Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft boosted its ability to counsel corporate clients in mergers and acquisitions by naming James Woolery, the former JPMorgan Chase deal maker, as its first deputy chairman.
The firm said Woolery, 43, who will also co-chair the corporate department, will be responsible for business development, strategy and external relations.
For Cadwalader, Woolery’s addition will further cement a relationship with the banking giant and the industry. Woolery said the relationship between the bank and the law firm is already strong. While it’s up to JPMorgan to decide if more business will go to Cadwalader, he said the two are collaborating on a number of new assignments.
Woolery served as co-head of North American mergers and acquisitions at JPMorgan, in which he helped oversee a range of major transactions. Chris Ventresca is the sole head of the JPMorgan division now.
Among some transactions on which Woolery has worked are Dell Inc.’s recent agreement to be acquired by Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners and Medco’s merger with Express Scripts.
Woolery, who started his new job yesterday, said he was "very committed to the role I had" at JPMorgan, and he could have stayed in banking. Although "I always missed practicing law because I enjoyed it," he said he didn’t enjoy one profession more than the other.
"This was really about the opportunity to take a leadership position" at an impressive firm and to help drive a platform, while working with firm chairman W. Christopher White, he said. Woolery added that he met White last year, when White reached out to him about a potential role at the firm.
"This firm is very nimble, it’s the right size" for strategy and development plans, Woolery said.
He said its vision includes marrying corporate and regulatory work, which he described as "a combined focus around business lawyering and regulatory affairs." Oftentimes, the practices are siloed and not integrated, he said.
Woolery also said he saw his move to Cadwalader as "a natural progression" in a career focused on business management and development.
Before JPMorgan, Woolery spent 17 years at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he established and led Cravath’s business development and strategy group. He joined Cravath as an associate in 1994 and was elected a partner in 2002. Woolery earned his J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
As deputy chairman at Cadwalader, Woolery is a possible successor to White, though Woolery declined to comment on whether he has ambitions to become chairman.
"That’s not pre-ordained," he said, noting that the successor will be elected by firm partners.
Woolery’s addition reflects a sharper focus on strategy after the financial crisis, when Cadwalader let go of dozens of attorneys and saw headcount decline in recent years.
And Woolery brings an expertise as a merger specialist, a role that had been filled by Dennis Block, who left Cadwalader in 2011 to join Greenberg Traurig.
According to an early report from The American Lawyer’s financial coverage of the highest-grossing firms, Cadwalader saw a solid 4 percent increase in gross revenue and a 11.6 percent jump in profits per partner in 2012—the first increase in profits it has enjoyed since 2009. The firm’s gross revenue rose to $466.5 million and profits per partner expanded to $2.65 million, according to The American Lawyer, an affiliate.
The American Lawyer reported that the firm reduced its overall attorney head count by 6 percent to 435, a change that contributed to an 11.4 percent increase in its revenue per lawyer, to $1.075 million
In a statement, White said, "Jim brings more than two decades of experience advising corporations and boards on the most important business challenges facing them. His arrival at Cadwalader adds to our already strong corporate capabilities. His partnership with our roster of highly experienced and respected corporate, financial and regulatory attorneys will help us continue to advance our clients’ interests."
@|Christine Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.