Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips announced Tuesday that the firm’s privacy and cybersecurity practice chair, Donna Wilson, will become CEO and managing partner next July.

Wilson, who joined the firm as a lateral partner in 2013, will replace Bill Quicksilver, who has served in both roles since 2007.

Her ascendance at the firm makes Wilson one of the few women partners to hold the top job at a major law firm. In a 2017 report from the National Association of Women Lawyers, just 18 percent of surveyed Am Law 200 firms reported having a woman among their firmwide managing partners.

Donna Wilson

Wilson called Manatt an “absolutely special and unique place,” emphasizing the firm’s strengths in health care, digital media and financial services.

In addition to her current role as head of the firm’s cybersecurity practice, Wilson also co-chairs Manatt’s financial services group and financial services litigation and enforcement practice. She is not the first woman to lead Manatt, but her turn at the top comes several decades after Maria Hummer served as co-managing partner in the 1980s.

Manatt noted in its announcement of the transition that Wilson is a long-time advocate for diversity and inclusion and a member of the LGBTQ community.

Wilson praised the business model adopted by Quicksilver during his tenure—one that emphasized building out the firm’s consulting operations as well as its legal services.

“We think it’s a groundbreaking approach, bringing together legal services advocacy and business strategy, that distinguishes us from competitors,” Quicksilver said. 

He noted that in the health care area, the firm has approximately 70 consultants working alongside a similar number of attorneys. The model has been extended into digital media and entertainment, where the firm is home to 10 consultants, he said.

Under Quicksilver’s leadership, Manatt has grown to over 450 attorneys, consultants and advisers in nine offices across the United States. That number includes over 300 lawyers. Last year the firm climbed one spot in the Am Law 200 rankings to No. 105, with gross revenue of $316.9 million.

“We’re tremendously excited that Donna will be leading Manatt’s continued growth. She is absolutely the right person for that job,” Quicksilver said. “She combines a keen understanding of the legal issues with a client-focused business acumen. She’s an effective advocate with proven ability to build teams, solve tough problems and execute, and that’s the person we need going forward.”

Wilson’s arrival from BuckleySandler in 2013 landed Manatt in a legal battle with a Los Angeles-based legal recruiter, ultimately resulting in a $335,000 jury verdict against the firm in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2017. Legal staffing agency Gregg Ziskind & Associates Inc. successfully argued that while Ziskind placed Wilson and another partner in Manatt’s Los Angeles headquarters, the firm paid a rival legal recruiter instead.