K&L Gates Embraces Global Business Disruptors

Brand Story – The legal industry is, generally speaking, conservative and slow to change.

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A lawyer who has been trained to analyze all potential issues before making a decision is a boon to a client, but that also can develop into an inherent trait towards being risk averse and slow to adopt new innovations.

One international firm with an office in Portland, however, is ushering the legal profession into the modern age with an emphasis on flexibility, efficiency and a “disruptive” mindset that sets them apart.

Shiau Yen Chin-Dennis and Brendan Gutierrez McDonnell truly embrace the modernization of the legal industry (in fact, they were both nominated for the inaugural “Changing Lawyer” award in 2018, which honors innovation in legal practices and technology). Both have strong experience in mergers and acquisitions, and more than half of the lawyers in the Portland office work under the duo in the corporate practice area. The two of them believe that having a global plan is crucial for business survival today.

JEK 5217K&L Gates’ Portland office is one of 44 global offices spread across five continents, and is perfectly positioned next to the new Multnomah County courthouse, overlooking the Hawthorne Bridge and the Willamette River.

“Our huge asset is that we provide our clients with a giant platform of 44 offices on five continents, with up to 2,000 lawyers helping you and who all have so much experience,” says McDonnell.

Chin-Dennis says businesses that don’t embrace a global plan automatically decrease their chances of success. Fortunately, a number of Oregon’s businesses are ahead of the game, as Oregon is an exporting state — a surprising fact to most people. “We export more than we import, everything from semiconductors to grains, vegetables and fruit, footwear and apparel and more,” she says.

The  dynamic team embraces technology, including AI to review contracts, to provide their clients with highly efficient, accurate work. (A 2018 LawGeex study showed that AI contract review outperformed human lawyers in spotting risks within legal documentation.)

“Many other lawyers would try to increase the billable hours on a project because that’s the way to get paid, right?” asserts McDonnell, who acknowledges that legal efficiency might seem counterintuitive to many. “However, that’s an example of how we are business-minded. We’re trying to figure out the most efficient way to get the project done, through both technology and the right people, to hopefully deliver a better service at a lower cost and certainly not at an increased cost, which is the same mindset that a successful business needs to have.”

K&L Gates lawyers also give potential clients estimates up front, which most lawyers are reluctant to do. If the projected cost turns out to be too high for the client, they don’t give up on the relationship. Instead, they work to find a scope and budget that does make sense.

In another distinction, the Portland office was the first large law firm in Portland to be named Portland’s most diverse (in February 2017, by the Portland Business Journal), and the team just won a second diversity award from the Daily Journal of Commerce. “We are both believers that a diverse team produces better solutions and results,” says McDonnell.

Among other awards, Law360 has once again selected K&L Gates as one of the top 20 global legal powerhouses for this year. K&L Gates has also been ranked as a leader in nearly 30 practice areas in the 2019 Legal 500 United States guide.

JEK 5315K&L Gates’ team-based approach to client matters lends itself well to the office’s collaborative culture.

Companies that succeed in today’s global business world must be resilient, nimble, efficient innovators. McDonnell and Chin-Dennis say their legal team not only understands that, but reflects those values themselves. Competition and market disruption can increase rapidly in a global economy and political alliances can change overnight. Mergers and acquisitions provide real and exciting opportunities for growth — you can buy that disruptive company rather than be perturbed by it, for instance. But you need a legal partner that will thoroughly understand why your company is making the acquisition and that will design a due diligence plan to ensure that the reason you are buying the company is validated.

“For most people, these options are incredibly exciting and daunting at the same time,” says Chin-Dennis. “When you’re operating in a global marketplace, disruptions know no borders or boundaries. Our global platform and our collaborative model of efficient teamwork are uniquely qualified to help our clients enter or expand into foreign markets and successfully sell their products and services.”

Portland partner McDonnell has an accounting background, a bonus for understanding financial objectives. He previously served on the board of directors of a pharmaceutical company and as an adjunct professor of law at Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College. Portland managing partner Chin-Dennis is respected across the region as an accomplished international lawyer. She served as international corporate counsel for a global software company before joining K&L Gates.

“The more flexible and the more varied your counselors are, the more different solutions that are possible,” says Chin-Dennis. “So even though you could have a local firm working with you, if your company wants to go international, it can. That ability is in our DNA.”


Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.