Russell Gertmenian ’72
Russell Gertmenian ’72, managing partner of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Columbus, Ohio, recalls with great precision how, 40 years ago, some friends and colleagues found it odd that he decided to join Vorys rather than work for an elite New York City law firm. But in retrospect, he says, the choice provided him a wider array of experiences, and the potential to play a big role in a smaller city.
“My professional career is different than it would have been if I’d stayed in New York,” Gertmenian says. “The law firm has given me a platform to get involved in the community in a very real sense.”
Since joining Vorys, Gertmenian has served on the boards of various companies (including retailer Abercrombie & Fitch) and worked to further the goals of nonprofit organizations such as the Columbus Metropolitan Library Foundation, among others. (He has also advised family foundations and worked with the local art museum.) During that same span, the firm has grown from approximately 40 lawyers to more than 350, and Vorys has opened offices in Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, and, most recently, Houston.
When Gertmenian became managing partner of Vorys in 2007, he spent his first nine months talking with every partner at the firm—sometimes for 45 minutes, occasionally for six hours. “I had probably 120 different expectations of me,” he says.
It has not been an easy time to be a managing partner, after all, with the legal market squeezed since the economic downturn. For Gertmenian, the financial climate led to an increased focus on the firm’s sustainability and market share, rather than efforts at maximizing profits in the short-term.
Now, as he nears retirement age, Gertmenian must transition the firm to the next generation. “I’ve been here for 40 years, and I love this institution,” he says. “It matters to me.”