Debra Thompson Debra Thompson, Kutak Rock, Atlanta.

Kutak Rock has chosen a new Atlanta leader, Debra Thompson.

Thompson, who has a commercial real estate practice, succeeds Kutak Rock’s longtime Atlanta managing partner, David Amsden, who was promoted to national vice chair of the firm in May 2016. Amsden, a bond lawyer who’s spent his entire career at Kutak Rock, had served as the local managing partner since 1999.

Thompson is the first woman to lead Kutak Rock’s local office since the Omaha-based firm opened it in 1977. She was elected to the position by her Atlanta partners and has also become a member of the firm’s executive committee, after serving as a member of the policy board.

In a statement, Amsden called Thompson “an ideal choice” to lead the office, citing her “proven leadership, business and client development skills.”

“I think this is a great opportunity,” Thompson said. “Hopefully people in our office will feel energized. I’m looking forward to expanding our office and having a greater presence in Atlanta.”

Kutak Rock’s Atlanta office has 20 lawyers, and the firm has more than 520 lawyers in 18 U.S. locations. It ranks No. 130 in the Am Law 200 based on 2016 revenue of $230 million.

The firm’s local office is known for its public finance practice, with eight of the 14 partners in Atlanta practicing in that area, according to the firm’s website.

“Kutak is known as a public finance firm for good reason. We have a number of excellent attorneys doing sophisticated work in that area,” Thompson said. “One thing I want to do as managing partner is elevate our profile and let people know we have lawyers in a lot of other areas, such as banking, litigation and real estate, in addition to public finance.”

“I’m very interested in growing our office,” she added. “We’re looking at laterals and associates.”

Thompson joined Kutak Rock in 2012 from real estate boutique Hartman Simons, where she’d been a founding member. She has a national commercial real estate practice, primarily representing big box retailers and retail tenants.

A client conflict prompted Thompson’s move to Kutak Rock, she said, where she knew one of the commercial real estate partners, Ruth Ellen Isaac, because of a common client.

The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) has given Kutak Rock its “gold star” certification, which is based on the percentage of women as equity partners and in firm leadership. This year, 57 percent of the firm’s new partners and 30 percent of its equity partners are women.