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Chris Jagel

Chris Jagel

Chris Jagel

Partner and Chief Executive Officer, Harris Beach PLLC

Years in current role: 21 as partner, 5 as CEO

What was your biggest success in 2021?

We celebrated our 165th anniversary as a law firm in 2021, and I’m especially proud of the way we were able to recognize this milestone. Typically we get together in person as a firm every five years to reflect on our progress. Obviously, in the midst of a pandemic, we were unable to do that. So our people put together the next best thing — a very creative week-long virtual celebration built around the theme of “Back to the Future.” We leveraged technology to share history and stories about the firm, involving all present employees and many retired partners as well. One central project involved forming teams made up of people from different parts of the state and different functional areas. We asked each team to meet together over videoconference and create a multimedia presentation that reflected on our theme and looked to the future. The results were tremendous and infinitely creative.

These gatherings are so very important for our firm to give our people context as we both look back at our history and to look ahead to our future. One of the fun ways we communicated this was by giving every employee an “HB-Opoly” board game built around all things Harris Beach. The game board and pieces are all Harris Beach themed and include representation from every part of the firm geographically and functionally.

And it just so happens we also had a successful year to talk about! I’m pleased to say we made the Greater Rochester Top 100 again in 2021 for the second straight year (2 for 2 in pandemic years!), adding to our proud history of appearances in the Top 100 over the years. It’s a testament to the focus and efforts of our people and their focus on supporting our clients and their needs.

As a result, we are in a robust period for hiring. In 2021 we brought on more than 60 people, both attorneys and professional staff. We have had at least 15 open positions at any particular time during the past year. It’s a great accomplishment to know that people are seeing the value and strength of our statewide platform for legal and professional services. We continue to build, and we’re working to strengthen, that platform every day.

What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

This is a great question, because it gives me a chance to highlight what we’ve learned about the power of teamwork and togetherness. We’ve always been a collaborative firm, but the sudden onset of COVID-19 really brought out the all-hands-on-deck spirit of our people in a remarkable way. For example, even before New York began to shut down, we had already formed a COVID committee, consisting of attorneys and staff from across the state and across disciplines to guide our response and develop our policies and practices. It’s an acknowledgement that when you harness the creativity of all of the people who work with you, it can see you through any difficult situation.

The last two years have also reinforced for us the importance of agility and flexibility to the success of our business and the needs of our clients and our people. With COVID, there has been a surprise around every corner, and lots of new corners every day! So we’ve learned to expect the unexpected and build our plans with an understanding that they are going to change and so are we.

Finally, at the professional level, we already knew that technology was driving changes in the practice of law. COVID has only accelerated that, and we’ve seen that, now more than ever, you better be ready. I believe our collaborative, team-based approach and our all-hands-on-deck spirit will see us through these changes and serve as the foundation to our future success.

What is your favorite thing about the Rochester community?

In a world that’s increasingly cynical, divided and self-absorbed, it’s great to live in a place that still maintains a strong sense of community. Rochester has many of the same challenges that other cities are facing, many of which are daunting and fairly entrenched. But unlike most such communities, people are willing to do more to make this region better. We also have so much to draw people here and keep them here, such as great schools, a spirit of entrepreneurship, four seasons, tremendous natural beauty, and a community of intelligent, caring doers.

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 100 list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at