Go West, Young Man, To Pittsburgh!

Monday, July 5, 2010 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Laura E. Ellsworth, Managing Partner of Jones Day's Pittsburgh office.

Editor: As manager of the Pittsburgh office for Jones Day you have many responsibilities. What do you consider to be your mandate as head of that office?

Ellsworth: My job here is to do everything that I can to benefit my clients, my colleagues and my community. For my clients, our mandate as a firm is to deliver the very finest client service possible in every respect - that's Job One. To my colleagues, I have the obligation to provide an environment in which they can be happy and superb lawyers, free of things (internal or external) that would detract from Job One. To my community, I have the responsibility to bring the talents of my colleagues here and around the world to better the lives and economic condition of the people of this region at all levels, especially those whose voices are not always heard. That has always been a core value of Jones Day, no matter what office you talk about. That assumption of responsibility for solving the most complicated problems is a part of everything we do, but the commitment to do it for the least among us with the same passion and dedication we bring to the Fortune 500 companies with whom we are more commonly identified, is what really defines us, and I am proud of being a part of that.

Editor: In this issue, Governor Rendell describes the Economic Stimulus Program of 2003, which has had a positive effect today in defraying some of the worst impact of the current recession. Did Pennsylvania's position help it to withstand the worst of the crisis?

Ellsworth: Just about all the statistics show that Southwestern Pennsylvania survived the financial downturn better than almost any place else in the country. I attribute that, in part, to the fact that this region suffered its economic decline more than two decades ago and, since then, we have pulled together as a community and reinvented ourselves, creating a vibrant economy focused on clean energy, cutting-edge healthcare technologies, high-tech manufacturing, sophisticated computer science and other diversified, forward-looking industries resistant to economic declines. There is something unique about the people in this region, too. People here are very "midwest" in terms of their personalities and work ethic, but very "coastal" in terms of their education, intellect and approach to innovation. As a consequence, though we have a very sophisticated economy, many of the excesses, both in business and in lifestyle, that contributed to the financial implosion elsewhere never existed here, simply because that is not our culture. In addition, people here have a greater commitment to each other than in many other places. This will sound odd, but people here really care about one another and pull together when times get tough. We also are blessed with the number one philanthropic community in the United States.

Editor: Would you give us an example of some of the new technology that signifies the innovations taking place?

Ellsworth: The National Energy Technology Laboratory is located here, doing billions in energy-related research. The Pittsburgh Technology Center is a model for brownfield redevelopment and houses more than 1,000 people working in the "knowledge" sector, including Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center, doing pioneering work in digital technology. In the healthcare sector , the University of Pittsburgh is among the top five recipients of NIH funding in the country and is turning out cutting-edge research in multiple fields. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is a global leader in transplantation, digitized medical records, and the delivery of the most sophisticated medical treatment at locations around the world. At Carnegie Mellon, the robotics programs are revolutionizing artificial limbs and the computer scientists are developing programs that enable diagnosis and treatment never before possible. The medical device community is constantly generating new products and yet another company that comes to mind has developed a device that allows for "virtual surgery" so that young doctors can practice their surgical techniques on the device rather than on live patients. And that list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Editor: You mention the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon; I imagine Pennsylvania's universities contribute to the innovative climate.

Ellsworth: Pennsylvania recently was ranked as one of the top ten smartest states in the U.S., and Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of colleges and universities in the nation per capita - making for a very highly educated workforce. Penn State is a national leader in green energy, optics and laser technology. The Wharton School in Philadelphia is ranked our nation's top business school. Carnegie Mellon tops national lists in things as diverse as engineering and theater. I could go on and on. I think one of the other benefits of a robust university community is that it draws students from all over the world, creating not only an educated but also a very diverse workforce.

Editor: Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is far lower than that in neighboring states. Are there any "make-work" programs that have helped to mitigate job losses?

Ellsworth: I would say that it's more "make things" than "make work." In Pennsylvania we make things - nuclear power plants, steel, locomotives, process systems, wind turbines. Our economy is not an ephemeral one. We make actual things, which I believe makes us strong and sustaining. We also sit atop the Marcellus Shale - probably the single largest natural gas play in the United States (and perhaps the second largest in the world). Penn State recently estimated that the Marcellus Shale will generate $8 billion to the economy in 2010 and $10 billion in 2011. More than 212,000 jobs will likely be created by the year 2020. What's remarkable is that it will provide a range of jobs, from chief executives to engineers to welders to truckers. That development will also spur other industrial development because the transmission cost (the cost of getting the energy to the site where it is used) is a major component of energy cost. If the energy is coming from your own backyard, that transmission cost is low and the overall cost of energy comes down. I personally believe the Marcellus is going to pull myriad manufacturing companies into Pennsylvania.

