Kathleen Furey McDonough, left, and Michael Tumas, right, of Potter Anderson.
Kathleen Furey McDonough, left, and Michael Tumas, right, of Potter Anderson. (Courtesy photos)

Potter Anderson & Corroon has named partner Kathleen Furey McDonough as its new chair-elect, marking the first time a woman has been elected to chair the firm’s executive committee.

McDonough became chair-elect effective Jan. 1, the firm announced Tuesday, and will become chair of the firm at the beginning of 2018. Current chairman Michael B. Tumas is expected to complete his three-year term, which runs through the end of 2017.

Tumas, who joined the firm 33 years ago, will have been on the executive committee for 12 years, including his years as chairman. Before that, he chaired the finance committee for six years.

“I think it’s time for me to continue to focus and spend more of my time and efforts on meeting the needs of my clients,” Tumas said. “We’ve created a very well-run, efficient law firm. We were able to keep our rates down and run the firm in a way that was client-focused.”

McDonough, who has been at Potter Anderson for 32 years, has been a member of the executive committee for two years, and served a term on the committee in the late 1990s. At that time, she was the first woman and youngest member to have served on the committee. She is head of the firm’s labor and employment practice, which she founded, but will be passing that role onto partner Jennifer Gimler Brady. Still, McDonough said she plans to stay active in the practice and in representing her clients.

Tumas referred to next year’s changes on the executive committee as a “changing of the guard,” even though McDonough has experience on the committee.

The firm’s direction in terms of practice will remain the same, McDonough said, but there will be a greater focus on associate development and talent retention.

For instance, Potter Anderson hired a chief talent and diversity officer, William Chapman, in 2015 to focus on associate development. Tumas said competition for talent is the greatest challenge Delaware firms are facing.

“Keeping our best talent is, we think, very important to strengthen our firm so we can turn our attention to developing business,” McDonough said.

Another area of focus, she said, will be responding to the overall downturn in litigation nationwide, and capitalizing on areas where litigation trends are positive. The firm has been able to do that in the past, she said, in the areas of insurance recovery and intellectual property litigation.

“We want to make sure we’re poised with the right talent, experience and people in place,” McDonough said.

With nearly 100 active lawyers, Potter Anderson is one of the largest Delaware law firms. It is the oldest law firm in the state, founded in 1826. The firm’s practice areas include corporate law and corporate litigation, intellectual property, commercial litigation, restructuring, labor and employment and health care.