Kasowitz Benson Torres has restructured its management with new positions, announcing on Wednesday two co-managing partners who will share duties with founding partner Marc Kasowitz.
The firm has appointed Cindy Caranella Kelly, who focuses on civil litigation, and Wallace Schwartz, head of the firm’s real estate transactional group, as the firm’s co-managing partners of administration.
The appointments come during a year when Kasowitz Benson has adjusted to personnel changes and to being thrust in the public eye. After Marc Kasowitz began representing President Donald Trump in special counsel and congressional committee investigations, Kasowitz drew unflattering press attention by ProPublica and other media outlets, while some firm partners this year, including management committee member Aaron Marks, exited for other firms.
But Kelly and Schwartz, who also sit on the firm’s 12-person management committee, said in an interview that the appointments are not related to the recent firm scrutiny or the departure of Marks, who had overseen several administrative duties.
The two new leaders also said Kasowitz is not stepping back from leadership duties, his role at the firm hasn’t changed and he remains the leading partner. “He remains involved in all aspects of the firm,” Kelly said.
Schwartz said he and Kelly will report directly to Kasowitz. “It’s a more efficient way of getting him the information that he needs” to run the firm, he said.
“All decisions are ultimately Marc’s decisions, but with help and advice of the management committee,” Schwartz said, when asked how the appointments were made.
Still, the changes for Kasowitz Benson—where Kasowitz has been referred to as a benevolent dictator—suggest a shift toward the kind of management infrastructure that has long been routine at other Am Law 200 firms.
“The concept of institutionalizing some of these management tasks and positions I think is the goal here,” Schwartz said.
The administrative tasks they will oversee include legal recruiting, hiring process of laterals, the summer associate program, personnel matters, business development initiatives and firm expenditures, such as charitable contributions, Kelly said.
Kelly said the firm had been contemplating the appointments for a while, regardless of Marks’ departure. “Various responsibilities have been distributed throughout the firm. Aaron did some of those,” while other partners took on other tasks, Kelly said. “This is an effort to consolidate them for efficiency purposes.”
Schwartz said the firm has become much larger since “its original governing structure was set up,” and it’s now catching up to having an appropriate structure to handle the larger size.
Kasowitz founded the firm in 1993 with about 18 defectors from Mayer Brown, and it grew to about 370 lawyers by 2013. In recent years, the firm’s head count has shrunk with lateral departures and a couple of waves of layoffs. The firm had about 260 attorneys in 2016.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Schwartz will continue their legal practices.
Schwartz joined the firm in 2011 after being a real estate leader at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, but he said he has known Kasowitz since 1974. The two sublet an apartment together when they were summer associates.
Since Schwartz joined the firm with a few others, the real estate transactional practice has grown to include more than 30 attorneys and paralegals, he said. Schwartz and others are representing developers and landlords in several high-profile projects in Manhattan, including at Hudson Yards and a hotel project known as Times Square Gateway Center.
Kelly’s practice focuses on civil litigation, in particular securities and antitrust law, with clients including MetLife and Lloyds as well as creditors’ committees, energy companies and individuals. Kelly said she has worked a part-time schedule at Kasowitz Benson for the past 17 years since starting a family, while continuing her litigation practice.
Last year, two high-profile women litigators at Kasowitz Benson left with other partners. Robin Cohen led a group of insurance recovery litigators to McKool Smith, while Eleanor Alter and other matrimonial lawyers at Kasowitz started their own firm, Alter, Wolff & Foley.
Kelly said she sees her appointment “further underscoring” the firm’s commitment to diversity and to women attorneys. Kelly, who sits on the firm’s woman and diversity committees, said the appointment is “very meaningful, as a Hispanic woman, and someone who has worked a flexible schedule.”
The two Kasowitz partners have said they haven’t seen any change of business in light of the Trump representation and the firm’s spotlight in the news. “We continue to be incredibly busy,” Kelly said, while Schwartz said the real estate group has expanded its business significantly lately.
Kasowitz, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment, said in a statement that the two have tremendous respect of the partnership. “We are delighted that they have agreed to assume a greater leadership role within the firm, and we are all looking forward to their positive influence going forward,” the statement said.