“We are fortunate to have found a key industry leader to take on this vital area for us and are excited to welcome Howard to the firm,” said Thomas Fitzgerald, chairman and head of the executive committee at Winston & Strawn, in a written statement announcing Kravitz’s hire.
For Kravitz, the move meant leaving an Am Law 100 firm dominated by a lockstep compensation culture for a larger outfit that will see him report directly to Fitzgerald and Winston & Strawn’s vice chair, New York-based trial lawyer Michael Elkin, who will “ultimately run the firm,” he said.
Kravitz had been at Debevoise since March 2016, when he joined the firm after roughly a decade at global accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kravitz said that Debevoise’s lockstep culture “is a wonderful environment for clients and creates a lot of collegiality.”
Nonetheless, lockstep, which has come under scrutiny this year amid several high-profile lateral partner moves in the New York market, also “drives a lot of consensus decision-making, which can be really hard when you are trying to drive change, you have to get everyone on board,” Kravitz said.
At Winston & Strawn, Kravitz expects he will still have to use his “political capital wisely,” as he would at any large firm. But ultimately, Kravitz believes that with Fitzgerald and Elkin calling the shots, change in the big firm environment can happen faster.
Winston & Strawn also has grown more ambitiously than Debevoise—another part of the appeal of his new firm, Kravitz said. The 849-lawyer firm, which had $978 million in gross revenue last year, according to the most recent Am Law 100 financial figures, has also added about 150 lawyers to its ranks since 2016.
As a matter of comparison, the 631-lawyer Debevoise, which took in a record $822 million in gross revenue last year, brought on only about 20 more lawyers during that same time period.
“Winston is on an interesting growth trajectory, it’s bringing people in from different cultures and different places,” Kravitz said. “We want to take a hard look at who do we want the market to see us as?”
Kravitz hopes that Winston & Strawn will do more to marry its private equity practice, which largely services middle-market clients, with its renowned litigation group, a practice studded with Fortune 100 clients. His most immediate plans are to speak with individuals at Winston & Strawn about what the Chicago-founded firm’s next steps should be in a competitive market. (Within the past several years, Winston & Strawn has opened offices in Dallas and Houston.)
Winston & Strawn’s management recommended that Kravitz go on “a listening tour” for his first 90 days, talking to partners and people who work in his own marketing department. That way, Kravitz said, “he can learn what’s really going on around here,” before he devises his own marketing plans for the fast-growing firm.