Gina Kastel’s holiday-timed travel schedule is busier than most. Kastel, a Minneapolis-based partner at Faegre Drinker who will become the firm’s next chair beginning in April 2023, has committed to visiting all 21 of its U.S. locations by Dec. 15.
“I’ve already been to Philadelphia, Wilmington, Washington, D.C.,” Kastel said in an interview. “I’m in Chicago, I’ll be in Fort Wayne and the next couple of weeks look very, very similar as I work my way around the country.”
Kastel succeeds Tom Froehle and Andrew Kassner, who have served as co-chairs of the firm since the February 2020 combination of Drinker Biddle & Reath and Faegre Baker Daniels that formed Faegre Drinker. The firm also has locations in London and Shanghai.
“My goal for this is to listen,” Kastel said of her office tour. “I have the good fortune of working with a tremendous group of very bright and thoughtful people. The best thing that our new leadership team can do is draw on their wisdom as we plan for next year and think about priorities.”
The firm announced Kastel’s selection as chair in November.
Kastel, a member of Faegre Drinker’s executive leadership team and board, served as its integration partner after the merger. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Q: What opportunities and challenges do you anticipate addressing as Faegre Drinker’s next chair?
A: I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to build on a very strong foundation that our current co-chairs, Tom Froehle and Andy Kassner, have created. What I’d like to do is continue some great work to grow our impressive client roster, to strengthen what are already many deep client relationships and to continue to attract great talent and make sure that they find our firm a wonderful place for them in their careers.
We have successfully integrated our operations and our systems and did that in some very challenging conditions, because we merged in February of 2020 so the pandemic was upon us very quickly. The next step is to continue our people integration, and that’s going to be a top priority in the coming year. We have started to be able to get our people together, whether that was that our first all partner and principle retreat this last year or our diversity collective, which is our diverse professionals.
I suppose the challenge that we’re thinking about is one that is on the minds of many in the legal and business community, which is the uncertainty in global markets, in the economy and the potential challenges that that presents. We have a nice balance of transactional litigation and regulatory practices. What that does is give us a lot of confidence as we look forward that we are well positioned to handle any challenges that might come from the economic conditions.
Q: What does being chair of one of the country’s largest firms mean to you professionally?
A: I have had the good fortune to serve my colleagues in a number of different leadership roles, so I see this as a great honor. My hope going forward is that I will be able to focus on the things that the chair is best positioned to do, things like firm strategy, continuing to grow our firm, nurturing important relationships both within the firm and with our clients.
Q: Does serving as the firm’s chair have special or additional meaning for you as a woman in the legal profession?
A: When I joined the firm, which was then known as Faegre & Benson, in 1999, there were no women on our management committee. I can remember how excited I was when that first woman joined that committee. I’m proud of the progress that we have made in the last 20-plus years. Now our board is 50% women. Our new executive team is more than half women. At a time when we’re seeing women step away from their careers in the profession, it’s important that women who have the opportunity step up into leadership roles. It has been really gratifying to hear the excitement of our women lawyers, staff and alumni about having the first female chair at the firm.
Q: What has motivated you to pursue leadership roles in the firm?
A: From the very first day I joined the firm, our partners — lots of them over the years — have created tremendous opportunities for me to build my practice and to step into a series of really interesting leadership roles. My motivation, when I take on a role like this, is to carry that forward. I think I owe that to other people at the firm, and I see my job as ensuring that everyone who joins Faegre Drinker can have those same great experiences and opportunities.
Q: What does having a Minneapolis partner serve as the firm’s chair mean for this market?
A: We have well over a 100-year history in Minneapolis, and we’re as committed to the market today as we ever have been. Minneapolis remains our largest market by headcount. We’ve got a lot of great clients in the Twin Cities. We have an extraordinary business, educational, arts, philanthropic community in the Twin Cities. We look forward to being part of that and continuing to serve all the great organizations in the community that we’ve been serving. Part of doing that is bringing to clients that we’ve had long, deep relationships with in the Twin Cities, the greater breadth, depth, and geographic reach that we have today.
Q: As you visit other offices, what questions do you have for colleagues or what do you hope to learn from them? From clients?
A: I’m interested in what our folks think about what we should do with talent, with clients, how we can make this a great place to work. In terms of our clients, we have our ongoing and regular practice of checking in in a fairly formal way of client visits to make sure that we are getting feedback. I want to continue to listen to our clients, build relationships with key contacts there and learn more about their needs. We’re really fortunate that in Minnesota, we have a number of long and deep relationships. The more we listen, the more we can make sure that we can bring the whole firm to them to address their legal needs and support their business and organizational goals.
Correction: This article has been revised to correct the spelling of Tom Froehle’s surname.