Though courtroom dramas on TV typically follow small, core groups of characters trying cases by themselves like superheroes, the fact is that law firms are much more collaborative affairs. As a result, to work in a firm is to work with support, with many firms dedicated to helping their hires advance ever-upward – and it’s this support that makes these law firms great companies to work for in Oklahoma.
Most firms, like the Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman–based Crowe & Dunlevy, offer a strong emphasis on mentoring new hires with the anticipation that they’ll stay with the firm for their whole careers, with aims to have its hires always set on a professional trajectory toward ultimately becoming shareholders. It clearly has an effect: Of more than 120 attorneys, 80 of Crowe and Dunlevy’s hires are listed in the national Best Lawyers in America network.
“There are people who have been here for 35 years,” says Melissa Bogle, manager of development at the firm GableGotwals. “People come here for their first job, and stay until it’s their last job. There’s incredible tenure here.”
The firm, with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, is an example of a much more intimate and tight-knit group than the layman may expect of a typical firm, with a total employee roster of 146 – a number that includes ownership-stake shareholders, of-counsel attorneys, associates and paralegals.
“The shareholders are the owners of the company, and of-counsel are typically attorneys who are experienced, but for whatever reason are not owners,” explains Bogle. “They may be at the end of their career and looking towards retirement, or have quite a bit of legal experience but be new to the company, and so haven’t reached shareholder status yet. And the associates are the young attorneys.”
Larger firms in Oklahoma, such as Hall Estill, which employs 120 attorneys, in addition to 120 more as paralegals and support staff, maintain a similar atmosphere while spread across the country, with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Washington D.C., and Fayetteville. Different administrative duties are spread across the offices, but each city branch shoulders a portion of the overall client work.
“We’re large for Oklahoma, and midsize nationally,” describes Lari Gulley, the Tulsa-based director of business development for Hall Estill.
The day-to-day operations at the typical law firm, large or small, are split among the client-to-attorney work, the technical work of the paralegal staff, who assist associates with ongoing cases, and administrative functions done by office workers whose jobs are to keep the whole operation afloat.
Gulley describes her firm as “a pretty flat organization” when compared to corporate structure, with shareholders who own the company and elect a board of directors, and the associates, paralegals, managers, of-counsel and legal secretaries working in tandem on the tier below.
But the size of the firm is hardly the only indicator of quality. Take, for instance, Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson – another firm with Tulsa, Norman and Oklahoma City offices that employs 43 attorneys total, including partners, of counsel and associates, 18 of whom have been officially recognized by Best Lawyers in America.