Features

Russell Berger – Offit Kurman 

Innovating legal services for big firm 

Someone might wonder why a law firm might need its own in-house general counsel, what with the organization being led by attorneys with decades of combined legal experience and a team of junior and senior lawyers providing counsel when necessary.  

Russell Berger | General Counsel | Offit Kurman 

Russell Berger | General Counsel | Offit Kurman

But as Offit Kurman’s general counsel, Russell Berger is crucial in driving the firm’s legal strategy. Focusing on serving entrepreneurs and Main Street clients, Berger collaborates closely with clients to understand their business needs and goals, prioritizing partnership over traditional lawyering.  

“I think my passion for growth and dedication to client success have earned the trust and respect of colleagues and clients,” Berger tells Vanguard during an interview in April.  

Founded in 1987 in Maryland by brothers Maurice and Ted Offit and childhood friend Howard Kurman, Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing law firms in the U.S. Today, the firm has 19 offices in nine states and Washington, D.C. and employs over 280 lawyers. 

In his role, Berger spearheads initiatives to ensure smart and controlled growth for the firm. He guides the growth process strategically, balancing the responsibilities of a GC and a practicing attorney to provide valuable insights and legal expertise. Berger’s unique perspective and hands-on approach contribute to Offit Kurman’s continued success. 

Additionally, Berger is focused on expanding the functions of the GC role within the firm. He recognizes this new position’s opportunities to further strengthen the firm’s entrepreneurial spirit and mission.  

“With my background and experience, I think I am well-equipped to shape the role and showcase the firm’s dedication to serving entrepreneurs with integrity and expertise,” he says.  

Shaping legal strategy 

Berger spearheads the firm’s mission to cater specifically to entrepreneurs and Main Street clients rather than focusing solely on Wall Street interests. He collaborates closely with clients, prioritizing their business needs while navigating the complexities of the legal landscape. Berger’s approach emphasizes partnership over traditional lawyering, fostering relationships built on trust and mutual success. 

Russell Berger | General Counsel | Offit Kurman 

When it comes to embracing technology, Berger acknowledges AI’s transformative potential in revolutionizing legal practice. He believes AI can enhance efficiency and effectiveness in legal services and urges the firm to educate itself on leveraging AI smartly and safely.  

“We envision AI as a tool to streamline non-billable tasks, improve administrative processes, and ultimately enhance client service,” Berger says. “It is a resource but not a replacement.” 

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Berger is excited about the opportunities for growth and innovation. While continuing to refine internal processes, he remains committed to supporting the firm’s expansion and aiding clients in achieving their goals. As an attorney, Berger finds fulfillment in helping clients succeed, internally and externally, showing dedication to client success and growth. 

Cultivating growth 

One of the biggest challenges Berger faces in his dual role lies in time management. Juggling the responsibilities of providing legal counsel to the firm while attending to client matters demands a delicate balance. However, Berger navigates this challenge adeptly, leveraging the support of a skilled team of attorneys across various practice areas. 

Berger believes fostering a growth and development culture among young attorneys is crucial. Recognizing that growth is intrinsic to the firm’s DNA, Berger and his team are committed to providing a platform for emerging legal talents to flourish. The firm’s Origination Culture program empowers young attorneys to hone their business development skills and cultivate lasting client relationships. 

Despite the multifaceted nature of his role, Berger finds fulfillment in the consequential nature of his work. Building meaningful partnerships, internally and externally, and witnessing their success remains a driving force for Berger.  

“Identifying blind spots throughout my career has been challenging. But with the support of mentors and colleagues, I’ve navigated these challenges,” he says.  

From private practice to GC 

Berger’s journey to success in the legal field is fueled by his passion for the law. Armed with a degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University and a J.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, he started his career in private practice. Spending four formative years at Eccleston & Wolf, Berger garnered invaluable experience across various legal domains. 

In November 2011, Berger made a significant career move by joining Offit Kurman’s labor and employment practice group. By July 2015, Berger ascended to the role of principal at Offit Kurman. This elevation underscored his invaluable contributions and growing influence within the legal sphere. His trajectory toward leadership positions within the firm was evident, setting the stage for even greater achievements.  

His dedication and expertise soon propelled him to the position of practice group leader, where he demonstrated exceptional leadership for nearly two years. During this tenure, Berger’s strategic insights and commitment to excellence laid the foundation for his continued advancement within the firm, where he subsequently was named a Department Chair responsible for overseeing six practice groups. 

In August 2023, Berger’s journey came full circle with his appointment as General Counsel at Offit Kurman. This significant milestone symbolized years of hard work, dedication, and an unyielding pursuit of excellence.  

“While I appreciate the firm’s confidence in putting me in this role, I know there is plenty of work still to do,” he says. “I look forward to it.” 

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: June 12, 2024

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