When Tracie Crook took on her first chief operating officer position in Big Law, she said the most challenging thing coming in from the business world was having 200 bosses in the form of the firm partnership.
A decade on, she knows her way around the legal profession and is joining Toronto litigation boutique Lenczner Slaght as its new COO. The firm said it is bringing her on board to “build on and nurture the firm’s high-performing, innovative, and inclusive culture.”
“We are eager to work with Tracie to take the firm to even higher levels of performance,” said managing partner Tom Curry.
Crook was president and CEO of finance company ResMor Trust Co. before joining Global 200 firm McCarthy Tétrault in 2011, where she oversaw a multiyear restructuring project at the 600-lawyer Canadian firm. She also led the firm’s innovative MT Services division (now MT Divisions), a suite of business services to enhance its legal offerings to clients.
Crook said law firms need to constantly be looking at how technology can help provide “better service to their clients” but also be “receptive to different ways of working.” They also need to understand what client service means in terms of recruiting and retaining associates and their career growth in the red-hot job market.
The biggest adjustment she had to make when she jumped from the financial world to law was moving from a structure where everything was project managed to a place where everything was billed by the hour, she said. One of her primary challenges was pushing the law firm more in the direction of how other businesses work.
That shift included implementing more legal project management and fixed pricing, which 10 years ago was certainly not the norm in Canadian law firms.
When she left McCarthy Tétrault in late 2019, Crook said she didn’t plan to find another full-time role in or out of law. But when she was approached by the management team at Lenczner, the firm’s culture and goals resonated with her.
“When they talked about what they really want to accomplish over the next three to five years and the strategy that they have in place, I felt why wouldn’t I want to join a group that seems like an amazing family and help them be successful?”
Crooks will be responsible for operational strategy and implementation as well as the firm’s day-to-day operations. She replaces Gerry Tipold, who is retiring after serving as the firm’s COO since it first opened in 1992.
Her first priorities at Lenczner are meeting all the partners at the 80-lawyer firm; replacing its financial and matter management systems; and kicking off renovations of the firm’s downtown Toronto office.
In light of all the workplace changes resulting from COVID, Crook said the firm’s plan to expand to another floor, and the overall design of the office, has to take into account how the law firm will work in the future.