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Holland & Knight partners have elected Howell W. Melton Jr., the law firm’s former Orlando, Fla., executive partner, to serve a five-year term as managing partner of the 1,250-lawyer international firm. Melton, 51, a contract and business torts litigator, takes over from Robert R. Feagin III. Melton, who beat out Tallahassee partner and former American Bar Association president Martha Barnett and Jacksonville trial lawyer George D. Gabel Jr., takes the helm at a time when the firm, Florida’s biggest, is emerging from a year of cost-cutting coupled with a substantial increase in revenues. The firm’s revenues topped $514 million last year, up 11 percent from 2001, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The firm laid off 60 lawyers and 170 other employees in 2002, however, a time of internal turmoil when many partners complained that per-partner pay levels were lagging those of comparable firms. Since then, partner pay at Holland has increased by more than 20 percent, on average, officials of the firm said. Melton’s ascension — as would that of the other two candidates — keeps Holland & Knight’s administrative center of gravity in Florida, even though more than half the firm’s lawyers are outside the state, due to a decade of rapid expansion. The firm has 25 domestic offices and seven affiliate offices overseas. Feagin presided over the firm from Tallahassee and Chicago. Melton is a commercial litigator who specialized in drug and medical device, intellectual property and trademark law. He has split his time between Orlando and New York City. Early last year, at a time when much of the firm was suffering from the combined effects of expansion expenses, the Sept. 11 impact and a weakening economy, the Orlando office over which he presided was reporting strong performance. Melton’s father is a senior U.S. district judge in Jacksonville, Fla. Feagin, former chairman of Holland’s policy-making Directors’ Committee, became managing partner in mid-2001. He took over for Bill McBride, who left after nine years to run for governor.

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