What is your area of practice?
I practice in Corporate and M&A. I help my clients navigate legal and business issues as they start and operate their companies, and as they grow through mergers and acquisitions.
How long have you been with your firm, and how long have you been managing partner?
I joined the firm in 1983 – how did 35 years go so fast? – and have been managing partner since 2001.
How would you describe your law firm’s mission?
We are not your traditional law firm, or traditional lawyers. We help clients thrive and advance their businesses using creative approaches. In addition to solving the specific problem at hand, we also think long-term as true business advisors to help our clients move their businesses forward.
What is your firm’s greatest strength?
Any firm that doesn’t say its people are its greatest strength is doing something wrong. A law firm should be a collection of people who work together to serve their clients and help them achieve their goals. We have driven, passionate folks who make our firm great. We focus on growing organically, from the ground up, and all of our lawyers are taught that “good enough” isn’t.
What is unique about your firm’s culture? What sets you apart?
Where I think we stand out is that our firm culture really does hold us together. We like to work hard and have fun doing it. We emphasize teamwork and respect. Every member of the firm, from our messengers to the managing partner, are important members of the team. Our competition is external, not internal.
As a managing partner, what trends in management do you see as most likely to lead to a substantive change in the legal profession?
Generational differences have long been a challenge for law firm management. Every year a new crop of young lawyers – and future business owners – graduates with different priorities, methods, and skills from those who came before. Technological advances, remote access, flexible work hours and greater emphasis on diversity are changing the legal profession every day. Firm management has to adapt and embrace these changes in order to thrive.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities the legal profession will face over the next five years?
I believe challenges and opportunities always go together so we cannot look at one without the other. We’ve seen incredible technological advances in recent years, but they raise questions we never thought of before. We are now on 24/7 because we can be, and clients expect it. While technology has allowed greater access to flexible work arrangements, and allows us to serve clients all over the world, it only takes a look at the news to see the risks to confidentiality and privacy. Lawyers today must live on that tightrope, balancing demands for information with confidentiality and our ethical obligations to protect our clients.
But that means that technology is also our greatest opportunity, too. With access to information, our clients are becoming more sophisticated in purchasing legal services, and that word – service – has become more important than ever.
The local legal community is well-known for its commitment to “giving back”. What pro bono work does your firm do that you are most proud of?
We thoroughly embrace the idea of “giving back” to our community. This involves both firm sponsored activities and encouraging our lawyers to pursue individual opportunities that are most meaningful to them. Some of the larger organizations our attorneys work with include LegalCORPS, SMRLS, Mid Minnesota Legal Aid, the Children’s Law Center, the Unemployment Compensation Pro Bono Appellate program, the Federal Pro Se Project and Habitat for Humanity. Our attorneys also represent local non-profits, both by donating legal services, and by serving on Boards. It all goes back to our firm culture – creating and supporting our community in any way we can.
Scott Dongoske is Firm President of Winthrop & Weinstine, and focuses his practice on Corporate and M&A matters. He helps clients navigate legal and business issues as they start and operate their companies, and as they grow through mergers and acquisitions.