According to a study by Colliers International, a professional services firm based in Canada, it has become the norm for large law firms to seek their own in-house financial professionals. More than 70 percent of the two hundred largest law firms in the United States currently employ a chief financial officer, and that shoots up to 85 percent when one looks at the top one hundred firms.
“Lawyers tend not to be good at business and even worse when it comes to financial issues,” Michael McCready, the managing partner of McCready Law, told the ABA Journal for an article about Colliers’ study. “A CFO should be considered a necessity, not a luxury.”
Depending on the size of their firm, a CFO is often asked to provide financial reporting, handle cash management and banking activities, oversee capital allocation, and help evaluate potential opportunities for the business. Employing a financial mind in-house allows firms to pursue more data-driven decisions, especially when CFOs are willing to invest in technology to aid their efforts.
Chicago-based Vedder Price, one of the firms that ranks among the top two hundred firms in the US, has entrusted those responsibilities to Juan Cruz since 2018. Cruz joined the firm as senior manager of financial planning, analysis, and strategic projects in 2016 and was promoted to his current role as CFO just two years later.
Prior to Vedder Price, Cruz spent more than eleven years at Dentons, one of the largest law firms in the world, where he served as both director of financial planning and analysis as well as manager of financial reporting and analysis. While at Dentons, Cruz also earned his MBA from the Charles H. Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University, where he graduated with distinction.
Today, Cruz boasts nearly twenty years of experience in the finance industry: his expertise has expanded to include strategic growth, pricing structures, process improvements, key reporting, operational accounting, and finance management. At Vedder Price, the CFO oversees an accounting team, a financial planning and analysis team, a collections team, and an analytics team.
Cruz is currently working on several initiatives designed to streamline processes and help bring Vedder Price into the twenty-first century, including the implementation of cutting-edge technologies within the accounting team, a paperless initiative, and a two-and-a-half-year project centered on replacing the firm’s accounting and billing system.
Even as the CFO builds out his team and launches new initiatives, Vedder Price itself continues to expand into new markets and new regions both in the US and abroad. Cruz’s goal is to make sure his team can handle any challenge that arises as a result of that growth. Given his experience in the industry, Cruz has likely encountered those challenges before and is always willing to step in should his team need support, but he says he tries to stay out of their way and let them learn how to overcome those challenges on their own.
Cruz focuses on that same willingness to learn when hiring new team members. The CFO says he’s always looking for someone who is both ready to learn and capable of challenging others to learn—in other words, someone with a new perspective or outlook. The CFO himself is always willing to engage in a conversation that might help broaden his own perspective, and he works to ensure that his team is has the diversity of experience and opinion necessary to challenge his expectations and ideas.
With such a dynamic team in place, Cruz says he will never be bored in his role as CFO. He also seeks out new experiences outside the office, indulging his love of travel whenever he can. A family man at heart, Cruz says his family and culture drive what he does every day.