Chicago-based finance partner Mary Wilson has become Dentons’ first female U.S. managing partner, filling a position that had been vacant since 2017.
Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, announced Monday that Wilson, who joined the firm as a lateral partner 14 years ago, would be stepping into the role vacated when Washington, D.C.-based Mike McNamara became U.S. CEO.
McNamara, as U.S. CEO, will continue his leadership of the firm’s strategic and administrative operations in the country, in a role that connects to the firm’s global platform. As U.S. managing partner, Wilson will focus on supporting practice leaders and enhancing their ability to deliver client service.
“She knows the firm exceptionally well and is an enthusiastic, exceptionally passionate lawyer and leader, and these are all traits I knew we wanted and needed in our next managing partner,” McNamara said.
Wilson comes into her new role at a moment when Dentons has indicated it is looking to expand its operations in the U.S. While the firm has a presence in nine of the country’s 10 largest metropolitan areas (Philadelphia being the exception), its global management committee is in agreement that the U.S. is the No. 1 target for expansion.
McNamara has identified Pacific Northwest, the Upper Midwest and along the Acela corridor as expansion targets, naming Pennsylvania in particular. The firm is also undersized for the marketplace in Florida, Texas and the Southwest, he has said.
Wilson agreed that growth in the U.S. is a key priority for the firm and said that she and McNamara would be working together on the subject.
“At a strategic level, Mike will take the lead,” she said. “It’s hugely important to all of our lawyers that we continue to find the right talent and continue to expand in the U.S., both in terms of day-to-day recruiting and larger strategic growth.”
Dentons has 1,100 lawyers in the U.S., spread across 25 offices, and Wilson intends to focus her leadership time on supporting practice leaders as they advance client service priorities, practice plans, diversity and inclusion initiatives. She will also be directing the introduction of new tools and resources to support clients. Her tenure is open ended.
Wilson joined Dentons as a health care partner in 2005 from Gardner Carton & Douglas, shortly before the Chicago firm merged with Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath. Since then she’s served in a number of leadership roles, including as Chicago managing partner for five years and as co-chair of the associates development committee. She is also an active member of the firm’s U.S. board.
She said her time on the associates committee, which began shortly after joining the firm, gave her an early look at how lawyers move, interact and advance through the organization, and these lessons continue to pay off.
“Looking for ways to connect partners in practice groups and across them is a really important part of culture and client service,” she said.
On top of her new leadership responsibilities, Wilson intends to maintain her own practice, which focuses on national finance, health care law and tax-exempt organizations. She represents borrowers, underwriters, banks and issuers, while also serving as bond counsel in tax-exempt bond issues and other finance transactions.
She additionally represents hospitals and health systems in corporate transactions and counsels all types of tax-exempt organizations in transactions, governance matters, tax-exemption issues and organizational issues.