Ben Feuer is the chairman of the California Appellate Law Group LLP, with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ben represents large and small businesses in bet-the-company commercial appeals in the California appellate courts and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ben also represents individuals involved in prosecuting and defending civil appeals ranging from major real estate controversies to multimillion-dollar tort actions to high-net-worth family law disputes to novel questions of constitutional law.
Ben graduated at the top of his class from the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, where he was an editor of the Law Review, argued for the national moot court team, and published an article in the Northwestern Law Review on free speech and election law. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Trinity College in Connecticut.
Nick Gaffney (NG): What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer?
Ben Feuer (BF): After college, I was offered a job apprenticing for an antiquarian book dealer. Had I not already applied to law school, it would have been intriguing—he promised a lot of business trips to Europe, and to send me back to school to become an expert in Latin and Greek. Even so, I’m pretty happy with how things worked out.
NG: Name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader. Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
BF: I clerked for a judge who demanded absolute excellence from his clerks, but did so with a tremendous amount of personal charm. The experience taught me that it’s possible to demand superlative performance in a legal settling without losing a positive approach or adding negative stress unnecessarily.
NG: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
BF: The best advice I’ve ever received related to managing our firm was to think carefully and seek input before making any important decision, but once the decision is made, not to second guess myself and to follow through with complete commitment.
NG: What advice would you give a new managing partner?
BF: Do not do things or allow things to be done merely because that’s how they were done in the past. Always question why things are the way they are, and think about whether they can be done better.
NG: What are the most important/difficult decisions you make as a leader of your firm?
BF: Many decisions you make are critical to the firm’s success, from whether to take on certain cases, to how to arrange compensation, to hiring and firing. Being able to sleep soundly after making those tough decisions is one of the key qualifications to be a successful firm leader.
NG: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
BF: The ability to acknowledge your own areas of weakness, so you can have others lookout for those areas for you, with the overall goal of ensuring the firm succeeds.
NG: What is the biggest challenge facing law firms today
BF: Ensuring they don’t lose focus on what makes them special in the marketplace while endeavoring to keep up with other firms.
NG: What does the legal profession need to do to improve opportunities for diverse lawyers?
BF: Our firm is very flexible in letting our attorneys work where and when they want — as long as everything is done with perfect quality and on time, I don’t care what hours our lawyers keep or whether they work from home or the beach or the office. One unexpected upside to that approach is that we have been able to attract phenomenal talent from female lawyers—our firm is now 70% female—who left the full-time practice with big firms to be able to have the personal and family lives they wanted.
NG: What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
BF: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
NG: If you could have lunch with anyone who would it be?
BF: Living, I imagine Barack Obama would be a fun conversation. Deceased, it’s hard to imagine anyone better to have a dialog with than Plato.
About the Author
Nicholas Gaffney is the founder of Zumado Public Relations in San Francisco and a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nickgaffney.