Case studies
Case: Mandel, Katz and Brosnan

Mandel, Katz & Brosnan (MK&B) is arguably the leading international law firm representing investment funds, hedge funds, and broker dealers in buying and selling distressed asset products. They are located in Valley Cottage, New York, London, and Singapore.
When you ask each of the partners what differentiates the firm, they all say it’s their focus on the community. That has nothing to do with the business they are in. The focus has fundamentally changed the way they work together and with clients.
MK&B's mission is to service clients with an integrated team and to invest in people by giving them both community and client-based experience. This mission grew from a gap Michael Mandel saw at a leading New York firm – caring about clients and a need to create a more favorable perception of the legal industry. As Kara Katz, the managing partner, explained, “Our success with our clients goes well beyond their needs of nickels and dimes.”
The focus is on working style, diversity of views, and contributing to the community.
In serving clients, MK&B is committed to integrating its worldwide offices and its pool of legal expertise in a unified effort to proactively, creatively, and efficiently address the needs of its clients. MK&B views this as not just solving the client’s problem but making it easier for the client and for associates. “Our solutions help people in their daily lives they don’t have to be in a specific spot to be able to do something. For example, we and our clients have a lot of mothers and fathers able to do things with their kids by having web access.”
The diversity they strive for is to bring perspective and differences together to facilitate creative solutions. It has resulted in no two people in the firm having the same profile – religion, ethnicity, birthplace, sexual orientation. . .As Kara described it, “We embraced differences as well as the eccentricities. The goal here is to encourage creativity. If you come from a different resource you have a different way of thinking. We felt it our responsibility not just to be homogeneous. We respect the differences and we succeed with the clients because of that diversity.”
The firm is currently committed to three community efforts in Rockland County, New York. One of these is the Rockland Family Shelter for abused women. MK&B’s involvement in the shelter is far ranging and includes fundraising, board membership, annual auction, art project assistance, PC donations, and pro-bono divorce work for women. When MK&B raised money for Rockland Family Shelter, its clients readily donated. Not only did the clients see a worthwhile cause, but who could resist the opportunity to dunk their favorite lawyer in a tub of water at the fair.
MK&B also takes on client-based causes. For example, when a sales person at Morgan Stanley lost 2 children to cardiomyopathy, the firm donated money and helped build awareness for the charity.
Pro-bono work and community service have become requirements for success at MK&B – 300 hours of an associate’s time, and strong references from the recipient are required to be elected partner. Each year the partners get input and then step back and prioritize the firm’s efforts for the next year.
The benefits are felt by the firm, by its clients, and by its communities. The partners all feel it brings them closer to their clients, and their clients are the people they want to go the extra mile for. Further, they find it makes a difference to the quality of the lawyers they attract.
Michael Mandel, the founder, described the internal benefit:
“Each one of these things we do as a group. It has given us a sense of community as a firm. If you can work together as a team on these efforts, you can work together as a team on anything. For weeks after we do something, there is a definite high around here.
It also helps us identify the team we will hire. One of our most important interview questions is, ‘What is one of the best things or charitable things you’ve done for someone else?’ It brings people of different origins together with common values and to be part of a team. Social responsibility is as important to us as being the best lawyer who gets the legal advice out. It is one of the best internal marketing tools we have. It puts us all together as one. It humbles us.”
Working on community projects together builds the kind of team commitment and atmosphere that the partners are targeting. One of MK&B’s clients described the benefit as, “It makes it easy for me to call them about anything. Having worked with them and shared a goal, changed the relationship.”
There is no formal measurement system in place.
Maintaining this sense of community responsibility as the firm grows. MK&B is having trouble hiring enough people who share these values.
The partners would be very interested to hear how other firms are maintaining similar values in the face of organizational growth.
When social responsibility is built into the fabric of the firm, it fundamentally changes the energy level of the people and the longevity of the client relationships.

Posted on 10/4/2007