Measured by number of jobs, Western Pennsylvania is in the top ten regions nationally in virtually every form of energy: nuclear, coal, natural gas, solar and wind. Many companies are flooding into the state and this region to take advantage of these resources.

Editor: Green tech and alternate energy are major parts of many states' growth initiatives. How is this playing out in Pennsylvania?

Ellsworth: While it may be a concept du jour elsewhere, Pennsylvania has been working in the green technology space for years. We have LEED-certified buildings throughout the region. In the typical Southwestern Pennsylvania spirit of collaboration, the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh was formed among energy producers to work together to pursue energy policy and development in a coordinated way, and green energy is one of the critical components of their strategy.

Westinghouse, a global leader in nuclear technology, is based here, as is CONSOL Energy, a company on the cutting edge of clean coal technology. A number of the Marcellus Shale companies, among them Range Resources and Atlas, are industry leaders in the development of technologies to handle wastewater from mining operations. Many companies, such as PPG, are working on solar and wind technology, while others are dedicated to building automated process controls and smart grids. Having all those companies here together (in the uniquely collaborative and university-rich Pittsburgh environment) allows them to cross-fertilize ideas and work together, not just on the development of technology but on the development of government policy that will support environmentally responsible industry growth throughout the Commonwealth.

Editor: What would you say to a business considering expansion into Pennsylvania?

Ellsworth: Pennsylvania is a tremendous place in which to live and work. You can be a master of your own destiny in a very real way. For example, the Allegheny Conference is a group composed of the CEOs of just about every major company and organization in the region, chaired currently by John Surma, the CEO of one of the nation's iconic companies, US Steel. Together they work to improve the business climate here in a very active and meaningful way. If you have a good idea for making something better, you can put it in play and make things happen. Similarly, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, comprised of most of the companies working in the Marcellus Shale, are collaborating on things like the development of technology that will be co-licensed and on the co-location of facilities in an intelligent and rational way. They, too, are involved in working collaboratively with government to develop policy and regulation that will allow for responsible economic expansion.

Western Pennsylvania has excellent transportation and distribution systems. As the City of the Three Rivers, Pittsburgh has numerous ports - as well as rail and highway - and we boast one of the newest and best airports in the country. We're within an hour's flight of more than 60 percent of the nation's population. Because we have such a remarkable distribution network, we have become a port of choice for people importing from China and so are currently opening up direct transport relations with China.

In addition to the tremendous energy resources and a supremely educated workforce with a wonderful work ethic, there are many incentives to live and work here. The quality of life for employees is unparalleled. You can commute in 15 minutes from a safe, gorgeous (and highly affordable) residential area to a beautiful downtown; or drive one hour away to pristine hiking trails, white-water rafting or to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. You can attend the Pittsburgh Symphony and a Steelers game with only a ten-minute walk between them. You have access to worldclass healthcare, including Children's Hospital of UPMC, one of the top pediatric hospitals in the world, and Magee Women's Hospital, which conducts some of the most advanced research being done in the field of women's health. Whether your passion is theater, golf, wildlife conservation, outdoor activity, or professional sports, I can point to a worldclass example 30 minutes from where I am sitting right now.

Editor: Would you tell us about your expertise in the area of e-discovery and your role as managing editor of Sedona Principles: Best Practices Recommendations and Principle for Addressing Electronic Document Production ?

Ellsworth: I originally got involved in the subject about 15 years ago working with Jonathan Redgrave. At the time e-discovery was an area with virtually no case law and no real concentrated thinking about the issue, so we began to get involved in the hope of developing rational rules. Richard Braman invited us to come to the Sedona Conference and that was where the effort was born. The Sedona Principles represent a collaborative effort in which people on all sides, including plaintiffs, defendants, judges and business people, get together, put their own personal biases aside and try to do the "right" thing. In many ways the Sedona Principles have moved the ball in the right direction as far as shaping the law in a reasonable and rational way.

Too often, however, I still see the ediscovery aspect of a case drive the outcome in a way that is inconsistent with the fundamental purpose of the justice system, which is to do justice. It is not just, in my view, for parties to be expected to endure years of litigation and expend a million dollars saving every iota of electronic data at the risk of being sanctioned in a case seeking $10,000 in damages. We seem to have lost track of the fundamental principle of proportionality that is integral to the rules of procedure, and I would hope that we can find ways to reintroduce that principle into the e-discovery equation in a more meaningful and predictable way.

Editor: What is the focus of Jones Day's e-Discovery Committee?

Ellsworth: Most importantly, it allows us to collaborate on solutions and share experiences. So many of these issues really turn on what happens in real time - with real people and real systems - and there is no analytical substitute for the practical experience we can marshal and turn into collective wisdom for the benefit of our clients.

Please email the interviewee at lellsworth@jonesday.com with questions about this interview.