(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

Last week Kirkland & Ellis announced that after 10 years as chairman, Jeffrey Hammes will step aside in February 2020, handing over the reins of the world’s highest-grossing law firm to private equity partner Jon Ballis.  

Kirkland’s announcement capped a busy and, at times, surprising year of leadership changes among Am Law 200 firms.

The most headline-grabbing was the resignation of Latham & Watkins chair William Voge in March, sparked by what the firm described as “communications of a sexual nature” and Voge acknowledged as a “personal mistake.” 

Latham selected London-based capital markets partner Richard Trobman as its new chair and managing partner in June.

Other changes were less controversial, but potentially just as consequential for management of the firms involved. In chronological order, here’s a roundup of major transitions that took place or were announced in 2018:

After 10 years at the helm of Texas-based Locke Lord, Jerry Clements stepped down from her role as chair on Jan. 1 to be succeeded by securities partner and Houston office managing partner David Taylor.

Also in January, after a decade leading Philadelphia-based firm Duane Morris, John Soroko stepped down as its chairman and CEO and handing over control to then-vice chairman Matthew Taylor.

In March, Shearman & Sterling’s global managing partner, David Beveridge, took over leadership of the firm, succeeding Creighton Condon as senior partner.

The same month Baker & Hostetler elected Paul Schmidt, the Washington, D.C.-based chair of its national tax practice, as its incoming chair. Schmidt will assume his new role Jan. 1 and succeed longtime chairman R. Steven Kestner, who has held the position at the Cleveland-based firm since 2004.

After years doing double duty as Blank Rome‘s chairman and managing partner, Alan Hoffman beginning Jan. 1 will split his responsibilities with litigation department chairman Grant Palmer, who was named the Philadelphia-based firm’s managing partner in March.

In April, Ropes & Gray announced that New York-based real estate partner David Djaha would be the firm’s new managing partner beginning in 2020. His selection comes five months after Ropes & Gray announced that corporate partner Julie Jones would become the firm’s next chair, also in 2020.

Two years after its creation, Schiff Hardin spinoff Riley, Safer, Holmes & Cancila in April elected Patricia Brown Holmes as its first managing partner. The move could make Brown Holmes the first African-American woman to head a national firm that is not minority or female-owned.

Greenberg Traurig co-president and former American Bar Association president Hilarie Bass announced in September that she would be leaving the firm after over 30 years to found the Bass Institute on Diversity and Inclusion, an organization that will tackle issues facing women and minorities in the workplace. Brian Duffy and Richard Rosenbaum remain the firm’s CEO and executive chairman, respectively. 

In October, Baker McKenzie global chairman Paul Rawlinson, who assumed leadership of the global legal giant in 2016, announced that he would take a temporary leave from the firm’s top leadership position following health issues caused by exhaustion. The decision marked rare acknowledgment by a law firm leader of the personal toll the job can take. 

Bogata-based M&A partner and Latin America chair Jaime Trujillo Caicedo, member of the firm’s global executive committee, is serving as Baker McKenzie’s acting chair in Rawlinson’s absence.

Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz also announced a leadership shakeup in October. The Memphis, Tennessee-based firm selected Timothy Lupinacci, chairman of its financial services department, to succeed Ben Adams, who will step down as chairman and CEO of the firm in April 2019 after 15 years in charge.

Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney announced in early October that William Stoeri will succeed Kenneth Cutler as managing partner for a three-year term starting in the New Year.

Dickinson Wright is also getting new leadership come Jan. 1. Deputy CEO Michael Hammer was elected in late October to succeed William Burgess, who served as the Detroit-based firm’s CEO for nearly a decade.

In one of the quickest turnarounds of the year, Akerman’s board of directors voted to reinstate Andrew Smulian as chairman and CEO in November. Smulian had been CEO of the Miami-based firm for a decade before handing the baton to David Spector in February. Spector returned to the firm’s fraud and recovery practice while retaining board membership.

In a strategic leadership shift, litigation powerhouse Boies Schiller Flexner announced in late November the formation of a four-member management committee that assumed the administrative duties last week of the firm’s two name partners, David Boies and Jonathan Schiller. Boies remains chairman of the firm.

After its current chair Dane Butswinkas was named as next general counsel of Tesla Inc. earlier this month, Washington, D.C.’s Williams & Connolly selected Joseph Petrosinelli, co-chair of its products liability and criminal defense and government investigations practice group, as its next chair, effective Jan. 1.