Meet The New
A remarkable transformation is taking place among
The Am Law 100 as nearly one in four firms takes on a new leader.
Here’s how to plan for succession.
ON JUNE 10 WILLIAM VOGE, LATHAM & WATKINS’
London-based global project finance head, woke at
4: 45 a.m. to catch the first flight to Frankfurt. Voge,
57, needed an early start: Over the next 20 hours, while
juggling pressing business on four giant proposed energy projects, he visited his partners, first in Frankfurt, then in Brussels, as part of a campaign to succeed
longtime chair and managing partner Robert Dell. The
roadshow for Washington, D.C., corporate partner Paul
Sheridan Jr., who was also vying for Dell’s job, began
that day at 5 a.m. in Hong Kong and ended at midnight
in Singapore; the day encompassed campaign visits with
partners and work on four separate deals. And Los Angeles finance partner Jeffrey Greenberg, the third candidate, recalls trying to give his partners full attention
on a campaign visit to Los Angeles that day, while email
after email was pouring in on the financing of a deal.
For the three rivals, winnowed from an original field
of 38, the last leg of an eight-month succession process
“was intense,” says Voge (pronounced Vogue-y). But
all three agree that the open and participatory succession process at Latham, the second-largest U.S. firm
to choose a new leader this year, after DLA Piper, was
a worthy expression of the firm’s culture. On July 14,
after two rounds of balloting, Voge was declared the
chair-elect. “Partners in our firm now really own and
embrace their decision,” says Voge.
Across the country, the past 20 months have seen a
remarkable torch-passing; new leaders are beginning
at nearly one in four Am Law 100 firms since January
2013 [see “Who’s In, Who’s Out,” page 58]. Departing
firm executives since 2012 include a dozen lawyers in
their 60s who, like Dell, steered their firms from re-
gional shops to the billion-dollar global businesses they
are today. “It’s the giants who have left, the people you
most respect,” says longtime Ropes & Gray chairman
R. Bradford Malt.
The new generation, meanwhile, is stepping in to
manage firms vastly larger and more complex than
when their predecessors took over, and at a time when
growth in demand for legal services can no longer be
assumed. With some recent firm failures pointing to
mismanagement and lack of transparency as contributing factors, the process of selecting a leader has become
both more fraught and more critical than ever.
Yet surprisingly, more than one in five ( 22 percent)
of Am Law 200 firms that participated in The American
Lawyer’s July succession survey don’t have a leadership
succession plan, a finding echoed in other recent surveys.
But that is changing. One in four respondent firms
reported that they have recently modified succession
practices or are doing so
now. Many are seeking
outside help to create such
a plan. Firms are “
looking to avoid the mistakes
they may have made in the
past,” says Julie Wolf, a se-
BY JULIE TRIEDMAN
Come January, William Voge,
left, will replace Robert Dell
as chairman and managing
partner of Latham & Watkins.
His election followed a