Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz announced Thursday that Ben Adams will step down as chairman and CEO in 2019, to be replaced by Timothy Lupinacci, chairman of the firm’s financial services department and former managing shareholder of its Birmingham, Alabama, office.
Adams is slated to hand off leadership late April 2019, 15 years after he took the helm of the firm.
During Adams’ tenure, Baker Donelson grew from about 350 attorneys in 10 offices to more than 750 attorneys spread across 22 offices in 10 states and Washington, D.C., according to the firm.
Baker Donelson ranked 91 in the 2018 Am Law 100 with more than $392 million in gross annual revenues, and partner profits reached well north of $500,000.
Adams, based in the firm’s Memphis, Tennessee, office, said he is proud of the firm maintaining and building a sound and unified culture throughout its expansion. But he said it was time for “new energy, new ideas, and new approaches,” and the firm deserved someone in charge who could keep them moving forward.
“After 15 years and this much growth and having to travel this much, I’m just tired,” Adams said. “You start to realize you don’t have quite the same energy to keep doing what you’ve been doing.”
As chairman and CEO, Adams said he didn’t get involved with the 16-person search committee that selected Lupinacci. Adams said the firm undertook a “disciplined” search process, and ultimately recommended Lupinacci to the board.
Adams labeled Lupinacci “a great visionary, a great motivator, and a great do-er” who excels at “dreaming big” and “planning well.”
A self-described “leadership junkie,” Lupinacci said the firm’s board began thinking about this being Adams’ final term four or five years ago, and he started considering the top role a couple of years ago.
Lupinacci said he was on the road earlier this week when Adams sent out an internal email alerting the firm about the change, and his phone quickly lit up with messages from his colleagues.
“I’ve been at Baker Donelson for 13-and-a-half years, and I’m really passionate and believe in our firm, the vision of the firm, and where we’re heading, our people,” Lupinacci said.
When he takes the reins next year, Lupinacci said he will look to maximize the firm’s growth in Maryland and “unleash” the benefits of a merger last year with Baltimore-based Ober|Kaler, which also had offices in Washington and Northern Virginia. He said the firm is also focused on growth in Texas and Florida.
Lupinacci said he expects to cut back his time in the courtroom on a day-to-day basis but wants to stay involved in strategic advice and counsel of healthcare insolvencies for clients. He plans to stay in Birmingham while leading the firm.
In recent months, Baker Donelson has expanded in the mid-Atlantic and in Florida, with an addition to its intellectual property group in Baltimore and a pair of health care lawyers joining in South Florida from Greenspoon Marder.
The firm’s leadership is spread throughout the mid-South and Deep South and looks to have largely weathered Hurricane Michael well. Adams said the Tallahassee, Florida, and Macon, Georgia, offices closed Thursday, but everyone at the firm was accounted for.
In addition to being a member of the firm’s board of directors, Lupinacci has served as co-chair of the firm’s women’s initiative and continues to serve on its diversity committee.
As Lupinacci charts the firm’s next moves, he will work closely with Adams. After stepping down, Adams said he intends to proactively pursue clients in his estate practice, which he said he was able to maintain while managing the firm.