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Steven Ryan
Steven Ryan, who practices in banking and finance, capital markets and real estate, said the merger expanded product offerings and improved client service while avoiding “coastal pricing.” (Submitted photo)

Breaking the Ice: Taft partner says merger ensures firm’s success

Name: Steven Ryan

Title: Partner-in-charge, Taft’s Minneapolis office

Education: B.B.A., University of Wisconsin; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School

Steven Ryan, partner-in-charge of Taft’s Minneapolis office, said the “courage to change” was behind the decision to combine the former Briggs and Morgan with the Taft firm in the merger that took effect at the start of this year.

Ryan, previously Briggs’ managing partner, said the firm’s leadership recognized five years before merging that it needed to reposition itself to continue to serve its upper middle market corporate clients, including Xcel Energy, the Minnesota Twins, the Pohlad family and the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’m confident that that has ensured the longer term success and sustainability of the firm,” Ryan said of combining Brigg’s 140 attorneys to create in Taft a firm with 620 attorneys in Chicago and other major Midwest cities.

Ryan, who practices in banking and finance, capital markets and real estate, said the merger expanded product offerings and improved client service while avoiding “coastal pricing.”

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Introduce yourself. From there we’ll have plenty to talk about.

Q: Why did you study law and pursue it as a career?

A: I studied business and finance as an undergraduate and expected to wind up in business school with an MBA. But law school appealed to my love of writing and argument. When it dawned on me that a legal career could pull all of these interests together I signed up to take the LSAT and never looked back.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: The one that is literally on my bedside table is Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” My older daughter fell in love with Russian literature in high school and I’ve been working to catch up with her every since. Also, Andrew Roberts’ biography “Churchill: Walking with Destiny.”

Q: What’s a pet peeve of yours?

A: Grammatical and punctuation errors.

Q: What do you like best about your work?

A: I like working collaboratively with my clients and my colleagues to find creative ways to solve difficult problems.

Q: What do you least like about it?

A: Time sheets.

Q: What do you like doing away from work?

A: We really enjoy spending time at our lake cabin near Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin with my wife and our six children who are ages 10 to 21 and our two dogs.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do there?

A: I grew up in Milwaukee so I’d take you to an authentic Wisconsin fish fry. We’d drink brandy manhattans at the Red Mill Inn near where I grew up. If you really wanted the full experience we would go duckpin bowling at Koz’s Mini Bowl in south Milwaukee. That’d be the true Milwaukee experience.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you most admire—and why?

A: The greatest negotiator of all time was Abraham Lincoln. He spent 25 years riding the circuit practicing law before the country asked him to lead it through the most challenging time in its history. Those negotiating and compromise skills were remarkable.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: This is really important to me. I think there’s a misconception that the law is just a business and not a profession any more. The attorneys I work with take ethical obligations seriously, they mentor those who are new to the profession and they give back to their communities. It’s a mistake to think that law is just a business. It’s still a profession.

Q: What’s your favorite depiction of the law or the legal profession in popular culture?

A: The show I do really like is “Blue Bloods,” that series with Tom Selleck. Bridget Moynahan’s character Erin Reagan, who is the district attorney, she comes from a family of New York City police officers but it draws out in the family dynamic all of the complications and difficulties of administering justice. That’s a depiction that’s really fascinating.

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