Dechert chair Levander to step down as firm revamps leadership

A logo of Dechert law firm is seen at the entrance to its office in Washington, U.S., May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Raphael Satter

(Reuters) - Dechert on Wednesday said two of its top corporate lawyers will begin terms as co-chairs of the firm on July 1, making it the latest U.S. law firm to move to a co-leadership model.

David Forti and Mark Thierfelder will take over as co-chairs of the firm from Andy Levander, a white-collar litigator and former prosecutor who has led the firm as chairman since 2011. Henry Nassau, Dechert's CEO since 2016, is also stepping down, and the firm will retire the CEO role.

Levander and Nassau's current terms were scheduled to end next summer, the firm said.

Forti currently co-chairs Dechert's global finance and real estate practice, while Thierfelder leads both its private equity practice and corporate and securities group. Forti is based in the firm's original hometown of Philadelphia. Thierfelder is based in New York.

In addition to the new co-chairs, Dechert said it is tapping two other senior partners to serve as its first-ever global managing partners — Sabina Comis, the firm's Paris office co-managing partner, and Vincent Cohen, the head of its U.S. white collar practice.

When Levander first took the reins in 2011, Dechert had 747 lawyers and generated $671 million in annual revenue, according to trade publication American Lawyer. Last year, the firm had reported revenue of $1.3 billion and 928 lawyers.

"Dechert has achieved tremendous success under Andy and Henry’s leadership," Thierfelder said in a statement.

The firm has been fighting allegations in the United Kingdom and the United States involving claims that one of its former partners, Neil Gerrard, was at the center of a hacking scheme against a U.S. aviation executive. Dechert and Gerrard have denied the claims.

Separately, Dechert is fighting off a 21 million pound damages claim from Kazakh mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation after a judge found that Gerrard leaked privileged information about ENRC to journalists and a UK fraud watchdog.

The firm has previously said it acted "in good faith in reliance on the assurances given to us by Mr. Gerrard" related to ENRC. Gerrard said in May that he remained convinced of the appropriateness of his actions.

A Dechert spokesperson said the firm's upcoming leadership changes have nothing to do with the litigation.

Having partners team up to lead a law firm can allow them to "divide and conquer in alignment with their strengths," said Marcie Borgal Shunk, president of law firm consultancy The Tilt Institute.

The trend has appeared to gain steam lately. Robert Giuffra Jr and Scott Miller took over as co-chairs of Sullivan & Cromwell from Joe Shenker in January. Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy; and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan also announced similar changes earlier this year.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with background on legal claims involving Dechert, and a comment from a Dechert spokesperson.)

Read more:

Aviation executive gets go-ahead to make 'fraud' claims in London court

Kazakh mining co seeks up to $46 mln damages from Dechert, UK fraud watchdog

Chair, namesake of Fragomen law firm steps down in leadership transition

Litigation giant Quinn Emanuel beefs up leadership, elevating DC, NY partners

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.