Charles Nebel, COO of Central Pa.-based McNees Wallace & Nurick.
Charles Nebel, COO of Central Pa.-based McNees Wallace & Nurick. (Courtesy photo)

McNees Wallace & Nurick has brought on a Big Law veteran to serve as the Pennsylvania firm’s new chief operating officer.

Charles Nebel joins the firm from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where he had been global finance director since 2004. He replaces Richard Burtnett, who is retiring after 25 years as McNees Wallace’s COO.

Leading operations and finance at 130-lawyer McNees Wallace presents “a new challenge,” said Nebel, who worked in public accounting before joining Orrick. He noted that his role will be broader, as he oversees multiple functions that were part of separate departments at Orrick.

“The move from Orrick to this position is going to allow me to make a bigger difference,” Nebel said. “At Orrick it’s so large it’s harder to make a difference.”

At Orrick, Nebel worked in Wheeling, West Virginia, where the firm centralized its operational staff and non-partner-track associates nearly 15 years ago. Orrick touts that location as the first global insourcing center of a large U.S. law firm.

Nebel oversaw a variety of financial functions there, including partner capital and compensation and all of the firm’s tax filings. He integrated the firm’s acquired offices in Germany, China, Russia, France and Hong Kong, established an in-house internal audit department and developed Orrick’s foreign currency program for partner compensation.

Nebel commuted from Pittsburgh to Wheeling when he worked for Orrick, and is planning a move to central Pennsylvania soon. His role at McNees Wallace will involve day-to-day management and long-term strategy, including oversight of billing, finance, human resources, library resources and technology. He said he hopes to bring some of Orrick’s technological savvy to McNees Wallace, to transition it into a “less paper-oriented” firm.

Nebel is McNees Wallace’s second COO after Burtnett, who shaped the job over long tenure, chairman David Kleppinger said. He said it wasn’t surprising that the search for a new COO had attracted candidates from large firms, given that McNees Wallace is the biggest firm headquartered in central Pennsylvania.

Nebel’s experience at an international firm will help McNees Wallace enhance its financial analysis and reporting processes, Kleppinger said.

“The sophistication of our budgeting has changed in the 25 years [since Burtnett became COO]. It’s as close to a science as it can become,” Kleppinger said. “Chuck comes in with such financial strengths that it’s the least of my worries.”

Operationally, McNees Wallace is a cost-conscious firm with low overhead, Kleppinger said. The firm will stay that way as it looks to grow in its existing offices, and perhaps expand in suburban Philadelphia or suburban Baltimore, Kleppinger said, and Nebel will help execute that strategy. The firm currently has four locations in central and northeast Pennsylvania, and offices in Columbus, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Frederick, Maryland.

A spokesman for Orrick said the firm wished Nebel well in his new role.