those decisions,” he said.

And in that role Hogan “can influence the tone and the direction and a lot of the strategy,” he said.

Showing value

Hogan said law firms will increasingly need to demonstrate the value of their services to clients.

“Clients are beginning to choose firms based on the added value they deliver, which might come in the form of greater predictability in projected legal costs; identifying additional or unrelated risks; assisting with corrective action or efficiency improvements; or enhancing the client’s institutional knowledge, particularly in cutting edge or evolving industry developments,” he said.

Technology, he said, will affect how legal services are delivered, and firms that take advantage of technology to th benefit of clients will have a distinct advantage in the market, he said.

Law firms also must innovate in how they recruit, train and promote their legal talent.

“Those who lead their markets in recruiting and promoting the best talent will enjoy a distinct advantage over thei competitors, not only in cost efficiencies, but also in assuring consistent high quality services and positive firm culture,” he said.

Growth opportunities

And the firm’s strategic plan also could involve expansion.

“We’re not interested in growth for growth sake, but we are interest in strategic growth that improves our ability to serve our clients and do so in a way that’s beneficial to the communities in which we have offices and to the partners on our staff,” he said.

Phillips Lytle is the second-largest law firm headquartered in Buffalo with 131 attorneys and 51 partners in its eigh locations, including Rochester.

Past expansions have involved creating new offices, not acquisitions. They have offices in Washington, D.C., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and Garden City.

“In each of those cases it was a very strategic decision with a specific purposed in mind and not simply the opportunity to add a firm in a new geographic location for the sake of growth,” he said.