Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton has chosen a new leader, three weeks after the firm’s chairman, Paul Aguggia, announced he will leave to become the head of Clifton Savings Bancorp., a New Jersey bank client.
The firm’s new chairman is J. Henry Walker IV, in Atlanta, who had been the firm’s managing partner. Susan Spaeth, in Kilpatrick’s Silicon Valley office, succeeds Walker as managing partner. Both are members of the firm’s executive committee.
“Susan and I will work very collaboratively on most issues. The chair is more focused on strategy and external issues while the managing partner handles more day-to-day operations,” Walker said.
The two litigators will continue to practice law, which is the custom for top leaders at Kilpatrick. Walker handles complex business litigation, including class actions, tech and telecom matters, while Spaeth focuses on patent and tech litigation.
Aguggia will stay at Kilpatrick until the end of the year to help with the transition. He will join Clifton Savings on Jan. 1, becoming a Kilpatrick client.
“Henry and Susan know this firm inside and out,” Aguggia said in a statement. “Henry has been associated with Kilpatrick Townsend either as a firm attorney or as a firm client for nearly 30 years and Susan for almost 25 years. I look forward to working with them during this seamless transition period.”
While Aguggia is a lateral partner who practices in the Washington office, Walker and Spaeth have spent their entire careers at the firm in its respective headquarters—Walker at Atlanta’s Kilpatrick Stockton and Spaeth at San Francisco’s Townsend and Townsend and Crew.
The two firms merged to form Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton at the beginning of 2011.
Walker, 52, joined Kilpatrick in 1986 after clerking there as a summer associate. A native Georgian, he earned his law degree from Mercer University. He became a partner in 1994, then went in-house with a firm client, BellSouth Corp., in 1996, becoming the telecom’s chief litigation counsel.
He rejoined Kilpatrick in 2007 as a partner handling tech litigation.
Aguggia made Walker the firm’s managing partner a year ago, after he was elected chairman. At Kilpatrick, the chairman chooses the managing partner.
Walker has taken on leadership roles in the legal and business communities as well. He’s on the State Bar of Georgia’s board of governors and is a board member of both the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He’s also vice chairman of the Georgia Chamber’s law and judiciary committee.
Spaeth, a native Californian, joined the Townsend firm in 1989 after earning a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She joined Townsend’s executive committee in 2001 and became co-managing partner of the firm the same year, when it adopted the structure of having a chairperson and co-managing partners.
Spaeth, 49, served as co-managing partner until 2007 and then became Townsend’s first general counsel in 2010. When the two firms merged a year later, she became deputy general counsel for Kilpatrick Townsend. Susan Cahoon in Atlanta is the general counsel.
Kilpatrick’s partnership approved Walker as the new chairman in a vote last week after he was nominated by the executive committee.
Aguggia cited Walker’s leadership experience. “Having worked closely with Henry in the past 15 months while he served as firm managing partner, I have been impressed not only with his strong leadership and management skills, but also with his dedication to client service,” he said.
The executive committee confirmed Walker’s pick of Spaeth as managing partner on Tuesday. The two will serve for four-year terms, according to the firm’s partnership agreement, Walker said.
Walker called Spaeth an obvious choice. “I very much admire her and respect her abilities,” he said. “She really understands the firm and she has a very good way with people. She is a strong leader and is focused on making sure the firm does what it is supposed to do.”
Walker and Spaeth said their major priority is to continue the firm’s client-centric focus. “We want to deliver efficient legal services in this tight legal market,” Spaeth said.
Building out the two newest offices, in Los Angeles and Shanghai, will also be a priority, Walker said.
The Shanghai office, Kilpatrick’s first foray into China, opened last October under Aguggia’s tenure as chairman.
The firm has 620 lawyers in 17 offices. It reported 2012 revenue of $406.5 million and average profit per partner of $860,000.