By: Thomas Sheffield
Frank Kollman loves helping his clients solve problems and run businesses, a task that is more than just telling them what the law says. And he is able to do just that as a Member at Kollman & Saucier, P.A., a firm he founded over 30 years ago. Kollman practices labor and employment law and represents a variety of businesses and trade associations.
Kollman grew up in Pleasantville, New Jersey, where his father, a baker, owned a bakeshop in the adjacent town. Kollman attended Johns Hopkins University and after a brief stint studying science, graduated with degrees in Political Science and History. That course of study led him to Syracuse University College of Law, where he graduated cum laude, and his wife, whom he married while at Johns Hopkins, worked in the law library. Though Kollman was initially interested in corporate law, during his summer clerkship at a large firm in Baltimore, the leader of the firm’s labor and employment practice encouraged him to take labor law classes. He followed that advice, and though it took some time for him to decide on employment law, he joined the firm’s labor and employment practice after graduation. He later worked for another large firm in Baltimore and then a smaller firm specializing in employment law, where he became a Partner.
However, Kollman soon realized that he wanted to work in an environment that reflected his values. So, he decided to start his own firm, and his best friend, Peter Saucier, joined him five years later. Of course, Kollman enjoys his job tremendously. He values the ability to set billing hours and control the firm’s management. But above all, Kollman relishes the opportunity to shape the culture and character of his firm. He values civility and accuracy highly and stresses that one need not be constantly hostile to be an effective advocate. Taking a cue from the 1981 movie Body Heat, he strives to use neither incompetence nor nastiness as a weapon.
Kollman, who served as an Editor of the Law Review and the Survey of New York Law, credits his Law Review experience with teaching him many of the skills he uses in furtherance of this goal. He learned the value of careful reading, editing, and accuracy, which he consistently uses to help his clients. Another important skill he learned was proofreading; in the legal world, nothing feels worse than sending a strong, well-written demand letter that begins with “gantelmen” instead of “gentlemen.” He also met one of his best friends while on Law Review, and the two remain close many years after their shared experience.
Moreover, Kollman continues to write, publish, and speak publicly. That is important to him because it helps him help his clients. For one, it necessarily keeps him abreast of new changes in labor and employment law, keeping him sharp and quick on his feet. Moreover, it helps him practice explaining things to people, a skill he uses in everything from meetings with clients to jury trials. It helps make him more responsive.
This is another point of pride for Kollman; his clients value his responsiveness. Kollman strives to do more for his clients than merely tell them what the law is, or what they can or cannot do. That is certainly important. However, to him, it is equally important that he gives good business advice. To him, lawyers should be considered overhead, a means for helping clients effectively run their businesses. That mindset is how Kollman has attracted and retained clients over the years, including one multinational corporation he has worked with since 1998. It seems only natural for Kollman, who enjoys helping people solve problems.
Decades out of law school, Kollman remembers Syracuse fondly. His favorite professor at the College of Law was Mario “Ted” Occhialino, whom he had for civil procedure. His advice for law students is to work hard but avoid taking yourself too seriously and remember to have some fun. Never underestimate the value of meeting new people, as you never know where your next client or opportunity will come from. He also advises that, though it may seem hard, it is more than possible to have a work-life balance. For him, it is all about what you want. You can go into big firms and make lots of money; that is the right path for some people. Still, it is possible to remain comfortable and not have to work every weekend. Ultimately, each person must make that choice for themselves, but Kollman is very happy with his choice and the career he built.