Hall of Fame - Page 12 - John B. Frisch

Hall of Fame
- Page 12
John B. Frisch
‘Excellent lawyer’ made mark transforming leadership at Miles & Stockbridge and beyond


Age: 61

Born: Baltimore

Education: Dulaney High School, Dickinson College, University of Maryland School of Law

Career: Attorney at Miles & Stockbridge, where he is now chairman emeritus Civic/charitable activities: Served on various boards and commissions, including leadership roles with the Downtown Partnership, Visit Baltimore and Leadership Baltimore

Family: Married to Laurie; three children, Jim, Katie and Sarah

People would be lucky to have their spouses talk about them the way John B. Frisch does about Miles & Stockbridge. He landed a summer associate job with Miles & Stockbridge in 1982, after his second year at the University of Maryland School of Law. He’s still there, as chairman emeritus, every bit as smitten as he was 37 years ago.

“I fell in love with the people andculture almost instantly,and I continue to have a love affair with the firm,” he says. “It’s a group of folks who take their craft seriously and don’t take themselves or the firm too seriously. It’s a spirited, adventurous place.”

But it is impossible to separate the culture and values at Miles & Stockbridge from Mr. Frisch’s legacy. What sets Mr. Frisch apart is not that he had a successful career in the law, though he did.

It’s that he had a transformational career in leadership, and one that reverberates far beyond Miles&Stockbridge.

“He was always an excellent lawyer who distinguished himself right away,” says James R.

Eyler, a former Miles&Stockbridge chairman and judge who retired from the Court of Special appeals. “But what really set him apart are his people skills, the intangibles.”

Mr. Frisch saw Miles & Stockbridge’s role as solving problems in a values-driven way, and he realized that if the firm’s attorneys were going to have meaningful, human interactions with their clients, they needed to have the same kinds of relationships with each other. He devoted enormous effort to developing the firm’s lawyers’ leadership abilities so that people would advance not just because of the number of hours they bill but because of their capacity to develop and execute a vision for their clients and the firm.

“He gets really juiced up and passionate about it,” says Nancy Greene, who took over as the firm’s chair after Mr. Frisch stepped aside last year. “He’s big into self-improvement, getting others to achieve their potential, more so than budgets and dollars. Budgets and dollars are always going to work themselves out.”

Promoting diversity is central to Mr. Frisch’s vision of leadership. At Miles & Stockbridge, he instituteda version of the NFL’s “Rooney rule,” which requires that the firm interview at least one minority, woman or LGBTQ person for each opening.

He brought unconscious bias training to the firm before most peoplehad heard of the concept, and hehas sought tomake sure that women and minorities have a real voice in the firm’s leadership.

Four of the firm’s nine board members are now women, and he says the improvement in the depth and quality of board discussions is palpable.

Mr. Frisch has been equally passionate about developing leaders in the broader community.

He’s vice chair of the board for the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Leadership program, and Executive Director David Sachs says his passion and talent in developing leaders has been a great benefit not just to the organization but to the region.

He’s had a similar impact on the boards of two other big civic organizations, the Downtown Partnership and Visit Baltimore. He led both through strategic planning processes that helped the central business district recover from the Great Recession and steered the city’s tourism promotion to focus on promoting Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods, not just the Inner Harbor.

“One of John’s great attributes is the respect he has from other leaders in Baltimore City fromboth the public and private side,” Visit Baltimore Executive Director Al Hutchinson says. “People respect the work John has done. You see it in a lot of places, not just what he did at Miles & Stockbridge. He’s been concerned with improving the city.”

Mr. Frisch says when he stepped down as chairman, he had to make a choice about what to do next. He hadn’t been practicing law for many years, so he didn’t have a client base to come back to.

Instead, he followed his passion and has opened his own leadership coaching business.

“I believe deeply that leadership really matters,” Mr. Frisch says. “Leadership is an extension ofwhoyou are. More effective leaders meansmore effective people, andBaltimore needsmore effective and enlightened leadership throughout the region.”