Dechert has named a new managing partner of its Philadelphia office as longtime office leader Richard Rizzo readies for retirement.
Litigator Judy Leone, a Dechert veteran, took over leadership of the firm’s headquarters Jan. 1.
It is perhaps fitting that Leone is taking the helm of the Philadelphia office given the past decade has seen her national commercial litigation practice hone in on representing major pharmaceutical companies in mass torts and products liability matters in Pennsylvania state, appellate and federal courts.
While Dechert has grown into an international firm with 26 offices across the globe, it was important for firm leadership to have someone in place that could demonstrate the continuing importance of the Philadelphia office to the firm and the local legal market.
“We were looking for somebody who would be effective in communicating the critical role that Philadelphia plays in Dechert worldwide and we thought that Judy would be the very best person to do that,” firm CEO Daniel O’Donnell said. “Through her own accomplishments and her outlook on life, we thought she would be best in a position to model that and communicate that.”
Leone, who works closely with Dechert’s Robert C. Heim on a number of the firm’s products liability cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Complex Litigation Center, among others, said she planned on continuing an active practice. She said she wasn’t concerned with fitting management into her schedule.
“I anticipate some more hours to the day and I think we are a fairly well-run ship and things sail along fairly smoothly,” Leone said. “There will be a lot of new things to do. We’re all very good at juggling and managing and I think, in some ways, I’ve learned through the litigation I do and the way I’ve practiced over the years to be a good manager and to learn how to allocate time.”
Leone said the firm tries to instill those skills in young lawyers. And after 30 years at the firm, Leone said she thinks she has had a “very well-balanced life” that has included being very involved in both her practice and the lives of her two teenage daughters.
“I think that’s something that maybe women are just good at,” she said.
O’Donnell said Leone’s active practice was one of the reasons she was selected to lead the office. He said she is an “outstanding example” of a Dechert partner.
“We look for the office managing partner to help set the tone in our offices,” O’Donnell said of his expectations for the role. “Obviously, being a woman she brings a somewhat different perspective than her predecessor and we welcome that as well.”
Leone said she doesn’t anticipate making any major changes to the office makeup or the focus of the 182 attorneys it houses.
“It is a pretty diverse group of lawyers,” Leone said. “We are the flagship office and have been here for a very long time. I hope to really work on new ways to strengthen our ties to the Delaware Valley community and the businesses in this community since we’re in their backyard and there’s a lot we can do locally.”
Leone said she wants to develop initiatives for the Philadelphia office to enhance its ties to the local community, introduce local clients to the firm’s offices globally and explain to the firm’s other offices what the Philadelphia office has to offer.
Leone joined the firm after graduating Temple University School of Law in 1984. Since then she has led teams in the defense of individual and class actions involving products liability, consumer fraud, warranty, negligence and misrepresentation claims.
Leone currently represents Pfizer in its Zoloft multidistrict litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in which plaintiffs allege an increased risk of birth defects from use of antidepressants. She is also involved in the NFL concussion class action, in which a proposed $765 million settlement is currently awaiting judicial approval.
Additionally, Leone has worked on mass tort cases and MDLs involving AstraZeneca’s antidepressant medications and Pfizer’s medication Neurontin.
While Leone has done work with Dechert’s hiring committee, this is her first major leadership position in the firm. Rizzo had served as the firmwide finance partner for a number of years and he will continue working with Dechert’s finance department as a consultant.