Olander to give up control of firm

Founder to relinquish day-to-day managing to focus on consulting

Legal affairs

January 15, 1999|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Christopher D. Olander, managing partner of the Baltimore law firm of Shapiro and Olander, said yesterday that he will turn over day-to-day management of the firm to three senior partners and devote his time to a growing consulting practice.

Olander said his corporate law practice, the firm's management and his business consulting practice had become too much to handle. "I saw the collision coming," he said.

As a result, Olander, who has run the firm for 20 years, will relinquish control to senior partners Charles Fax, Joel Sher and William Carlson on Feb. 1. The move removes the 27-year-old firm's second founding partner from its management team.

Ronald M. Shapiro, the other founding partner, serves the firm in an "of-counsel" capacity, meaning he receives a fixed income as opposed to a profit share and does not work full time. Shapiro devotes much of his time to his sports management business and to the Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

Olander's move marks a huge change in management at a firm with close political ties to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who will not seek re-election this year. The firm, whose lawyers include Larry S. Gibson, the mayor's chief political strategist, has played a role in some of the Schmoke administration's highest-profile initiatives.

The firm lost four partners in 1996, including David M. Funk and Bryan D. Bolton. In November, another partner, Timothy F. McCormack, left Shapiro and Olander for Gordon, Feinblatt.

Olander said he was leaving management of the firm at a time when it has about 35 lawyers and is thriving. "Our business is exploding," he said.

It's not unusual for a firm to be managed by someone other than its founding partners -- if the partners are easing into retirement. But Olander is 50 and Shapiro is 55, Olander said.

Both partners personify a relatively new trend in law firms in which attorneys use their legal practice as a platform to expand into other businesses. "Accounting firms have done this for a long time," Olander said. "Law firms, I think, are doing more and more of it."

Olander said his consulting business, called Beyond Strategies, will bundle consulting services to mid-sized and large companies. "The consulting services will certainly involve strategic planning, but go beyond strategic planning into measurements of corporate governance," he said.

Sher said the new management team will try to build on the firm's success in bankruptcy, litigation, real estate, corporate, information technology and biotechnology practices.

"You don't try to fix something that isn't broken," said Sher, chairman of the firm's bankruptcy practice. "Chuck Fax, Bill Carlson and I recognize that all eyes will be on us over the next few months. People will want to see what we do differently. I have no doubt people will look back after a year and say they took a winning team and improved on it by every standard."

Pub Date: 1/15/99

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