Issue: September/October 2012
Best Places to Work: Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff
Life Lessons From ... Ira Kaplan, Managing Partner
Ira Kaplan is feeling optimistic. Despite the economy, business at Benesch has been “unbelievable” for the past couple of years. That hot streak could be related to the firm’s active growth philosophy in which Kaplan has embraced opportunities to add lawyers and offices. In 2010, Benesch combined with Indianapolis’ Dann Pecar firm, upping its attorney count by 20 percent. That kind of growth may cause friction at other firms, but Kaplan’s not worried about getting too big. After all, this M&A lawyer has done enough deals to know that the secret to integrating a business based on people is to focus on the people.
Two first jobs:
I delivered the Cleveland Press and I painted houses.
I think it’s important to live each day thankful for what it brings and move forward. It’s on a T-shirt I have.
If I weren’t here,
I’d be playing third base for the Indians. Third base is what I played growing up; it’s a great place, a lot of balls come there and the Tribe could use a third baseman.
Ira Kaplan style?
I’d like to think it’s open and transparent in terms of who we are, where the firm is going, where it is right now and what we hope to turn it into.
No one is irreplaceable.
I recognize that different people
have different goals and aspirations and they’re not always here.
Have we lost people
we’d rather have here? Sure.
Are they in good places?
A lot of them are in great places and a lot of them are in great places that reflect well on us.
You need to pay
really close attention to making sure you can preserve as much of the culture as you can as you grow. You gotta talk about it.
You have to provide opportunities
for people to be together, to get to know each other, not only in working environments but in social environments too.
Certain things you only do once,
twice, just a few times in your life. To have the choice to spend some concentrated time with a newborn is a pretty cool thing.
There may be periods
when you’re raising a family, when working full time might not be the optimal choice. We work at making those kinds of accommodations because eventually you get an opportunity to get people back full time and you don’t want to lose them.
We’re always looking
for help from smart people to do things better. Diversity is no different.
When you have a business
that’s based upon people, it can’t all be about one person. It isn’t. It just isn’t.
I get a lot of really great counsel
from a lot of great people. You know why? Life is a lot easier that way.
Eventually someone’s gotta make the call.
Do we go in this direction or that direction?
I’m willing to do.
I ride my bike.
I view it as a solitary kind of a thing, to clear your head and just get out.
It’s emotionally difficult
for me to turn around. Loops are emotionally difficult for me. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s true.
I think we all fantasize
about business post-recession: You’re standing on a hillside with a strong wind at your back, you know, kind of a cool, strong wind at your back.
The wind was
coming at us in 2009. I don’t think there’s any wind now.
Winning is very satisfying.
It’s also transitory.
You have to absorb it
and feel good and feel good enough to do it again.
I try to read every day.
I love my Kindle.
I feel pretty good
about the city right now. I think you’re feeling an increasingly positive attitude.
You can almost touch it.
We’ve seen people
step up from different places and do things that are pretty cool and surprising. Mayor Jackson stepping up on the education plan was a really brave and forward-looking thing for a guy who’s an African-American liberal Democrat. That he’s getting support from the governor, who’s about as opposite on the political spectrum as you can possibly be, is pretty phenomenal.
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