35 Years of Leadership: Luc Attlan, Former WLG Board Member and Business Development Committee Chair

Luc Attlan
Faegre Drinker
Former W
LG Board Member and Business Development Committee Chair

How did you first get involved with WLG, and what led you to take on a leadership position?

I became interested in the WLG early on in my legal career because I am both French and American, so I always wanted to take advantage of being bicultural in my work. Drinker had no international presence at the time so WLG seemed ideally suited to provide a platform for international relations and work, which has proven true. My first leadership role came by accident when a delegate had to cancel attending and asked me to fill in for him to lead a young partners lunch. I accepted, and at that meeting laid the seeds for what became WLG Exchange. I have since made it a career goal to forge stronger bonds among WLG firms, as the more we work together, the more business we will all refer to each other. I believe in the success of this approach as I genuinely prefer the WLG model of independent firms over that of international firms where local identity can get lost.

While serving on the Board of Directors, what did you learn about the value of the WLG network?

Serving on the board made me realize how much this network belongs to us, the delegate of its member firms. There is no magic or puppet master behind the scenes making it all possible, it’s all really in our hands and requires a lot of hard work, care, and attention. I learned how seriously all issues are taken, no matter how many or few firms are impacted by a particular question, even if just one. This is so because many of the delegates are close friends and know each other really well, so any matter involving any firm is bound to involve at least one personal relationship on the board. I’ve also learned how important our staff is, given they are the backbone of the entire organization. I appreciate them so much more, not only since I was on the board, but also from my days as chair of the business development committee.

Tell us about your own internship experience through WLG and the impact it has had on your practice.

I spent 3 months with Soulier Avocats in Lyon, France, in the Fall of 2008. This experience shaped my career and put me on the road to getting involved with the WLG in the first place. It also gave me inspiration for WLG | exchange. Last, and most importantly, it allowed me to meet and get to know Jean-Luc and Isabelle Soulier, their family, and all of the lawyers and staff at Soulier (both then and over the years). My wife, kids and even my parents know JL and Isabelle, and we’ve been close friends for more than 10 years now thanks to that experience.

You helped pioneer what is now the WLG | exchange program. While the benefits for the interns may be obvious, how does this program benefit both the sending and receiving firms as a whole?

I think the main benefit for firms that participate in WLG | exchange is the recruitment and retention of associates. Law firms are often very similar from one to the other, so students make their decisions to join firms based on the slightest of differences. I think WLG Exchange has helped tilt the balance in our favor for several lawyers already, and even if lawyers leave the firm after having participated, they do so feeling they owe the firm a debt, which is always a plus for us (especially when they go in house). Moreover, the program is inexpensive and barely impacts productivity (especially when compared to traditional internships). Lastly, I think the long-term impact will benefit all WLG firms because the percentage of lawyers touched by the program grows exponentially. Indeed, it’s not only the lawyers who participate that are impacted, but also their colleagues who are affected by their absence from the office. All lawyers in the welcoming office are also impacted, especially after repeated years of visits from lawyers from around the world.

As we reflect upon our growth during our 35th anniversary, tell us about the changes you've seen in the network during the years you have been involved.

The biggest change I have witnessed in my 11 years attending WLG conferences has been the movement from a tight group of friends that were holding the best-kept secret in town about the best firms in the world, to a tight group of friends that are no longer keeping its secret and instead doing everything it can to maximize the positive synergies from our combined strengths and independence. I don’t think we figured it all out yet, and there are certainly things we could do better. Not everything we change is always better than how things were, but overall I know we are heading in the right direction because of the quality of the delegates our organization attracts so consistently from member firms. I also have seen many major positive changes in the last few years, including during and since COVID. And the importance of our network is only going to grow in a world of continued global firm growth, zoom calls, and AI – we need to know the person we are talking to across the world is someone we know and can really trust more than ever before.