CLM Voices: Getting to Know Dan Berman
Going from a start-up firm with seven lawyers to 24 offices and over 270 lawyers requires a clear focus and vision.
By Eric Gilkey
Going from a start-up firm with seven lawyers to 24 offices and over 270 lawyers in 22 years—all without merging or acquiring other firms—requires a clear focus and vision, something Berman and team at Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP has implemented with seeming ease.
United We Stand
Berman and his co-founding partners, David Wood, Kevin Smith, and Stephen Henning, launched the firm in 1997 with the goal of creating an innovative, supportive culture, while eliminating the internal strife, competition, and antiquated financial incentives that are commonly found in law firms. They promote a culture of teamwork and collaboration so members can focus on competing against plaintiffs’ attorneys and other firms—not one another.
Diversity in Action
“We’re proud that 44 percent of our attorneys are female, and 25 percent are from minority backgrounds. If you hire the right people, provide real opportunities, and compensate fairly, I think it happens naturally.”
Berman says data analytics and metrics have been a passion and focus going back over 10 years, when WSHB first started tracking and collecting data on cases, attorneys, and lines of business handled. Its data banks contain information on thousands of cases, which gives the firm the ability to quantify the kinds of results it can deliver without resorting to hyperbole.
Importance of Being Trial Tested
“We’re proud of our trial results, and we try the cases that need to be tried. This also gives us credibility and leverage when resolving cases.”
Training for Trial
Berman tried many cases early on in his career, both at the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office and in private practice. As a litigation firm, he believes it is crucial for WSHB’s young lawyers to get time in the courtroom, too. He and his partners actively seek opportunities for junior attorneys to chair or second-chair trials when appropriate.
Up at Night
“The question that keeps me up at night is ‘How can we continue to be innovative and stay competitive when the industry that we work in is changing faster than ever before?’”