A Different Approach

 A Different Approach

Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP takes root in the Tristate

Mike Boyer

For an 115-year-old law firm, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP has a decidedly entrepreneurial approach. That’s not an accident says John Mongelluzzo, partner-in-charge of the Cleveland-based law firm’s Cincinnati office.

“We believe we are very entrepreneurial,” say Mongelluzzo, a longtime Cincinnati business attorney, who was recruited by Calfee more than six and half years ago to open the firm’s Cincinnati office.

A full-service corporate law firm, Calfee has 15 attorneys and a staff of 22 in Cincinnati, part of the firm’s statewide network of 160 attorneys with offices also in Columbus and Washington, D.C. The firm’s focus is primarily on business services, business transactions, government relations, intellectual property and commercial litigation. Its clients represent a wide spectrum of private and public organizations, entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 companies, governments, and individuals.

“One of the unique things about Calfee, and honestly what attracted me here, is even though we’re not the largest law firm in the country, we think we are just about the right size,” Mongelluzzo says. “We provide topline expertise with great value for clients. And we offer a wide range of services so that our clients don’t have to seek out boutique or specialty firms.”

For example, Calfee has created a wholly owned subsidiary, Calfee Strategic Solutions, under principal Meghan Glynn, which offers corporate communications, public affairs and crisis communications.

Another offshoot is Calfee Zoning. Founded by planner and lawyer Sean Suder, Calfee Zoning consists of a multi-disciplinary team of zoning and land use consultants offering services to both local governments and property owners.

“We think they are very unique services to have, and very business friendly,” Mongelluzzo says. And both services are synergistic with Calfee’s legal practice.

“It gives the firm access to clients it might not otherwise have access to,” he says. “Many times we get to represent those clients from a legal standpoint as well.”

Founded in 1903, Calfee has developed one of the largest government relations practices in Ohio, comprised of more than a dozen attorneys. Government relations covers a range of client interactions with government from lobbying on their behalf to dealing with real estate and tax issues they may face.

Mongelluzzo says the extent of Calfee’s government relations expertise is unique for a firm of its size.

“In my experience, some of the larger law firms have government relations expertise because they have large clients who need that help. Because of the way we were established, we are active around the entire state of Ohio,” he says.

Former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is a senior counsel at Calfee. Luken is chair of the Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority (former Port Authority) and member of The Banks Working Group, which oversees the riverfront development.

Mongelluzzo says Calfee’s government relations expertise stems from the late George Voinovich, former Ohio governor, U.S. senator and former Calfee partner who helped establish the firm’s Columbus office.

Another unique feature of Calfee is that it is the sole Ohio representative and a founding member of Lex Mundi, an international confederation of independent law firms, comprising 21,000 attorneys in more than 100 countries who work collaboratively to support each other.

“If I have a client who has a legal issue in the state of Wyoming, for example, I can call that firm and ask a few questions. I can even hand our client over to them if it needs to go that far and I don’t have to worry. It works so well and it’s a great source of referrals for us from other states and around the world,” says Mongelluzzo. “It’s not unusual to get a call from the Lex Mundi firm in India or China. It’s a great way to leverage local expertise around the globe.”

Mongelluzzo, who spent more than 15 years as an executive and general counsel for the former SDRC and five years as executive vice president and general counsel for MSC Software, says he was attracted to Calfee by its different approach to its culture and staffing.

“I’ve worked with law firms all around the world so I had in my mind the type of law firm I liked,” he says. “The more I learned about Calfee, its history and clients and the way it operates, I found it unique in some ways and great fit in the Cincinnati market.”