Fennemore’s Chief Talent Officer: Ensuring a diversity of thoughts and voices helps us better serve our clients

Fennemore’s Chief Talent Officer: Ensuring a diversity of thoughts and voices helps us better serve our clients

Although he’s a lawyer working in the areas of natural resources and real estate, Bob Kramer, is perhaps best known for his work in our firm’s C-Suite as its Chief Talent Officer where he oversees attorney recruitment, professional development, onboarding and retention. He’s also a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion, and works on many initiatives in support of this important part of Fennemore’s unique culture.

Post-pandemic, as the legal industry continues to change and evolve, we had the pleasure of talking with Bob about the next generation of legal talent entering the profession, as well as his life in the law.

You play a unique role in our firm. You’re an attorney, and also our Chief Talent Officer. Talk about the current state of lawyer recruitment where some AmLaw 100 firms are offering brand new associates 200K starting salaries (CRAZY!), and hybrid working assignments (both on-site and remote) seem to be the new normal in the legal profession.

Lawyer recruitment is crazier than ever before, particularly given the salary adjustments at the AmLaw100 firms and demand for work place flexibility. Law firms that do not stay on top of these issues will find themselves potentially losing top talent with top quality legal talent migrating to the firms that are most willing to work with them on workplace flexibility.

Many in the industry doubted that attorneys would remain productive working outside the office, and attorneys at least in our firm demonstrated that they were just as productive, if not more productive working outside the office. Workplace flexibility is going to be key for years to come. Our own experience is that attorneys want flexibility, and will go to places that provide it, and steer clear of places that are inflexible.

You spearheaded Fennemore’s ASU Law Scholarship & Fellowship program. Why is diversity in the law so important to you and your team?

Diversity in meeting rooms makes for better decisions. We all bring a unique perspective to the room, and ensuring a diversity of thoughts and voices helps us better serve our clients, who themselves are diverse and have customers and decision-makers who are diverse. As a profession, we need to strive for law school graduates who combined, reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

Our current crop of 2021 summer associates are in-house until the end of July. Give us your thoughts on these bright, young individuals.

The quality of law students who are attracted to our firm is at an all time high. ] often joke with more than a hint of truth that I am not sure I would even have gotten selected to interview at our firm now with my credentials at the time. We are finding the best and brightest who are also well-rounded individuals. Our current group of summer associates is no exception–top of their law school classes, excellent writers, great communicators, and incredibly driven. A group like we have now provides great promise for the future of our firm.

What advice would you give our summer associates – or your younger self in law school?

That is a big question! In terms of law school itself, I would say enjoy the ride. Looking back, law school was grueling at times, but also one of the favorite times of my life.

Take classes that interest you, including small seminars if offered. In terms of life after law school, I would suggest that law students really take time to research and learn as much as they can about potential employers. The bright shiny object called “starting salary” is only one part of the picture. Ask questions about things like how important decisions are made in the firm. Ask questions about how transparent the firm is to attorneys and non-attorneys alike. Ask about retention and turnover. Ask yourself if you can you see yourself practicing with these attorneys for your entire career.

What sets a Fennemore attorney apart from the competition? And after many years of recruiting – both on-campus and remotely – what are the qualities that make a candidate a must-hire?

There are qualities that every law firm looks for in potential candidates: solid credentials, good interviewing skills, intelligence and the like are all a given.

We seek candidates who have all of that, but also show initiative, are collaborative and care. The best new attorneys have a “fire in the belly” that becomes apparent during the interviewing process; show a willingness to contribute in any way possible; and do not necessarily stop at answering a question, but strive both to answer the question and solve problems.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? How did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

There are so many, both professionally and personally, that it is hard to single out any one of them out as the biggest. Any failure results in a fork in the road—you can either harp on it and beat yourself up, or consider it an opportunity to learn and improve.

I still remind myself that it is ok to fail, just not intentionally, and not to be so hard on myself. I lived a long life not being kind to myself, and am still a work in progress in that regard. I have learned to give myself a “mourning period” for a failure (usually a few hours or maybe a day), and then say to myself, “ its time to move forward and carry on.”

Who is your hero? Or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

My heroes honestly are my daughter, son and daughter-in-law. Individually and collectively they teach me on a daily basis how to be a better person, and I want to be a better person for them, someone they are proud of. I am not sure how they got so wise at such young ages. I have had so many amazing professional mentors that I can not possibly single out one or even several amazing colleagues who impacted my career in a positive way.

What are you currently listening to, reading, and watching or streaming?

I am always listening to music throughout the day and my tastes are all across the board. Alexa is in almost every room of my house. I surprise many people that given my age I like everything from “boy bands” like the Backstreet Boys, to classic rap like Big Sean, to classic rock like Rod Stewart, to jazz like Dave Koz. I do not like silence. I think better when distracted by music.

Reading for pleasure, yeah not something I do. I have not read a book for pleasure in thirty plus years other than Dr. Seuss to my kids.

When I watch television, it is almost always live sporting events (I never miss an Ohio State football game and rarely miss a Dodger baseball game) or silly mindless sitcoms like Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men. The best television ever in my opinion is season one of The Wire.

During the depths of stay at home during the pandemic, I watched all episodes and seasons of Animal Kingdom, and I am excited for the new season to come out in a couple of weeks.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of advice that you were ever given?

Best advice is easily be kind to yourself. Be accountable, but kind. The second best was from my dad—give everything you do your best, so there are no regrets. If you gave it your best and failed or came in last, that is OK. I am not sure I ever got bad advice, certainly nothing memorable.

Okay, you’re throwing a lavish, in-person, post-pandemic dinner party. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you would invite.

It’s funny to think of myself throwing a lavish dinner party, but I would love to invite Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth and Jesus.  It would have to be catered. I only cook for my dog, Liv.

Here’s to Bob Kramer, and all of our attorneys and allied legal professionals who make our firm – and the legal profession – a better place in which to live, work and grow through their passionate vision and dedicated efforts.

If you’re a student, attorney or allied legal professional looking for a new opportunity, we’d really like to connect with you. To start your Fennemore adventure, please visit our careers page.