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June 3, 2010 7:14 PM

Dechert Announces New Firm Leadership

Posted by Ed Shanahan

After 15 years at the helm of Dechert, Barton Winokur will be stepping down as chairman and CEO of the firm in mid-2011, the firm announced Thursday. As reported by The Legal Intelligencer, the new leadership will include, for the first time in the firm's history, a chairman who is based outside of the firm's base in Philadelphia.

Star litigator and top rainmaker Andrew Levander has been named chairman-elect, and will fully assume the role of chair next year. Private equity group head and vice-chairman G. Daniel O'Donnell has been named CEO-elect. Working with Winokur, Levander and O'Donnell will embark on a yearlong transition, the Intelligencer says.

Winokur, remarking on his tenure as firm leader and on Thursday's announced changes, told the Intelligencer, "Organizations benefit, I think, enormously, one, by continuity, but on the other hand by freshness." Under Winokur's leadership, Dechert saw profits rise dramatically as less profitable work was pushed out. Winokur increasingly focused on establishing and building higher-end and higher-priced practices.

Thursday's announcement is notable on many fronts--the dual leadership role that will be more fully defined over the next year, the extension of the firm's central command to New York, and the choice of a litigator as chairman-elect. As our colleague Andrew Longstreth of The Am Law Litigation Daily writes, "it's not every day that a litigator is handed the reigns of a full-service law firm with offices around the globe." 

Levander joined Dechert five years ago as part of the firm's acquisition of 65 lawyers from Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman. A former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in recent years he has taken on major cases on behalf of high-profile clients, including Madoff feeder fund manager Ezra Merkin.

O'Donnell, a Dechert lifer and rainmaker in the corporate department, heads the firm's private equity group and has served on the firm's policy committee. As one of the firm's vice-chairmen, he has been in charge of overseeing all of Dechert's practice groups.

The selection of Levander and O'Donnell was made by a committee formed specifically to address the leadership change. Members of the committee met with all firm partners, seeking input on Winokur's successors The firm, Winokur said, doesn't nominate and elect firm lawyers to leadership positions--that practice, he told the Intelligencer, is divisive, highlighting partner differences rather than serving to bring people together.

Winokur will remain on at the firm as a full-time partner following the transition next year.

Click here to read the full report from The Legal Intelligencer.

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