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Littler Mendelson’s Wendy Tice-Wallner will move up next spring from managing partner to chair the firm’s 19-member board of directors. Marko Mrkonich, a Minneapolis-based partner, will succeed Tice-Wallner as the firm’s managing partner. Tice-Wallner will replace Wesley Fastiff, who will assume the title of “chair emeritus.” Fastiff had been a name partner in the firm when it was known as Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff, Tichy & Mathiason. The appointment will be effective in April, when Tice-Wallner’s term as managing partner comes to an end. The management-oriented employment-and-labor firm limits its managing partners to a six-year term. Tice-Wallner, who became director in 1999, has overseen the growth of the firm from 351 to more than 415 attorneys and from 21 to 28 offices. Last January, Littler opened its most recent outpost, a seven-attorney office in Boston. Tice-Wallner has built “a culture of one firm instead of one office,” says Mrkonich. Her emphasis on inclusiveness and having people work together “is probably her biggest legacy.” Tice-Wallner now faces the task of replacing the popular and admired Fastiff. “I have complete confidence � that she can take on the job,” says Barbara de Oddone, a partner at Santa Rosa’s Dillingham & Murphy who worked at Littler for several years. “There’s nobody that can replace Wes Fastiff. He’s one of a kind.” Mrkonich has focused on discrimination and other employment litigation. Before joining Littler in 1998, Mrkonich spent 17 years at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly. At Littler, he has served on the firm’s good business practices committee, associates committee and shareholder compensation committee. He also chaired the shareholder compensation review committee, authoring a new compensation structure. Mrkonich says the new system did not change the equity versus non-equity structure — the firm has a five-tier partnership — but sought to let lawyers know “if they did certain things, they would be paid more.” Last year, Littler formed a joint venture with Bacon & Dear, an immigration boutique based in Phoenix. The new entity, Littler Mendelson Bacon & Dear, has replaced Littler Mendelson’s own national immigration practice group. While Bay Area firms generally choose chairs from their home office, Mrkonich does not expect his Minneapolis locale to be an issue. “Geographic location is important, but less important than the ability to do the job,” says Mrkonich, whose branch office includes 15 attorneys. Last year, Littler lost a string of at least 18 partners. The American Lawyer magazine, which is affiliated with California Employment Law magazine, reported that former partners complained about the firm’s profitability and a management structure that allowed only a few people to run the firm. One partner cited the board of directors’ decision to ax the firm’s immigration group in favor of a joint venture. Littler had been ranked as an AmLaw 100 firm until 2000, when it dropped into the ranks of the top 200 firms. In 2003 it was ranked at No. 109, with gross revenues of $173 million and profits per partner of $420,000. Brenda Sandburg is a senior writer at The Recorder .

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