Finding The Perfect Balance with Dion Cominos

When Dion Cominos started at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani (GRSM) some 37 years ago, it was a very different firm than it is today. What began as a two-lawyer operation, based out of San Francisco has grown exponentially. Now called GRSM50 – a nod to all 50 states that the firm operates within – they are an AmLaw 100 firm that’s home to over 1300 attorneys in 77 different offices.

Having spent the better part of two decades as firmwide Managing Partner, Cominos has the unique advantage of having developed a broad perspective over time to help in planning the organization’s future.

An full-time practitioner in his own right, Cominos specializes in commercial and professional liability litigation and his experience is wide and varied. Keeping current with his own practice is vital to Cominos, and something he believes is important to being an effective manager: Cominos’ ideal balance is to maintain a 50-50 split between his own practice and managing the firm.

The firm is celebrating a significant milestone this year: 50 years of being in business. While things may look dramatically different than when they started, GRSM50 is celebrating its golden anniversary by acknowledging the fundamental ethos that has served them well since their inception.

“The firm is committed not only to excellence in the performance of its services but equally to maintaining a workplace filled with collegiality, camaraderie, mutual respect and support for one another,” says Cominos.

The firm's culture and code of conduct alongside the powerful management coming from Cominos, strikes an important balance as they enter this golden next chapter.

Lawdragon: Tell us about your practice. 

Dion Cominos: My practice is relatively broad based, with a primary focus on commercial litigation and professional liability matters. Over the years, it also has encompassed a number of trials, arbitrations and appeals both domestically and internationally. In addition, I have acted as a mediator and arbitrator and I handle a fair amount of professional training and educational presentations around the country on various topics germane to litigation trends and the practice of law.    

LD: How long have you been in your position as managing partner of the firm and how has your role evolved over the years?

DC: I have been in the role since mid-2006. Over that time, GRSM has grown roughly tenfold into an AmLaw 100 firm with 77 offices and more than 1300 lawyers located in all 50 states. Although the overall management responsibilities have expanded commensurately, we also have established a robust operational infrastructure that provides regional management/oversight as well as running our various departments including Risk Management, HR, Marketing, Lateral Recruiting, Finance, etc. With all the growth taking place over the past 17-plus years, it has become more important than ever to direct attention to those areas most critical to the firm’s operations, strategic planning and execution, and this requires a constant balancing act of re-prioritizing our focus on a virtually daily basis. At times this can be hectic and challenging, but it also keeps each day fresh and filled with new adventures and opportunities.

As more and more American businesses have consolidated, so too have law firms, and we wanted to position ourselves as a national, rather than a regional, player for that reason.

LD: How do you balance practicing law and managing a 1300-lawyer firm?

DC: It has been very helpful to maintain my practice despite also having management responsibilities so that the substantive side of the business is never out of sight. Of course, doing this would not have been possible without the support of an amazing administrative team and the contributions of innumerable talented managers across the country throughout our various practice groups and offices.

In general, it works out that around 50 percent of the time is spent on management responsibilities and the other half is devoted to practicing law. However, this can vary greatly depending upon the time of year and which events are on tap at the time. For example, during compensation season, fiscal year end, or partnership retreats, the management responsibilities take a far more prominent role. However, when in the throes of trial preparation, for example, all but the most essential management tasks are placed on hold so that the necessary amount of focus can be directed to the litigation activities at hand. One of the many advantages of being at a large national firm is having abundant resources and redundancy that are available to provide backup and support if any sector of the business becomes too overloaded.

LD: The firm recently underwent a rebrand, adopting the moniker GRSM50. Can you describe to us what the rebrand entailed? How does this rebrand reflect the firm’s national footprint and approach to legal services?

DC: The rebrand serves primarily to convey the firm’s national capabilities to the marketplace by embedding our 50-state presence into the very name of the firm itself and reinforcing this concept with our logo (which incorporates a map of the USA). This serves as a constant reminder that we are the first and only firm of its kind with offices and attorneys in all 50 states. Thematically, the rebrand ties into our central mission of serving our clients’ legal needs wherever they may exist throughout the country with our seamlessly integrated operations and extremely deep and experienced bench of legal specialists. Time and again, we have witnessed the phenomenon that clients desire to work with law firms that possess the capability to handle the bulk of their legal needs throughout the country rather than attempting to piecemeal the process by trying to maintain relationships with hundreds of different smaller, regional firms.

As more and more American businesses have consolidated, so too have law firms, and we wanted to position ourselves as a national, rather than a regional, player for that reason. A key part of the GRSM50 strategy is thus tethered to the premise that clients prefer working with fewer firms overall. Those firms must encompass the bench strength and bandwidth to deliver consistently positive results wherever a need may exist, as well as having a deep knowledge and understanding of the clients’ operations, business strategies, marketplace position, litigation objectives, and preferences in terms of how to handle their legal matters.

LD: In 2024, you will be celebrating your 50-year anniversary. How has the firm changed and evolved in recent years? Are there specific milestones or achievements you are particularly proud of in the context of the firm's national presence?

DC: GRSM has changed dramatically over the course of its existence, beginning as a two-person shop in San Francisco and evolving into a national behemoth over the ensuing five decades. When I first began at the firm in 1987, we only had one office and fewer than 50 attorneys. However, as the businesses we served expanded, we felt in order for the firm to remain successful, it was imperative that we grew as well. This ultimately led to our scaling into a national, full-service firm, and we remain very proud of our pioneering efforts and successes in this regard.

GRSM’s upcoming Golden Anniversary in 2024 provides a fitting and salutary occasion to reflect upon our many achievements and accomplishments. Most importantly, our greatest pride lies in the fact that the values and traditions established by Stu Gordon and Don Rees when they started Gordon & Rees are still very much in evidence today – namely that the firm is committed not only to excellence in the performance of its services but equally to maintaining a workplace filled with collegiality, camaraderie, mutual respect and support for one another. Those core fundamental values have provided a strong foundation to build upon and have also connected each successive generation of leadership as we have grown from two to 1300 and far beyond in the years to come.