Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP is pleased to announce that Jill Friedman Helfman and National Black Lawyers member Adrian D. Thompson have been named co-partners-in-charge of Taft’s Cleveland office, effective Jan. 1, 2018. Helfman and Thompson will succeed Kevin D. Barnes, who has led the Taft Cleveland office since January 2013.
Taft utilizes an extensive succession planning and leadership vetting process throughout the firm. As part of that process, Helfman and Thompson were selected following Taft’s executive committee’s receipt of input from all partners in Taft’s Cleveland office.
“It became very apparent through the vetting process that we had a highly capable and qualified group of candidates. Based on all of the feedback and the realization that we had so much talent among the candidates, the executive committee reached a strong consensus to move to a co-partner-in-charge structure in Cleveland. Jill and Adrian are the right people at the right time for this important leadership role,” said Taft’s Chairman and Managing Partner Robert J. Hicks.
Taft is placing greater emphasis on working in teams throughout the firm. Teams are proven to be more effective and deliver better results for Taft clients. Helfman and Thompson have complementary skillsets and a highly collaborative working relationship, which factored into the decision-making process. Taft’s Chicago office also has a co-leadership structure in place for many of the same reasons.
Key priorities in Cleveland will include pursuing future growth opportunities, continuing to provide clients with innovative legal solutions, delivering on the firm’s commitment to being an employer of choice, and improving the firm’s culture of diversity, inclusion and work-life balance.
During Barnes’ tenure as the Cleveland partner-in-charge, the office space was completely renovated to create a more team-oriented work environment and to enhance client service. Barnes also expanded the number of associates to help serve the growing client needs in finance and litigation. During the balance of the year, he will work with his successors to ensure a smooth and orderly transition. Barnes will continue his full-time practice of law focused on finance, international transactions and business counseling.
“Both Jill and Adrian have been tireless leaders of the firm and are well respected within the legal community and in the greater Cleveland area. Their collaborative nature will continue Taft Cleveland’s strong momentum,” Barnes said.
Helfman joined the firm in 2001 and serves as the chair of the firm’s domestic relations practice group and is a long-standing member of the firm’s participation committee, which sets attorney compensation. Her legal experience includes analysis and litigation of complex business valuation, property division and tax issues, and tax considerations involved in the payment and receipt of spousal support. She regularly represents high-profile clients, business owners, and individuals with significant family wealth in a confidential manner to support their interests. Certified by The Ohio State Bar Association Family Law Specialty Board as a specialist in the field of Family Law in Ohio, she is a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and served as the president of the Ohio Chapter. Some of her accolades include Best Lawyers in America (Lawyer of the Year), Ohio’s Top 50 of Super Lawyers, and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
“It is an honor to represent the Cleveland office of Taft as a Co-Partner-in-Charge. I am proud of Taft’s commitment and significant progress in recognizing, recruiting and advancing not only women at the firm, but simply the best qualified attorneys to provide the best possible legal counsel to our clients. I look forward to working closely with, and empowering, our talented attorneys to provide thoughtful and creative results for our valued clients,” said Helfman.
Thompson joined the firm in 2006 and is a member of the firm’s executive committee. He also serves as Taft’s chief diversity officer and co-leads the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee. He provides counsel for private sector clients on issues including equal employment opportunity litigation, wage-hour problems, employment of the disabled and other labor matters. He also represents school districts in contract negotiations, grievance arbitration, litigation, and employment discrimination matters. He is president emeritus of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland board and is an active member of the Norman Minor Bar Association, and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, serving on the Thought Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion and Community Trust committees, as well as being one of nine Professional Conciliation panel members. He served on the Commission on the Rules of Superintendence for Ohio Courts, having been appointed by the Supreme Court of Ohio. He has been honored as a Leading Lawyer and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Education Law as well as for Labor Law in Ohio Super Lawyers.
“Jill and I, in partnership with our Cleveland attorney team, are determined to continue Taft’s mission to meet and exceed client expectations, and make a difference in the Northeast Ohio communities where we work and live. We are committed to working together as diverse teams, to provide innovative and superior legal advice and leadership. We are steadfast in our mission of being the premier law firm in Northeast Ohio, the employer of choice for members of the Taft family, and forward-thinking thought leaders in our field, today and into the future,” said Thompson.
Both Helfman and Thompson will continue active legal practices as they take on this additional leadership role.