Kelley Duke is an experienced litigator and trial attorney who chairs the litigation practice group at Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, PC. In this article, she details her experiences after being elected Board Chair of SCG Legal, a global network of 122 independent law firms strategically allied across 62 countries.
In September 2021, I was honored to be elected Board Chair of SCG Legal, a global network of 122 independent law firms strategically allied across 62 countries. The year prior, SCG onboarded a new CEO and the organization was facing all the COVID challenges, including transitioning all in-person meetings to virtual events.
Never in the history of the network had there been such extraordinary opportunities to support one another professionally and personally. Uncertainty was a constant as our individual realities were affected based on geographical location, local and global political landscapes, industry focus, and health and family circumstances. Each new challenge enabled SCG Legal to press deeper into its purpose, stretching its strengths and adapting its advantages to meet members at their needs.
When the gavel passed to me for my tenure as Chair, the world seemed to be hitting its stride in dealing with COVID. Plans were well underway for when ‘things return to normal.’ Then, Russia attacked Ukraine, an historic moment that occurred mere hours after my fellow Board members and I had interviewed—and voted to recommend for membership—the Ukrainian firm GOLAW.
Instead of introducing GOLAW to our member community as a network candidate, we pivoted and introduced their need for immediate support. Instead of talking about business matters, our attention shifted to matters of humanitarian assistance and fundraising. And SCG Legal proved once again that its greatest impact is not only on display when firms cooperate in the pursuit of business, but also when its members connect to organize the right resources at the right time for the right reasons.
This was also exemplified at the beginning of the war, when our CEO Alina Gorokhovsky, a native Ukrainian who emigrated to the U.S. with her parents at the age of nine, needed help to get her family out of Ukraine.
When the bombs began to fall on Kyiv, Alina’s cousin and his family—including an 18-month-old boy—were caught in the crosshairs. While her cousin had to stay behind as a man of eligible fighting age, Alina’s focus was on ensuring women and children were evacuated. She immediately reached out to Charles Vernon, managing partner of SCG’s Romanian-based firm Vernon | David, which embarked in an astonishing sequence of events that culminated in Alina’s family safely relocating to Bucharest. (Click here to read Alina’s own account.)
At the same time, Domanski Zakrzewski Palinka (DZP), SCG’s Polish member firm, was helping Ukrainian refugees find housing and cover basic needs, including helping GOLAW family members find places to stay in Poland. Other member firms across the network, especially in Europe, established dedicated teams to help Ukrainian refugees evacuate to safe havens around the globe. The SCG community held various fundraisers to support Ukrainian refugees—specifically women, children, and the elderly—reach safety. Even today, as the war rages on, our SCG member firms continue to provide support for Ukrainian family, friends, colleagues, and clients.
This year, SCG returned to its full schedule of in-person meetings. For most, it was the first time in two years they had seen each other face-to-face and for others it was their first time meeting. Personally, I find these ‘live’ events to be the highlight of my SCG membership. Just like with clients, there is no substitute to connecting without the barrier of a computer or a phone, and being able to look someone in the eye, shake their hand or—if welcomed—even give them a hug.
During and beyond these events, the quality of SCG’s programming and opportunities to interact in person and online continues to advance and expand. Driven by member input, SCG is nurturing dynamic situations to share best practices, cross-pollinate within practice groups, and tackle tough topics like hybrid workforce policies; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts; client service and value proposition initiatives; and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategies.
Despite many previously implausible happenings in the past two years, SCG has emerged stronger than ever. Instead of the network breaking down into ‘every firm for itself’ siloes, borders and language barriers and bumpers around client referrals fell away in communal support for the health, safety, and business interests of colleagues, clients, family, and friends.
SCG is not a group of firms loosely associated through a membership-based organization. I am proud to boast that we are truly a unified collaborative: deliberately interwoven to drive impact through shared values, which makes us a unique and incredibly powerful global community.
Our member firms represent many of the world’s leading companies in various stages, from startup to established, in a host of economic, political, and regulatory matters, offering the personal attention larger firms often promise but can seldom deliver, and typically at far more reasonable billing rates. Given the global nature of our network, there is always someone awake and available, ensuring round-the-clock access for our members and their clients to real-time best practices, critical industry intel, and cutting-edge resources. No matter the time of day or type of matter, our members are working on opportunities, challenges, and solutions—from the simple to the complex—that save time, save money, save jobs, save companies…and save lives.
As I pass the gavel to the next round of leadership, I know the organization is in good hands and headed in the right direction. It has been my honor to serve as Chair of SCG Legal, to help the network grow stronger in its membership and drive greater value through premium programming. And I know that, as I write this (and whenever you read it), an SCG member is offering the guidance and influence necessary to navigate a legal, humanitarian, political, and/or regulatory matter regardless of where the client is located or the issue of focus.
Clients often ask attorneys ‘why’ they should hire them. For members of SCG Legal, this is an easy answer: Our community—the right people at the right time for the right reasons—is our competitive advantage.
Published January 10, 2023.