Kasznar Leonardos is one of these law firms that have been around for decades and now define part of the Brazilian legal landscape. With a strong focus in IP, they have never ceased to evolve throughout their history. After an important spin-off and name change in 2012, the firm got a fresh start. Gabriel Leonardos and Ronaldo Gomes, both managing partners, explain how the firm is today.
Leaders League. Kasznar has a rich and long history, how has the firm dealt with the several successions it has faced?
Gabriel Leonardos. It was not an easy task. Succession and transmission from one generation to the other are difficult things to achieve. The firm had many phases: beginning in 1919, originally and until the late 1950s it was centralized in its founding partner, the American lawyer Richard P. Momsen. We had our first big change in the mid-1960s when my father's and uncles’ generation came in charge; in that moment the firm became in practice, a family-run firm, even though there were always other partners who were not from the same family. The second movement came in the early 1990s, when my cousins and I were admitted as partners in the firm and gradually took over the management. The last major development was in 2012 when we were 19 partners and our old firm was legally split in two: 15 of those partners gave birth to our current new structure, and it was on that moment that we adopted our current name. So there were three great revolutions in the firm, and history has taught us that the toughest situations always come from a lack of anticipation. The transmission of the leadership to the following generation must be initiated as soon as possible, so that succession is almost imperceptible for the client as well as inside the firm. This is one of our objectives for the next 20 years: prepare the younger members of the firm to be the future leaders. The first step towards this was to divide the equity shares of the firm more evenly between the partners, something we have already done, so that we are no longer a family-run firm. The other challenge is in fact finding and training the new generations so they become the leaders we need for tomorrow.
Leaders League. So how do you attract younger talents? What can convince them to pursue their career at Kasznar Leonardos?
Ronaldo Gomes and Gabriel Leonardos. In a nutshell: Kasznar is a great place if you want to grow professionally, develop your network, be in touch with the client and have an adequate compensation. We make sure everyone, from the managing partner to the freshly recruited lawyer, has a stake in our bonus plan. We have built an incentive policy based on a mix of client credit and job credit. Anyone that shows pro-activity and good results is eligible to a boost in compensation.
We are constantly trying to improve our system. We regularly run internal researches to see how employees perceive the company. Last time, the results show that people are happy to be here because they are proud to be part of a renowned firm that is a reference for quality and service in its field. Here they find the structure and organization they need to make the most of their potential. They know they teamed up with one of the best firms in Brazil, one that masters all technical patent fields, has an acclaimed litigation practice, works in several different languages and one that shows recognition to their dedication. They know they will have the opportunity to climb the ladder of the firm, maybe eventually become partner and, as time passes, come to the board. The company is 100% open on this matter.
Leaders League. What makes Kasznar Leonardos distinctive in the field of Intellectual Property?
G. L. Expertise in patents what strongly characterizes an intellectual property firm like Kasznar. Although this service is small in Brazil, we are one of the three most prominent players. In the US there are 500,000 patent applications per year, in Brazil there are 32,000, and from this number only 4,000 are from Brazilian companies. Brazil is the 7th country in the world in GDP and 26th in generating patents. Therefore, there are few firms that work with patents and even less that deal with searches, writing FTOs, drafting and prosecution, which is the most technical part. I believe this is one of the reasons why we stand out; we have one of the best technical teams. We have offices in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Porto Alegre. Altogether, there are approximately 200 people; half of them work with Patents while the other half focus on Trademarks, Litigation & Licensing.
Leaders League. What about trademark?
G. L. Most of our trademark attorneys studied Law, although they do not act before the Courts: the litigation work is done by litigation lawyers. The work with trademarks requires general knowledge, talent for languages, creativity to help clients see what their problems are. Some of our trademark attorneys also have a degree in languages, which is ideal because they have to deal with international issues most of the time.
Leaders League. Do you consider lateral hiring a good way to grow the company?
R. G. Lateral hiring is a very rare thing at Kasznar. This year we hired senior lawyer from another specialized firm, but we had not done this for years. It is not that we are not open; it is just a matter of sharing the same culture and values. Our profession is quite unique; and here at Kasznar we have developed a specific way to recruit & train our team, which makes lateral hiring a difficult task. We hired this new lawyer because we were looking for specific expertise and a precise profile, and we are confident that she will adapt and fit in with our culture, as she had 15 years of experience in two other good-sized firms.
Leaders League. What is the process to become a partner?
G. L. That is not predetermined; we do not have a rigid rule on this point. We know for sure that no one becomes partner before reaching his or her 30s. On the other hand, if the person does not become a partner before his 40s, that might mean that he does not meet the specific requirements. Becoming a partner does not only imply being a great lawyer; you have to be able to attract and keep clients, be a team-leader and be able to cooperate in the managing of the firm.
Thomas Di Benedetto