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Unity in a Time of Crisis: A Message from Carlton Fields President and CEO Gary L. Sasso


Dear Friends,

We have arrived at a pivotal moment in the history of our country’s struggle to provide equal justice and open arms to black Americans. To students of history, you may be reminded of the story of Emmett Till. He was a young black teenager lynched in 1955 for talking to a white woman. Only when his mother displayed his mutilated body in an open casket did the world finally take notice of the prevailing state of affairs in this country. This helped drive important civil rights reforms.  

We have proclaimed success time and time again – with Emancipation, the adoption of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, Brown v. Board of Education, Civil Rights Legislation, and on and on. But recent events make clear that true equality in this country remains more the exception than the rule – more of a dream than reality. The manner and circumstances of George Floyd’s death, sadly, were not unique. But coming at this time, in this way, this was just too much to bear.

I reached out this week to all of our attorneys and professional staff to ask them to share their thoughts and their feelings with me about where we are in America at this time. They told me stories that broke my heart. We are all different, of course, and prejudice and cruelty have not been reserved for black Americans, but our country has an especially long and troubled history between our “white” and “black” people, and we are still not in a good place. My black friends and colleagues carry the pain, the scars, and the burden of being treated all too often like criminals, thugs, and inferior life forms merely for existing or for being present where very few blacks are seen—or welcome. All black parents must prepare their sons and daughters for the inevitability of being stopped, interrogated, frisked, handcuffed, or worse, without cause. Is this equality, America? Is this okay? This is most definitely not okay.  This is not how anybody deserves to live, let alone any citizen of our country. This is not how any of us would want to live.

We can and must talk about law reform, government programs, legislation, and other means to address this injustice. Some of us can, should, and will contribute to institutional reform. We have been engaged in this as a law firm, and we have rededicated ourselves to continuing to do our part. But more than this, each of us holds the key in our own hands and hearts to making the biggest difference. We hold the key to love and hate. The choice is ours. This is not even a close call.

– Gary Sasso, President and CEO

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We view the world from our clients’ perspectives, helping them to lead and innovate across industries and around the globe. Because legal challenges do not exist in a vacuum, we craft tailored solutions that prioritize our clients’ overall business goals. Our focus is on building long-term collaborative relationships, and we are ranked among the nation’s most collaborative law firms by BTI Consulting Group.
Collaboration is also an important aspect of our internal culture. Our attorneys, consultants, and staff work as teams to bring forth the most creative responses to challenges and opportunities. We have created a workplace that rewards good ideas sourced from diverse thinkers. As a result, our clients benefit.
We strive to be valued advisers, and our unusual business model reflects that mindset. Instead of employing the common “pyramid model” where numerous junior lawyers support the efforts of relatively few shareholders, at Carlton Fields shareholders outnumber associates. This arrangement benefits our lawyers as well as our clients, giving them the advantage of working with legal teams particularly suited to their needs and best able to provide value.

Gary L. Sasso, President and CEO

Gary L. Sasso

President and CEO

Carlton Fields offers its clients, its professionals, and all of its employees a preferred alternative to the experience they might have with any other law firm in important ways. We do not seek to emulate other firms; we strive to outperform them. We do not like to talk about innovation. We like to do it.

An independent consulting firm, AdvanceLaw, working with numerous general counsel of major companies, recently completed and published the results of trailblazing studies that warrant our full attention. These studies concluded that law firms that are based outside major money centers perform as well as or better than the top firms in New York across a range of legal engagements, outranking the most prestigious and expensive firms by being more solutions-focused, client-service oriented, efficient and effective, and by offering superior value. Clients that default to the best-branded and most expensive firms may be basing their decisions on reputations those firms earned 15 or 20 years ago rather than today. 

The authors and participating GCs attributed these findings to the following factors. Top partners at the most profitable firms now provide less personal attention to client matters, deploying teams of less experienced associates instead to do much of the work, and driving sky-high profits from this leverage to the top. The most profitable firms place far less importance and priority on clients or engagements that firms outside the money centers highly prize; and superbly talented lawyers now often prefer to practice in firms that provide a better balance of what they seek as professionals. I discuss these studies at greater length in my article, “Clients and Lawyers Have Choices.

For good reason, these findings are leading general counsel to rethink who they hire as outside counsel even when facing the top-branded New York firms across the courtroom or conference table. We are quite confident that we can demonstrate the validity of these findings in the experience we provide to our clients and the professionals who work here.  Gary L. Sasso, President and CEO

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