Law.com featured Sunstein's Managing Partner Kerry L. Timbers in a Q&A about his journey to becoming managing partner and lessons that he has learned along the way.
"How I Made Managing Partner: 'Be Accessible and Consider New and Diverse Ideas—and Also Be an Excellent Lawyer,' Says Kerry Timbers of Sunstein," can be viewed in full at this link.
Kerry, who joined Sunstein in 1988 as a first-year associate with a J.D. from Harvard Law School, focused his practice on intellectual property litigation, and became partner in 1996.
He was named Managing Partner in 2018, and he attributes that in part to his partners' recognition of his ability to identify inventive solutions for internal needs as well as cutting-edge tools in collaboration with the firm's clients.
Kerry describes his role as enthusiastically believing in the firm and its vision for the future as well as being accessible and able to listen and consider new and diverse ideas. He credits Sunstein founder Bruce D. Sunstein for having the most influential impact on his career and approach to legal work.
"I still remember interviewing with Bruce, and my clear impression of his brilliance and his warmth, both of which we all try our best to emulate. Bruce exudes genuine enthusiasm for his clients and their technology, which is the heart of what we do," added Kerry.
Name: Kerry L. Timbers
Firm: Sunstein LLP
Job title: Managing Partner
Practice area: Intellectual Property Litigation
Law school and year of graduation: Harvard Law School, 1988
How long have you been at the firm? I started here as a first-year associate in September 1988.
How long were you a partner at the firm? I have been a partner since January 1996.
1. Were you a partner at another firm before joining your present firm? If so, which one, how long were you there and when did you leave? No, I have been an attorney at my firm for my entire legal career.
No, I’ve spent my entire legal career at Sunstein.
2. What year did you make Office Managing Partner at your current firm?
In late 2018.
3. What do you think was the deciding point for the firm in making your Office Managing Partner? Was it your performance on a specific case? A personality trait? Making connections with the right people?
As an Intellectual Property law firm, our clients are in the business of finding solutions to problems, and our core focus is on protecting those solutions and our client’s brands. We strive to invent solutions internally as well, and sometimes even have the opportunity to collaborate with clients to create cutting edge tools. Our partners recognized that innovation is important to me, and that we could work together to implement a strategic plan that makes us better at everything that we do.
4. As Office Managing Partner what are your key responsibilities and what challenges do you face in your role?
Teamwork is the key to our firm’s success, so my job is looking ahead and setting the agenda. I rely on a great administrative team to “keep the trains running” in terms of the office, billing and staff, so I can focus on these efforts. Of course, the biggest challenge is staying ahead of the curve of change in our field.
5. What’s the best piece of advice you give to someone who wants to rise up the ranks to firm leadership including Office Managing Partner?
All leadership should be about service. The right Managing Partner is not necessarily someone who desires the role, but someone who understands and embraces a service mentality. The ability and dedication to think beyond an individual practice and even a practice group, and instead focus on what is best for the entire firm, and its clients, is key. A Managing Partner also has to enthusiastically believe in the firm and its vision for the future, be accessible and able to listen and consider new and diverse ideas -- and also be an excellent lawyer. Genuinely caring about people and having a sense of humor are also a big plus!
6. Who had the greatest influence in your career that helped propel you to managing partner? Please provide name, job title and a brief explanation.
I think many partners in my firm would say that our founder, Bruce Sunstein, has had the most influential impact on their careers and approach to legal work, connecting with clients, doing business development, and setting the overall tone for how we strive for excellence. He is also my greatest influence. I still remember interviewing with Bruce, and my clear impression of his brilliance and his warmth, both of which we all try our best to emulate. Bruce exudes genuine enthusiasm for his clients and their technology, which is the heart of what we do.
7. What would you tell your younger self/What I wish I knew then?
Lessons learned from mentors about how to provide excellent client service will be invaluable in the Managing Partner’s job. In addition, the role demands that you change how you think about things. Those two things together are keys to success.
8. As a Law firm leader, what impact would you like to have on your firm and/or the legal industry as a whole?
We thrive competing with much larger firms for clients and talent, and that has taught me that there is an important place for boutique law firms like ours in the legal industry. I am focused on further growing our practice, and on our vision for what the firm will be ten years from now.
9. What lessons, if any, did you learn in 2020/2021 (the core-COVID years).
Firm culture is extremely important. When people are dedicated and resilient, good teamwork coupled with flexibility can solve a lot of problems.
10. Pick Three words and/or phrases or key elements you would like to focus on for 2022.