After a 15 year COO/Executive-Director drought, Morrison & Foerster is making a move that is more akin to the behaviour of British and Australian firms than American ones – they have looked outside the firm and indeed outside the legal profession to fill their new Chief Operating Officer Position.  This is a bold move which according to Chairman Keith Wetmore will give Mo Fo a competitive advantage.  According to the same article, Pat Cavaney, formerly Senior Vice President of Hewlett-Packard, will free up the three firm Managing Partners to manage the practices more and the operations less (and also spend more time practicing law).

PUNCHLINE:  I wish Mo Fo and Cavaney every success.  I offer the polite caution, however, that I have watched some very talented, intelligent and accomplished individuals who were not themselves lawyers get devoured in the law firm environment by the ferocious independence of many individual partners who felt quite comfortable in their belief that a non-lawyer could not possibly handle the job and that criticism could be heaped upon him (or her) in abundance.   Having said that, I am aware of several notable successes where non-lawyers have maneuvered the maze with aplomb and have gained the internal respect that has allowed them to get on with the job.  Pat Cavaney’s impressive background will help a lot but it won’t be enough without some serious help from the firm’s senior leadership and a lot of skill on his part – which he likely possesses based on the following (published by Techie Evangelist while he was Senior Vice President at Hewlett-Packard):

As Senior Vice President, Pat Cavaney is responsible for Global Delivery Operations & Information Technology for Technology Services, Technology Solutions Group. In this role, Cavaney manages the Global Delivery Program Office; the Group Information Office (IT + R&D); the Engagement PMO; Customer Operations; Applications Services Delivery; Total Customer Experience, Quality, and Business Process Management; and Compliance & Maturity Assessment.

Prior to his current role, Cavaney managed the implementation of the company’s merger integration plans for the services businesses of HP and Compaq. The scope of this effort encompassed all HP Services functions and lines of business including Customer Support, Consulting & Integration, and Managed Services.

Cavaney also served as the Worldwide General Manager of HP Education Services. He was responsible for managing HP’s broad portfolio of learning services that help businesses enhance knowledge and skills and improve business performance.

With a career spanning more than 20 years, Cavaney’s prior experience includes serving as the Worldwide General Manager of the HP Services Year 2000 Program. He was responsible for directing the sales, marketing, delivery, and administration efforts of HP Services to ensure the Y2K readiness of HP product offerings and customer support infrastructure.

Born in Pasadena, California, Cavaney holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. He is based in Palo Alto, California.

I believe the legal profession has much to gain by importing talent from outside and I wish Mo Fo and Pat Cavaney every success.

Thank you to the ABA Journal for serving as a source for this post – see their November 20th article:  Non-Lawyer Now at Helm of 1,000-Attorney Law Firm