We asked Dwight Floyd, the Chief Operating Officer at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP to tell us more about his career path, what he loves most about what he does, and how the role of COO involves much more than just the dollars and cents, today’s COO means focusing on the growth opportunities of the firm and how his experience in LPM and Pricing align perfectly with those new expectations. Connect with Dwight on LinkedIn.
Tell us how you got into your field.
My career is marked with multiple changes in gears. I started out as a biologist, who then went off to law school, who went off to practice commercial litigation. But even after several years of practicing, I always had this kind of scientific, technical sort of bent that permeated my practice. I took on technology projects and looked at rules and different ways to do things, including ways to be more efficient. That got into the economic side and trying to figure out how we could be more profitable as a law firm and service our clients better. So there's been this natural evolution towards what became a knowledge management role and evolved into an LPM and Pricing role. When this opportunity opened up in Atlanta, I jumped at it because it was the total package to go to the Pricing and Value piece, which again, has naturally evolved at least the way it functions here at Eversheds Sutherland into the COO role. It touches all these different pieces across the firm.
What do you love most about what you do?
The best part of this role is the connections within the firm with other people, really smart people doing really cool stuff. It’s about bringing people together and building coalitions to get the big problem solved. That's the most fun. It’s what lawyers do every day, they try to figure out how to solve these big problems. It’s also what my science background taught me to do, and that's what we're trying to do now.
How do you handle the relationship part of your duties?
There are some stereotypes with scientists of having the luxury of being a little more insulated at times, and they can lock themselves away in the lab, lawyers really can't do that. Legal practice is still a relationship business, whether it's relationships with clients or relationships with their partners, or with other people in the firm. That may sound a little bit hokey, but that is part of what makes it fun and part of what makes it a challenge.
Speaking of challenges. What are some of the biggest challenges that are facing legal services professionals today?
The answer is a little bit different than if you'd asked me this 18 months ago. The pan pandemic has created a whole new set of challenges that none of us were really thinking about or expecting and ones that I wasn't necessarily facing in a pricing role. But now as a COO, there is a huge people challenge. How do we deal with people in hybrid situations or remote or on-site? How do we deal with vaccine requirements or testing requirements, or whatever different firms and different clients may require around COVID? Office space has always been a huge expense for law firms or for any business, but it just become just such a hot topic in terms of how we're going to deal with it going forward. How do we use what we have going into the future in a way that is a smart investment and not too rash? People and space are two really big ones. And then the other byproduct of everything that's happened, especially over these last 18 months, is the technology for businesses generally. The speed at which technology evolved and what firms are willing to do with that technology is a challenge. Not just in terms of connecting people who are in different places, but really doing things in a different way because you've been untethered from everything. So there's got to be better ways to do stuff.
Was becoming a COO where you thought your career path would lead you?
If you mean, when I was in grad school for biology did it cross my mind as I was out in the field and climbing mountains and driving four-wheel-drive trucks down forest roads? No, it never even crossed my mind. And it never really crossed my mind when I was practicing either. I thought I would just keep practicing and be one of those old lawyers who kind of never died, but kind of faded away. But as evidenced by my shifting of gears, I'm also a little bit restless at times. I like to do different things and have new challenges. And so when they've come along, I've tried to seize them and make the most of those opportunities. But no, I never really thought about the COO. I did, however, notice a trend with pricing folks and LPM folks as a whole. There has been a slow, but noticeable rise in the number of people who kind of have that background who have gone into the C-suite, whether it's in a CIO role, or a CKO kind of a role, or a COO role. I don't wanna say it's in our DNA, but the way we think about the firm's mission and when we think about problems, there's something about it that is really broad and makes it work. I come back to the broad understanding of firms, clients, firms, problems, clients problems, and being able to see those from lots of different angles. I think that's baked into the LPM approach, at least the really successful ones. They take into account that it's not just rote, it's not just a method, it really is thinking about the firm's problems and the and the client's problems and trying to figure out the right solution for them. So I think that that kind of leans in that direction. We get a really deep understanding of the firm, the clients, and those collective problems.
Do you see more firms looking at LPM and Pricing talent for future COO roles?
You'll notice there was no mention of finance or business in my background. So that is not from where I come. And so that is a different take on things. We've got a great CFO and a great accounting team that looks very closely at costs and our numbers. And I do too. We always think about those things, we think about it in terms of profitability when we were doing the Pricing and Value piece. And I think about it with the departments that report to me as CFO that we're making the best use of the resources that we have available, whether it's the dollars and cents that we have or the people resources. Does that mean that this is all about growth? I don't know. But I think it is about constant improvement, getting better at the things that we do. Spotting those opportunities, spotting those threats, which may be internal or external, and trying to make the most out of them. It’s about bringing all the people together and going in the right direction or going in the same direction to accomplish those things. That's one of the biggest things that I'm doing. And that's what I've communicated to the folks who I work with most closely, which is, we've got all these great people, all these smart people doing all these great things, but they're not necessarily doing them together. And there's nothing worse or more frustrating than everybody trying to do the right thing, and ultimately stepping all over each other in the process. So if we get a little more communication, a little more coordination, a little more effort upfront to be coordinated and efficient, I think we can make the same resources go a whole lot further and not have as many unforced errors or stumbles in the process.
What do you value most about being a member of LVN?
It's a big part of who I am, and what I know can be accomplished. I started coming to pricing conferences maybe a year or two out of practice. I saw what others were doing and what they could do. So I started figuring out ways that I could apply some of those things I was seeing and apply those in my own firm. We all do similar things, but we all have to do it in very different ways. We have to be very adaptable to our individual firms and the culture that we're within, some of which will mesh very well with and maybe some of which we won't. The LVN community allows me to lean on or ask questions of people as I was making a switch in professions or looking to go into a different firm or a different role. That's been invaluable. And as it continues to grow, with younger people coming up who are getting exposed to this for the first time, whether they're coming from practice as I did, or they're coming from accounting backgrounds, or are coming from other places. It's a very small world of people who all gather in similar places and LVN is one of those places.
What’s a fun fact or surprising fact about yourself?
Well, I already kind of gave you a little bit in that I'm a biologist. But I didn't tell you the gory details, which is that I wasn't just a biologist, I was a parasite ecologist. I studied the ecology and evolution of parasites, which meant among other things, I would go out and be in the mountains and trap ground squirrels, and marmots, and all sorts of things to study. It also meant that I got to be an expert at catching cockroaches. We had a colony of cockroaches in our lab because it was one of the study animals that was one of the hosts for the worm that we were studying. We had a colony of these cockroaches so that is my claim that I got pretty good at catching cockroaches.