There’s a new look to Taft Stettinius & Hollister, one of Cincinnati’s oldest and most prestigious law firms.

It’s reflected in the 131-year-old firm’s new partner-in-charge, James Zimmerman.

At 42, Zimmerman, is the youngest attorney elected to the role at Taft, the firm that draws its name in part from the sons of President William Howard Taft—Robert A. Taft and Charles P. Taft II, who joined the firm in 1924.

The Taft firm, which has about 100 local attorneys and 400 firm wide, has always been engaged in the community.

“I want to be engaged in a way that’s different,” says Zimmerman. “In a way that says this is a new and innovative organization and we’re going to do things a little differently.”

Zimmerman says innovation is important in today’s business world and not just for startups.

“Some of the biggest companies in town are very focused on innovation,” he says.

“Entrepreneurs are great at challenging your assumptions and they push you to be better. I’m a big believer in that. ‘’

The son of the former Federated Department Store chairman and CEO, Zimmerman has spent his entire career at Taft, joining the firm in 1999 after graduating from Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt Law School.

Zimmerman, who’s been involved with Cincinnati’s entrepreneurial infrastructure since he joined Taft, serves as general counsel for Cintrifuse, the Over-the-Rhine focal point for innovation and startups that is funded by some of the city’s largest enterprises.

He says he hopes his elevation to the firm’s most visible job sends a message that Taft isn’t just focused on the past.

“My age, if nothing else, helps send that message, that we aren’t—to use a line I sometimes use—‘your grandfather’s law firm,’” he says. “Hopefully it conveys that we’re the same quality and prestigious law firm we’ve always been with a new and innovative approach.”

That approach is reflected in the way the firm serves clients.

“One of the things we’re working on—it has happened some and there’s more to come—is how we engage with clients in a broader, team-based approach,” he says. “We feel one of the ways we can differentiate ourselves is by really serving a client with a broad team. I think there’s an opportunity to use the inherent culture of teamwork we have at Taft and systemize it.”

The idea is to use more of the firm’s legal and non-legal staff to solve clients’ problems. The advantages include better responsiveness to clients’ needs and bringing different skill sets to problem.

“I also think getting many people engaged with a client allows us as a law firm to understand what they need better.’’

He says clients want more than legal expertise. “They want a law firm that really understands their business and their issues. Getting more people involved helps us to stay closer to what’s going on and that helps us serve the client better.”