Updated March 5 at 6:05pm

Setting the tone for success at Partridge

By David Levesque
Contributing Writer
Thomas C. Eagan’s colleagues at Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP credit their chief financial officer for protecting the financial security of the law firm and creating an administration that has been responsive to economic and competitive pressures for the last 21 years. More

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A PBN SPECIAL SECTION: 2011 CFO AWARDS

Setting the tone for success at Partridge

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Thomas C. Eagan’s colleagues at Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP credit their chief financial officer for protecting the financial security of the law firm and creating an administration that has been responsive to economic and competitive pressures for the last 21 years.

Eagan’s fingerprints are on everything from ensuring the firm has the latest technology to implementing profitability analyses that dissect each of the firm’s practice areas. He has played a key role in both the physical expansion of the firm as well as its work force, which has grown from 14 to 125 members during his tenure.

“Tom has been a leader of one of the most important assets of this firm: Our prized culture,” wrote David M. Gilden, managing partner of the Providence-based firm, in an application nominating Eagan as one of Rhode Island’s top chief financial officers for 2011. “He has set the tone for being a member of the team … supporting others, guiding others, and being respectful and thoughtful about all members of the firm.”

Gilden said Eagan’s presence has been particularly invaluable over the last two years, as the firm faced tragedy and serious illness affecting members of the firm. A partner in the firm was killed in a car accident, a staff member has terminal cancer and the wife of a partner is also battling cancer.

“In each instance, Tom was the first member of the firm to contact me with suggestions for assistance for the affected individuals, including family members,” wrote Gilden. “Although he is fiscally conservative, he has always been generous in his suggestions for support of members of the firm and their families.”

The firm’s response has included arranging support and counseling services, providing meals at home, sending flowers on a weekly basis, continuation of wages and providing flexible work schedules.

Eagan is quick to credit others at the firm for the work environment.

“Everyone has a role in corporate culture,” he explained. “We’ve built a culture that fosters mutual support, creativity and teamwork, and we strive to have open communication among all members of the firm.”

He said it’s that collective mission that has helped the company stay strong in a competitive law market, especially when Partridge Snow & Hahn has offices spread out in Providence, Warwick, New Bedford and Westborough, Mass.

At the firm, Eagan is responsible for accounting, finance, personnel, technology, office space and administration.

Gilden said Eagan has juggled all of the responsibilities to near perfection.

Gilden said Eagan has been effective by not only surveying the external pressures of the market, but by constantly evaluating how the firm functions internally. He said several years ago the chief financial officer designed a profitability module for each practice area which helped identify key factors affecting profitability.

Eagan said the cost-accounting exercise helped identify pieces of the practice where more attention was needed and, in some cases, areas that needed to be eliminated or cut back.

“Yes, there were areas that we stopped doing. It is a very difficult thing for anyone to do at a professional organization, because when you have in-house work you don’t want to lose it,” he said. “You have to make the tough decisions.”

He said that couldn’t be more true than when the firm faced the start of the recession. In 2008, Eagan and other firm leaders recognized that they were staring at what would be a prolonged recession. They acted quickly by trimming expenses while keeping an eye on the big picture.

“While we were cutting costs and managing expenses, we also continued to make investments by bringing new attorneys on board and actually opening a new office in Westborough,” he said.

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