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Shapiro law firm loses a name, adds 2 others


Shapiro and Olander, a 28-year-old Baltimore law firm, has changed its name and leadership to reflect its expertise in areas ranging from bankruptcy to international trade.

Shapiro Sher & Guinot, now with 27 attorneys, will be run by an executive committee of four senior partners and a nonlegal chief operating officer, the firm said yesterday.

Those senior partners include Joel Sher, who will head bankruptcy and financial services; William Carlson, head of business; Charles Fax, head of litigation; and Luis Guinot Jr., head of international trade and commerce. All have been with the firm six to 10 years.

"In many respects, this is the direction that those of us now running the firm have on our own," Sher said yesterday. "We've all built up a core of clients in these areas."

Alan Fox, a retired U.S. Army officer and former chief of staff for the Corps of Cadets at the Military Academy at West Point, will manage and direct the firm's business operations. At West Point, he ran business services and operations in support of the student body.

By bringing in a nonlegal chief operating officer, the firm has tapped into an emerging trend in which law firms are turning to business people to handle administrative affairs, rather than relying on a managing partner and senior partners, legal experts said.

"It's very forward thinking," said Anne Neal, a principal with Williamson, Neal and Amato, a legal placement firm with offices in Baltimore and Washington. "We're seeing it with a lot of well-known national and international firms.

"They want to free up the time of the managing partner and the partners to concentrate on making money and bringing in clients and serving those clients."

When Ron Shapiro started the firm in Baltimore in 1972 as a corporate practice firm, "it was tied very much to the Baltimore community," Shapiro said.

"Those ties remain very strong, but it now recognizes that globalization is a part of what's going on in the world today. It connects those ties to a practice that stretches across the country and internationally."

The management and name changes will not change Shapiro's role with the firm. For the past six years, he has offered general business advice and counseled lawyers in corporate areas.

Shapiro is also an agent/attorney for professional athletes, including Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr., and runs the Shapiro Negotiating Institute, which presents corporate education seminars to companies based upon the principles outlined in Shapiro's book "The Power of Nice."

Though the firm will keep the Shapiro name, it will drop the Olander name.

Chris Olander, the firm's former managing partner since 1980, decided to leave law last year to go into consulting. As part of his work with the firm, Olander had been a consultant for Internet companies.

He is now executive vice president and chief Internet strategist for Quadsweb.com, a Frederick online provider of retirement plans, he said.

The firm's change in structure came out of a two-year, strategic planning process that started when Olander began planning to leave.

"They've consulted with me about the change in management" and name, Olander said. "It was mutually agreed it was a good idea, since I'm no longer practicing."

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