After nearly 22 years of practice as a securities lawyer and almost 13 years at Denver’s Holland & Hart LLP, Lucy Schlauch Stark ('98) was promoted to managing partner of the firm on Jan. 1, 2020.
Holland & Hart’s elected management committee selected her for the role last fall. "Our prior managing partner [Tom O’Donnell] was in the job for 11 years," she said. "Fortunately for me, he is still around and has been a great resource."
Today, Stark is navigating her new position amidst a global pandemic, having recently implemented a rapid, effective transition to a large-scale remote operation.
"The past few months have been the busiest of my career," Stark said. "I’ve been busy as a practicing lawyer as well as the managing partner trying to manage through an unprecedented time." As a securities lawyer, Stark works closely with clients to help them figure out how to disclose the risks their companies face in the midst of this unprecedented uncertainty.
Stark had an essential hand in managing the transition from in-person to remote work under COVID-19. "In about a week we had 900 people working remotely," she said.
Her role as managing partner has also taken rare form under the pandemic. "COVID-19 has been all-encompassing for the past two months," she said. "Most of the time, being a managing partner is completely different than what I’m dealing with now."
Stark has spent much of her time getting the workforce out of the office as well as now determining how to let them safely return. "Being a managing partner at Holland & Hart is a lot of logistics and a lot of judgment calls," she said. "I’ve learned a great deal about all of the essential functioning of a law firm that most practicing lawyers are happy to have in the background. For example, I’ve had to learn a lot about where our data is stored and on which cloud," she laughed. "It has been an absolutely fascinating challenge."
Stark is in regular communication with both the administrative partners and practice group leaders who run Holland & Hart’s 12 offices and seven practice groups. She also meets with her management committee several times a week.
"Communication is critical," she said. "We are trying to understand what risks we’re facing and what issues people need to have dealt with in a time that nobody has dealt with any of these things before." Stark said that people sometimes ask her what it was like during the 2008 recession, but to her, the past doesn’t matter. "That is barely relevant. This event is a completely different set of issues that we’re trying to manage through," she said.
According to Stark, the new, remote face of the legal practice is here to stay. "I don’t think that law firms are going to be in a huge rush to get people back in the office," she said. "We have the luxury of not being a retail store or a restaurant where we can’t make revenue or serve our clients without being in the office." Even after the states start to open, Stark believes these methods will stay in place. "People have been efficient and able to work from home, and that’s going to dramatically change the legal profession."
Technology has been crucial in managing these changes. "We are using WebEx so that people can see each other’s faces and constantly talking to ensure we are staying on top of client and technology issues," she said.
Stark also recognizes the importance of checking in with her employees amidst these uncertain times. "The mental health of lawyers and our staff is also critically important," she said. "It’s hard for people." Regular video calls have helped with maintaining those necessary human connections.
As for Stark’s personal life, she has been quarantining with her family in their cabin outside of Granby, Colorado. "We came here at the beginning of March and have been here ever since," she said. "We are in the middle of nowhere and our nearest neighbor is a mile away. We don’t see very many people, so we don’t have to worry much about whether we’re going to get sick."
The tranquility of Granby has been a respite for Stark and her family. "Being surrounded by nature in this way is a blessing because it’s beautiful and peaceful," she said. Stark’s husband, Beau Stark ('95), also graduated from Colorado Law and is partner-in-charge of the Denver office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
"We’re kind of dealing with the same issues and learning from each other on how to remotely manage an office or 12,” she laughed. "But just being here and being together has been amazing."