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Los Angeles partner Richard Odom became chairman of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison on Thursday, the first non-Bay Area partner to take the helm of the San Francisco-based firm. San Diego partner Richard Parker was elected firmwide managing partner. While leadership changes at Brobeck are usually made at the end of the year, the process moved quickly after Tower Snow Jr. announced last month that he would not seek re-election. Odom assumed his new responsibilities Thursday, just one day after partners elected him to the post. Partners say Odom was the consensus choice to succeed Snow. And Snow, who remains as senior partner, said he stepped down immediately because he did not want to be a lame duck after the election. The first question that Odom, 57, likely will tackle is whether the firm will lay off associates. Snow’s public opposition to layoffs rankled many partners and may have eroded his support within the firm. But Odom said it’s “not fair to say layoffs are a certainty.” “We are actively looking at our over-capacity situation,” Odom said. “There are lots of options available. … In our Brobeck culture we don’t like the concept of layoffs, but they are on the table.” Odom declined to say what alternatives the firm is considering. The change in leadership is likely to result in more internal than external changes. Odom, a 30-year Brobeck veteran, said the firm will continue to focus on being a dominant technology firm. But he said there would be a shift in Brobeck’s decision-making process. “I want to try to, as much as possible, have as many decisions made by people who interact with our clients,” Odom said, “perhaps recognizing more than in the past that one size does not fit all.” Though he works in the firm’s L.A. outpost, Odom said he doesn’t anticipate that regional differences will alter the way the firm is managed. Partner John Larson, who has been at Brobeck since 1962, said this is the first time the firm has gone outside the Bay Area to select a chairman. It has had past firmwide managing partners from Southern California offices. Former partners have said Snow alienated colleagues by centralizing decision-making and taking some autonomy away from practice group managers. They also said Snow has an autocratic style and has difficulty listening to other viewpoints. By contrast, partners described Odom as a consensus builder. “One of the things most compelling about Dick is that he’s a seasoned senior partner at the firm who understands consensus building,” said William Sullivan, who heads the litigation group in San Diego. “It’s a great quality.” “He has a personal humility that is coupled with an intense professional integrity,” said George Link, a partner in Brobeck’s Los Angeles office. “He’s a mild-mannered guy who has a steely resolve” and a lack of pretense in making decisions. Snow also praised Odom as being “highly intelligent, highly respected and well known for his integrity and high work ethic.” Odom joined Brobeck after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1969. He left soon after for a one-year stint as legal officer with the Army. In 1976, he helped open the firm’s first branch office in Los Angeles. In 1996 he jumped to what was then Howrey & Simon, but returned to Brobeck the following year. For the past four years, he has been head of the firm’s complex litigation practice, its second-largest group. Odom said ” a lot of partners” asked him months ago if he would consider running for chairman. He said he agreed to do so because of the support the firm has given him over the years. Brobeck has been “wonderful to me,” Odom said. “It gave me a job knowing I had to go in the Army and told me I would have a job when I came back.” And when he went to Howrey, partners asked him to come back. Parker, who has been managing partner of the San Diego office for the past year and head of the firmwide tax group since 1992, will succeed James Burns Jr. as firmwide managing partner. Parker, 51, joined Brobeck as an associate in 1981. He took a leave from the firm in 1988 to teach law at the University of Baltimore School of Law and returned in 1992. While partners may welcome a change in leadership style, they acknowledge Snow’s achievements for the firm. “Tower’s accomplishments are endless,” said John Hilson, managing partner of the Los Angeles office. “He streamlined our management, caused us to focus on markets in a different way than in the past and sharpened our focus so we were not trying to be a firm that provided every service to every business.” Odom, he said, “will probably deliver more of a consensus around his position before advancing it.” As for his future at Brobeck, Snow reiterated that he has no immediate plans to leave. He said he would take time off after the first week in December. “I could remain at Brobeck for several years as a senior partner, or I could do something entirely unrelated to the law,” Snow said. “I’ve always believed variety is the spice of life,” he added. “I bet I will do something different ultimately.”

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