First woman to steer Jones Day Cleveland office points to its bedrock principles

When Heather Lennox earlier this year became partner-in-charge at Jones Day, she became the first woman to head the Cleveland office — but it wasn’t the first time she has made the headlines.

She made the news in 2014 for being one of three Jones Day lawyers who were successful in guiding the city of Detroit out of its $18 billion in debts, the largest municipal bankruptcy case in America.

A partner in the firm’s Business Restructuring and Reorganization Practice, Lennox has been with Jones Day for 23 years. The office is the fourth-largest by employee number, after Washington, D.C., New York and London.

Her vision for the Jones Day founding office is to maintain the vision that the firm has already set by keeping the focus on the client.

“The firm has very clear foundational values,” she says. “If you apply them at the office level, you are going to be successful. Our vision here is to dominate the high end of the legal market, be good civic citizens through involvement with the community and to provide the best service we can for our clients.”

Jones Day’s Cleveland office has more than 600 FTE employees. With that large of a staff and a reputation dating back to 1893, it’s no small job to run a tight ship.

“The challenge for a law firm, especially one of our size, is always to continually focus on making sure that every product, every service you provide your client is the consistent high quality that our firm expects our clients will anticipate,” Lennox says.

“As long as we keep doing that, and as long as we maintain and grow our relationships with our clients, that to me is the recipe for success.”

Growing relationships involves not only attending to issues of law, she says.

“It’s knowing your clients, knowing your client’s business, providing them what they need, not just as legal counselors but as business counselors, and doing it well, efficiently and consistently every time,” Lennox says. “That’s how your reputation spreads, that’s how you get your foot in the door, and with your foot in the door, that’s how you grow the business.”

Such practices are part of the storied history of Jones Day. Ranging from John D. Rockefeller to the Van Sweringen brothers, developers of the Terminal Tower, to Fortune 500 companies, the firm’s client list is a business honor roll.

Lennox says the founders set the culture and values for the firm that have carried through for more than a century.

“There are bedrock principles on how we conduct ourselves internally and with our clients,” she says. “It is important for everybody working for Jones Day to understand what the institution is and how the institution expects to perform in relation to those values.”