Editor: Would you tell us about your background?
Rawson: Cleveland is my home town. Following four years at Princeton, I had an opportunity to attend Oxford and then finished up at Harvard Law School. I started my practice in Jones Day's Washington, DC office after law school and then came to the Cleveland office in 1973. I have been here ever since.
Editor: In this day and age, it is unusual for someone to spend an entire career at one law firm. Do you have any thoughts about the mobility of people in the profession today?
Rawson: There is no question but that things have changed in this regard since I graduated from law school. I came to Jones Day with the expectation that I would learn the practice of law from a group of very fine people and fine professionals, and that the firm would be a place in which to build a practice of my own over an entire career. Both of these expectations have come to pass. Many - although not all - young people coming out of law school today have a more complex set of expectations. Very often they look at their first job as just that, a job that is going to lead to other opportunities - with other law firms, with government or in the corporate world - and while there may be certain advantages to such mobility, I think that some of the benefits and values of institutional loyalty which I have appreciated over the course of my career may be at risk.
Editor: Please tell us about your practice. How has it evolved over the years?
Rawson: As I said, I began my career in the firm's Washington office, where I was engaged in government contract and regulatory work. I also did some general litigation. When I returned to Cleveland, I gravitated to antitrust work in the context of litigation. I have enjoyed dealing with antitrust issues since the mid-70s. The firm's transactional antitrust practice has gravitated to the Washington office since the passage of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, but the litigation side of the antitrust work continues here in Cleveland (and other firm offices), and that has received most of my attention.
Editor: Jones Day's Cleveland origins go back over a century. Can you tell us something about the firm's history?
Rawson: The firm was founded as Blandin & Rice in Cleveland in 1893, and we remained a Cleveland firm exclusively until 1946, when the Washington office was opened. In 1967, that office merged with Pogue & Neal, which represented substantial growth for the firm. A Los Angeles office followed, and that represented a conscious effort on the part of a farsighted management to begin the move toward national law firm status. In 1981, we opened an office in Dallas, and in 1986, we merged with the New York firm of Surrey & Morse, which gave us a presence in New York and our first overseas offices, in London, Paris and Riyadh. Later that year we opened an office in Hong Kong. Geneva and Chicago offices followed. Firm management believed that, because our clients had international interests, we would have to develop a credible international presence to continue to serve them effectively.
Editor: Today Jones Day is one of the few truly global law firms in the world. Would you tell us about this evolution?
Rawson: Our growth has been the result of a series of conscious management decisions over the years. The strategy of growth mirrored that of our clients, and it entailed deciding, in a very careful and deliberate way, to become, first, a regional firm, then a national firm and finally a global firm. We did this in response to the expectations of our clients - many of them multinational concerns or in the process of becoming multinationals - but we were careful to implement our strategy in a way that permitted us to attract the very best lawyers and the most interesting kinds of work across national and international boundaries. That is what has enabled us to sustain this evolution.
Editor: What is the role of the Cleveland office in Jones Day's worldwide operations?
Rawson: Cleveland is the firm's oldest office, and it had been the largest office until January of this year, when the New York office incorporated nearly 100 lawyers from Pennie & Edmonds. I have maintained for a long time that if our business plan works, Cleveland, though it would continue to prosper, would not remain our largest office; rather, an office in one of the capital market centers, say, New York or London, would expand more substantially to meet growing demand. Nevertheless, Cleveland continues to be a major hub for the firm in the sense that many of the relationships with existing clients began in Cleveland and continue to revolve around Cleveland. In addition, the firm's fundamental infrastructure - financial services, technology and the like - is located here. The Midwest continues to be the industrial heartland of America, and the number of Fortune 500 corporations that are located in the area, which stretches from Pittsburgh to Chicago and down to Dallas and Houston, is substantial. The volume of business they carry on is simply enormous. Jones Day is in all of these cities, and as a result we have a client base that is second to none.
Editor: Is Cleveland the firm's headquarters?
Rawson: We have never had a headquarters office, but rather have thought of ourselves as one firm with co-equal offices. Until January of 2003, the firm's managing partners had always been located in Cleveland - that site is now Washington, DC - but it is just as accurate to say that the firm's headquarters is wherever the managing partner's briefcase happens to be.
Editor: Are there plans for additional growth?
