By Emily Delzell
Looking back on nearly 90 years of providing legal services to innovative, entrepreneurial clients has given the leaders at McDonald Hopkins, a business advisory and advocacy law firm, an opportunity to reflect on what it takes to build a successful business from the ground up. Staying on top of trends and providing high-quality service is one thing, but as Shawn M. Riley, president of McDonald Hopkins, has learned, you have to be prepared to take some risks, as well.
“Set high goals for yourself, and don’t be afraid to be ambitious with where you see yourself going,” says Riley. “You’ll learn from any missteps and grow from them as much as from your successes.”
Riley says being an innovation leader is a pillar of the company’s business values. He cites the company’s Litigation Finance Practice Group, rolled out in early 2019, as an example of the firm’s commitment to offering clients creative, customized legal solutions. Under this group, an outside party can fund 80 to 90 percent of a client’s case; in return, the funder receives some proceeds from successful judgments. Riley says this is one way McDonald Hopkins—which has more than 140 attorneys in six offices in Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Florida—stands out in the legal field.
“Litigation costs for mid-level businesses can be daunting, but litigation funding allows them to pursue legal cases that would otherwise be too costly,” Riley says. “Our litigation funding attorneys educate our clients about this option and help them determine whether it’s good choice for them. If it is, we use an extensive process to match them with the best litigation funders for their particular needs.”
Riley says this allows clients to pursue legal solutions with minimal risk.
“They sacrifice some of the upside in fees to litigation funders, but they protect themselves against the downsides,” he says.
Whether it’s business restructuring, data privacy and cybersecurity issues, or intellectual property solutions, McDonald Hopkins offers a full spectrum of high-quality legal services. Attorneys work individually and together as part of 50 specialized service teams to develop customized solutions tailored to fit each client’s needs. Attorneys focus on really getting to know each individual and understanding their business and their goals. It is important they are as invested in their clients’ success as the client themselves.
“We are more than just legal advisers,” Riley says. “We are also business counselors, so we make it a point to fully understand our clients’ companies. Our legal teams might, for example, tour a facility and talk to multiple employees in different areas to better understand how a business operates and what their values and priorities are. Knowing these things allows us to see legal issues in context with the client’s objectives and corporate culture. This helps us understand and determine the best way forward.”
McDonald Hopkins’ proactive, coordinated effort to collaborate closely with clients and understand their business—from basic operations to long-term strategic planning goals—helps the firm’s experienced legal team achieve the best possible results, he says.
Culture of community involvement
Another pillar of commitment at McDonald Hopkins is community involvement. Its commitment to good corporate citizenship is evident in a range of pro bono assistance, participation on local nonprofit boards and support for charitable campaigns.
“We recognize that we’re part of our community and want to give back to it,” says Riley. “The entire firm is committed to community involvement and supporting worthwhile activities. Each of our offices identifies a particular type of activity that’s important to it. In Cleveland, our focus for the last few years has been on education.”
McDonald Hopkins teams with the Cleveland Indians in its community partnership program, which works to smooth the path to a successful future for Cleveland youth. The law firm and the Indians together support a variety of education programs, including Tribe Scholars, which rewards academic achievers in underserved schools with baseball tickets and other fun experiences. It also supports no-cost baseball and softball programs that provide uniforms, equipment, fields and coaching clinics to 3,300 local youth athletes annually.
“Most recently we have become involved with the College Now and Say Yes to Education programs, leading the effort to sign up mentors for high school students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District,” Riley says.
A strong match
For more than a decade, McDonald Hopkins has had a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with Huntington, says Riley. “Our two organizations are a good fit. The markets and customers we serve are similar and we strive for the same high level of quality and service.”