Carter Phillips will step down as chair of Sidley Austin’s executive committee next month.
Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM
A big leadership change is underway at Sidley Austin, as the firm prepares to replace a dean of the Washington, D.C., appellate bar with an investment funds partner in New York to chair its executive committee.
Seasoned U.S. Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips is stepping down as Sidley Austin’s executive committee chairman, the firm announced Thursday. He will be replaced by Michael Schmidtberger, the firm’s New York office managing partner.
The leadership transition is set to take place Jan. 1. Phillips, 65, will continue as a partner in the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice. He was elected to chairman of the executive committee in 2012.
After that election, Phillips initially served as a co-chairman with former chairman Tom Cole through a one-year transitional period. Cole, who was also 65 when he stepped down, had been the firm’s executive committee chairman for 15 years before Phillips took over.
Phillips has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court 84 times, including 75 since he joined Sidley Austin in 1984, according to the firm. That’s more than any other lawyer in private practice.
Phillips was managing partner of Sidley Austin’s Washington, D.C., office for 17 years before chairing the executive committee.
Schmidtberger, who graduated from law school in 1985 and joined Sidley Austin 28 years ago, has been the New York managing partner for five years. He will pass on that role on taking his new position. Schmidtberger has been a member of the executive committee since 2002 and a management committee member since 2008, and he co-leads the firm’s investment funds, advisers and derivatives practice.
The executive committee chairman works alongside the management committee chairman, Larry Barden, to govern the firm.
“It is a privilege to carry forward the leadership legacy Carter and his predecessors have instilled throughout their tenures as executive committee chair,” Schmidtberger said in a statement. “I look forward to shaping the firm’s strategy to provide the best possible service as we work together with our clients to confront their opportunities and challenges in the ever-changing global business and regulatory environment.”
Sidley Austin reported $1.9 billion in revenue for 2016, a 3.4 percent increase from the prior year. Revenue growth at the firm was 6.5 percent in 2015, and 9.5 percent in 2014. The firm experienced slightly more demand growth in litigation than in transactional practices, Phillips told The American Lawyer in February.
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