Rawson: We are always planning for growth. This reflects our desire to maintain the enterprise as a full-service law firm and to respond to the needs of our clients. In recent years, for example, we have enhanced our intellectual property practice substantially by bringing IP lawyers into the firm on both the East Coast and the West Coast, as well as by opening an office in Munich, where both the German and the EU Patent Offices are located. As a result, we now offer international capability to our IP clients. We intend to grow, but in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. We are in 29 cities around the world, which means that we have representation in most of the world's important economies. But, we are not trying to be everywhere, only where there is a considered reason for our presence.
Editor: The Jones Day website describes the firm as an integrated partnership that operates as one firm worldwide. Can you elaborate on this?
Rawson: Some commentators speak of this as the "single-branded global firm" model. The firm constitutes a single partnership, a single profit center. I have as much stake in the success of our offices in Paris or Taipei as I do in the Cleveland office's success. We are organized around practice areas, so our lawyers have reporting responsibilities not merely within a particular office, but also across a worldwide practice group. In this way, we are able to draw upon the support of colleagues from all across the world, and the expertise and skills we are able to bring to bear on a particular problem are, accordingly, quite astonishing.
Editor: With so many diverse locations, the firm must have had to deal with a certain tension between uniformity - common standards of professional quality and a firmwide brand - and local autonomy and a variety of customs and practices in the delivery of legal services. How has the firm gone about handling this?
Rawson: That tension is there, to be sure. We insist on the highest standards of legal service throughout the firm, but we understand that in order to be successful in Japan, for example, we must take on some of the attributes of a Japanese legal practice - without sacrificing at all the quality we demand of Jones Day legal services. We have both Japanese-trained lawyers and U.S.-trained lawyers who are native Japanese in that office, but the Jones Day global brand is also present. I think that the larger we become, the harder we work at maintaining the firm's cultural commonality, foundation values, and the communication among the various offices. We have been very successful so far, but this is an issue which we address on an ongoing basis.
Editor: You have spoken about the firm's longstanding ties to Cleveland. Is there a risk that, in becoming a global firm, it might lose something of its identification with Cleveland?
Rawson: I would not describe it as a risk. We have a business plan which assumes substantial growth in many of our locations. Wherever we are, we hope to be identified as Jones Day, a global firm with historical roots in Cleveland. We are proud of our Midwestern roots. With respect to Cleveland itself, we continue to be the largest firm in the city by a substantial margin, and we are thought of as an important member of the Cleveland community. The fact that we have 29 offices makes us particularly attractive, I think, to the Cleveland audience we seek to address, namely that group of potential clients which itself is expanding beyond its original Cleveland base.
Editor: Would you tell us something about the firm's pro bono and civic activities in Cleveland?
Rawson: We are engaged in a wide range of pro bono activities, including habeas corpus petitions at the request of Sixth Circuit, work for the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland representing indigent people, conducting lawsuits over tenants' rights, personal bankruptcies, criminal issues, and the like. We encourage all of our lawyers to participate in these efforts. We think these activities are important in the professional development of any lawyer. They serve to enhance a lawyer's capabilities and skills, and they fulfill the firm's public service responsibilities. More importantly, these efforts help people in need, and they are the right thing to do.
On the civic side, our community involvement is substantial. Let me offer just a few examples. The public schools in Cleveland, like all urban public schools, are challenged in a variety of ways. We have adopted a school and work with the principal to provide resources, including mentoring and supervising mock trial competitions. We are engaged in mentoring at one of the grammar schools, which involves preparing fourth graders for their proficiency exams. With respect to higher education, I am currently chairing the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, an organization of 23 local colleges and universities which concentrates on exploiting our higher education assets to promote the economic development of the region.
In the arts, one of our lawyers is the immediate past president of the Cleveland Museum of Art. We have long been involved with the Cleveland Orchestra. The ties that bind Jones Day to the cultural life of the city go back to the very early days of the firm, and I think that relationship will continue to flourish in the future.
Editor: What about the future? At some point you are going to be handing over your partner-in-charge mantle to someone else. Where would you like the Cleveland office to be at that point?
Rawson: I would hope that Jones Day would be the firm of choice in Northeastern Ohio for any enterprise with a complex legal problem. I would hope that the quality of our work would continue to attract the kind of lawyers to our ranks that I have experienced during my career. There is an excellent chance, I think, that those hopes will be fulfilled.
Published June 1, 2004.