Madeline Cahill-Boley is an enthusiastic proponent of mid-sized law firms.
She believes they can deliver superior service at an affordable rate for clients, and compete with law firms of any size.
This year, from books to speaking engagements, Cahill-Boley – the managing partner of San Diego-based business law firm Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel – spent much of her time extolling the virtues of such firms in a changing legal landscape.
"She's a mover and a shaker here and outside the firm," said James Hill, a founding member of Sullivan Hill. "She's an incredibly dynamic person."
This year, Cahill-Boley co-authored a book for the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) on enhancing the value of outside counsel.
The book, commissioned as part of the ACC's value challenge, was especially tailored to help small legal departments thrive.
Earlier this year, she spoke at a conference in New York in which thought leaders gathered to address the transformation of the legal industry, like alternative fee arrangements. A highlight, she said, was getting to collaborate with Susan Hackett, former general counsel for the ACC.
"I was able to bring back to my own firm access to information that is out there," she said, adding that the biggest takeaway was "understanding that law firms must analyze, assess and articulate its cost to serve for its clients."
Cahill-Boley, one of only two female managing partners of firms with 25-plus attorneys in California, also was nominated for San Diego Magazine's 2012 Woman of the Year award.
Sullivan Hill has expanded its roster of shareholders under her leadership, which is no easy feat given the current environment.
"We're healthy and profitable, which in today's economy that's a great accomplishment," she said. "Given the implosion of firms in California, we continue to grow and stay healthy.
"We want to continue to attract world-class clients to America's Finest City by distinguishing ourselves as a mid-sized, cost effective and world-class law firm. And do that by staying ahead of the demands of the marketplace."
The firm is an active member of Meritas, an international alliance of independent law firms, thanks to the efforts of Cahill-Boley.
"She is the principal liaison with Meritas, which is a really important relationship for the firm," Hill said. "It is a source of business in terms of referrals. And it is a source for us to send clients to outside (of California)."
Cahill-Boley still manages to successfully guide her day-to-day practice as a labor and employment lawyer as well. Many members of the firm rely on her expertise in that area.
She counsels clients on the importance of implementing sound business policies and reducing the threat of employment litigation. She also has represented numerous companies in large class wage-and-hour disputes.
"She brings to the firm the same resources she brings to clients: competence, quick response and energy," Hill said. "She's accessible and effective."
Five years ago, Cahill-Boley took part in a legal study by the Rand Corp. aimed at predicting what the landscape would look like in 2020.
She said she realized change was going to come from the periphery. She believes Sullivan Hill is making the right adaptations and can be an example for the future.
"We have the talent to be thought leaders as to what others can look to as a way to adapt to the whole new normal," Cahill-Boley said.