Debevoise names new presiding partner as incumbent retires

US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has appointed corporate chair Michael Blair as its presiding partner, succeeding Martin Frederic ‘Rick’ Evans, who has held the post since 1998.

Evans is due to retire from the firm at the end of the year, when he reaches the firm’s mandatory retirement age of 65.

Blair has been at the firm for 30 years and his leadership term will last five years.

The corporate lawyer takes up the post this Friday (1 July) and says his initial focus will be to increase the firm’s competitiveness by building deep expertise in different practice areas and locations.

“I don’t anticipate any radical new line-up, but the competitive marketplace continues to evolve in a way that requires us to be ever-more ambitious and to create the capabilities to handle market-leading clients,” he said.

Blair is also keen to further strengthen the firm’s European litigation practice and London office.

“Some of our London-based finance partners now play a key role in our US M&A practice in a way they didn’t 10 years ago,” he said. “The London team also works very closely with our Moscow office.”

The new head also has associate training programmes in his sights, and is keen to increase junior lawyers’ business awareness.

“In the corporate department we have increasingly added training programmes that have a business focus to help our junior lawyers understand the business our clients are operating in,” he said. “Their job’s not just to provide legal advice but also practical advice that reflects the business environment.”

Blair joined Debevoise in 1981 and made partner in 1989. He has served as co-chair of the corporate department since 1997 and as chair since 2002.

He has served as lead counsel in major M&A transactions, advised senior executives and boards of directors on governance matters and handled securities transactions for clients across a range of industries.