The Transatlantic Elite 2009: Five stars: then and now

Last year we not only highlighted the sixteen firms that would shape the legal market over the next decade, we also flagged up several individuals as the ones to watch. A year on, a lot has happened to one or two of these stars

Ralph Baxter

Ralph Baxter

Ralph Baxter, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

Last year we said: Baxter has transformed himself into one of the most effective law firm managers ever. And his vision turned Orrick into the highly successful operation that it is today.

Now we say: He also created a firm with one of the biggest exposures to the downturn in terms of its large ­structured finance group. When layoffs hit the US market, Orrick lawyers were among the biggest casualties.

Although the firm added a record number of laterals in 2008, the cracks are showing in the house that Baxter built.

Peter Kalis, K&L Gates

Peter Kalis

Peter Kalis

Last year we said: K&L Gates managing partner Kalis is a deal-doer in the mould of DLA Piper’s Nigel Knowles, snapping up firms everywhere. Kalis has the ability to make things happen.

Now we say: He did it again in 2008 and 2009. When The Lawyer published its list of the top-30 US firms by revenue (2 March 2009), Kalis’s firm had jumped 10 places following a 27 per cent rise in income.

The increase was primarily due to the Kalis-led strategy of aggressive expansion and acquisitions, which in 2008 alone included Texas-based Hughes & Luce, Charlotte-based Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman and Taiwanese J&J Attorneys-at-law.

Into 2009 and there was no sign of a slowdown after K&L Gates acquired Chicago’s Bell Boyd & Lloyd.

“Now is not the time to be timid,” said Kalis.

Nigel Knowles

Nigel Knowles

Sir Nigel Knowles, DLA Piper

Last year we said: He became the managing partner of what was to become DLA in 1996, when the firm turned over a mere £60m. Knowles now sits atop
a £1bn megafirm – the world’s largest in terms of lawyers and, since 2007, ­revenue.

Now we say: Or does he? DLA Piper’s failure to achieve full financial ­intergration between the US side of
the business and the rest of the world means it has to be reassessed as a global powerhouse. Reduced partner pay, layoffs and demands for capital contributions all raise questions about success of DLA Piper and ­- Sir or no Sir – its leaders.

Paul Maher, Mayer Brown

Paul Maher

Paul Maher

Last year we said: Maher is now ­relishing the opportunity to reshape the transatlantic firm entirely. He has set his sights on making his firm a global player.

Now we say: Oh dear. Once top dog for international expansion at Mayer Brown, Paul Maher appeared to have ­expanded his way out of the firm at the time of going to press.

The result? The centre of gravity at Mayer Brown is swinging back to its traditional Chicago headquarters ­following the election of Chicago ­partner Bert Krueger as chairman.

A fierce advocate of international growth, Maher was also a fundamental part of the firm’s 2007 merger with Hong Kong firm Johnson Stokes & ­Masters. But with the former vice-chair currently on a widely publicised ­sabbatical, questions are being asked about the firm’s commitment to its international strategy.
Where will Maher go? He’s certainly sparked a lot of interest in the legal community. He’s a controversial ­character but also clearly one capable of getting things done.

How Mayer Brown fares without him will be watched closely by the UK legal market.

John Tucker

John Tucker

John Tucker, Linklaters

Last year we said: Finance head Tucker was sent to New York to inject some energy and order into the US practice. It was a smart move by managing ­partner Simon Davies. Tucker had ­already revitalised the banking team. New York, watch out.

Now we say: Tucker has been all but ­invisible throughout last year. The public image is that his leadership role has been superseded by events and Linklaters’ ‘New World’ restructuring.

Throughout the process Tucker has been spending only half his time in New York. Consequently, the developments stateside have not had Tucker at the centre. Unusual, to say the least, for a magic circle regional managing partner.

Tucker’s role is transatlantic, literally. His part-time presence in New York is seen as a bit of a joke by Manhattan’s legal community. How can you create a respected magic circle presence without a full-time leader on the ground, they ask?

Over to you, John.