Dorsey & Whitney has elected Kim Severson to serve as chair of its 11-person policy committee, making the veteran tax lawyer the first woman to lead what amounts to the board of directors for the 105-year-old, Minneapolis-based Am Law 200 firm.
Severson has served on the partner-elected policy committee for about three-and-a-half years, and she will serve at least one year in the chair position. The chair, nominated and voted on by the policy committee members, is elected once a year and has a term limit of two years. Severson replaces New York-based trial partner Richard Silberberg, who had served in the chair role the past two years.
As chair, Severson will work closely with managing partner Kenneth Cutler to manage the firm and lead the policy committee meetings. In particular, Severson said that she will focus on growing Dorsey & Whitney and has an interest in helping the firm’s younger lawyers and junior partners transition to leadership positions as older partners retire or transition out of the firm’s relationships with clients.
“The legal profession has changed a lot and Dorsey, like other firms, needs to start thinking of succession and good client service as our older lawyers start to transition out,” Severson said. “And we need to start thinking about the training and long-term prospects of our more junior lawyers, so that’s very important to me.”
Dorsey & Whitney ranked No. 102 on the Am Law 200 list this year, with $326.5 million in gross revenue for 2016, down 3 percent from a year prior, when it ranked No. 98 in the Am Law 100. Its 488 lawyers reported in 2016 brought in $670,000 in revenue apiece, and Dorsey & Whitney’s equity partners made $600,000 in profits each.
In February, Dorsey & Whitney announced it had hired five lawyers from Schiff Hardin in Dallas, opening its first office in Texas. The firm later added another 10 lawyers from Schiff Hardin, which closed its Dallas office in the move. (One Schiff Hardin partner stayed on at the firm in Dallas.)
While Severson is the first woman to lead Dorsey & Whitney’s policy committee, the firm has previously had a female managing partner. Marianne Short served as managing partner from 2006 through 2012 before being succeeded by Cutler. (Short is now chief legal officer at Minnetonka, Minnesota-based health care giant UnitedHealth Group Inc., a longtime client of Dorsey & Whitney.)
“Kim Severson is a brilliant tax lawyer, a wonderful colleague and a vital member of the Dorsey management team and the Dorsey community,” Cutler said in a statement. “I know she will do a superb job as policy committee chair, and I look forward to working closely with her.”
Severson said being the first woman to lead the policy committee was important to her because it would serve as an example to other firms and other women in the profession, which has broadly struggled to elevate women to leadership roles.
“Progress has been slow, so I think it’s a good thing for law firms in general and for women lawyers to see women who are willing to take on these leadership positions and tackle them in addition to their regular practice,” Severson said. “As we see more women leaders in those positions, it will make it easier for other women to move up.”
Severson, who has also served as chair and director of Dorsey & Whitney’s nonprofit foundation, said she will continue her full-time practice at the firm representing companies in tax issues, mostly related to M&A transactions.