Monday, March 08, 2010

Akin Gump: Management Shakeup 9/17/08

Akin Gump Names New York Litigator as New Managing Partner, Posted by Brian Baxter

In the past several months Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has dealt with a series of partner defections and reports of discontent among its disparate offices. Now the national firm is revamping its management structure, appointing Kim Koopersmith, a New York-based litigation partner, as its first managing partner, starting October 1.

"I think [Koopersmith's appointment] is probably a natural conclusion of the restructuring that we've done," says fellow Akin Gump litigator R. Bruce McLean, now in the tail end of his sixteenth year as chairman of the firm. "What we're doing with the managing partner title is recognizing the contribution that Kim makes to the ongoing management and leadership of the firm."

Koopersmith will be one of only a handful of female managing partners from Am Law 100 firms. Prior to joining Akin Gump 15 years ago, she worked at New York's Anderson Kill & Olick. The New York native had served McLean in an advisory role while a member of Akin Gump's nine-member executive committee.

But last winter McLean says the firm replaced the executive committee with a six-member policy and planning committee to focus on long-term strategy. The move was part of a broader effort--as reported by sibling publication Legal Times--to revamp Akin Gump's management structure and reprioritize certain practice areas.

McLean says he relied upon Koopersmith and Rick Burdick, the Washington, D.C.-based head of Akin Gump's international corporate transactions practice, to "take a long look at firm management and how we do it." The end result, he says, was a formalizing of their leadership roles. (Burdick will become the firm's partner in charge of European operations.)

The two will continue to practice in addition to their firm management duties. (McLean's current tenure as chairman will expire in 2011.)

"I've been involved in firm management in one capacity or another for the past eight or nine years, and I've been working closely with Bruce for the past two or three years," Koopersmith says. "I can help Bruce focus on his talents--such as implementing the strategic vision, lateral partner recruiting, and practice development--so that we can organize ourselves to be most effective in management."

Koopersmith will continue handling associate recruiting and retention, as well as various professional development efforts. She chairs the firm's partnership admissions committee, which oversees the process of partnership promotions and conducts the vetting process for laterals. While McLean will spearhead any major lateral initiatives, Koopersmith says she is already involved in lateral recruitment and expects that work with the firm's chairman to continue.

And Akin Gump also needs to keep current lawyers aboard. The firm, which ranked twenty-ninth in this year's Am Law 100 with gross revenues of $752.5 million (a 3.6 percent increase over last year) and profits per equity partner of $1.2 million and change, has suffered several high-profile defections in recent months.

The 881-lawyer firm saw litigation rainmakers Michael Madigan and Richard Wyatt, Jr., depart for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Hunton & Williams, respectively, this past summer. And a recent story in Washingtonian magazine wonders whether Akin Gump will outlast its 89-year-old founding partner Robert Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. (Several former Akin Gump partners contacted for this story either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to phone calls.)

But McLean is confident in Koopersmith's abilities to help lead the firm in a new direction, a direction that he hopes will help it become a premier national firm.

"She has the full range of authority over lawyer life at Akin Gump: nonpartner recruitment, development, evaluation, and promotion," he says. "And [Koopermith's] had that responsibility for some time, so this is not only a continuation of what she's already been doing, but a chance for her to become more involved [in management]."

Both Koopersmith and McLean dismiss the notion that Koopersmith's appointment is a bone to the firm's New York office, which has grown increasingly powerful in recent years.

"I don't think [tensions between New York and other firm offices] has anything to do with this," Koopersmith says. "I like to think that I was [appointed] to where the buck passed on a lot of these issues because I was the right person for the job, not because I'm from New York. I think if I was from Austin, Texas, this is still what we would have done." Adds McLean: "She simply happens to live in New York--the results would have been the same if she lived in Texas."

Koopersmith says she will travel to all of Akin Gump's 12 offices as part of her new role, noting that she'll now have an office in Washington, D.C., in addition to her current office in New York.

"I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity," she says. "I've put my heart and soul into this law firm and I look forward to continuing to do that."


Gary Freedman said...

In 1999 I sent a job application to one of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's old law partners. I wonder if Mr. Olick made any telephone calls about me.

July 10, 1999
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW #136
Washington, DC 20008-4530

Arthur S. Olick, Esq.
Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C.
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020-1182

Dear Mr. Olick:

I am an attorney licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and qualify for consideration for an associate position with Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C. Preliminary to forwarding a copy of my resume to Anderson, Kill I believe I have a legal duty to advise you of the following facts regarding concerns about my potential for armed violence or homicide, intent to purchase firearms to commit a felony, and the illegal transport of a deadly weapon: concerns placed in controversy and affirmed, by the District of Columbia Office of Corporation Counsel (Charles F.C. Ruff, Esq.), as relating to genuine fears about my criminal intent.

The Government of the District of Columbia has affirmed that my former employer, the Washington, DC office of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld ("Akin Gump") terminated my employment in October 1991 on the basis of genuine concerns about my mental health and stability, including the potential for violence. The employer's termination decision was made following an ex parte consultation with a psychiatrist who did not examine me personally. Freedman v. D.C. Department of Human Rights, D.C. Superior Court no. MPA 95-14 (final order, June 10, 1996), affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals (Terry, Reid, and King, associate judges), No. 96-CV-961 (Memorandum Opinion and Judgment filed Sept. 1, 1998).

As of the filing of the complaint in the Superior Court proceedings, in October 1995, and at all times thereafter, it was unlawful under the laws of the District of Columbia for a psychiatrist to offer a professional psychiatric opinion about an individual without benefit of personal examination as is strongly recommended by the American Psychiatric Association's Principles of Medical Ethics. The D.C. Code in its latest revision makes it unlawful for a physician to "[fail] to conform to standards of acceptable conduct and prevailing practice within a health profession." See D.C. Code 2-3305.14(26). This provision was added to the District of Columbia Health Occupations Revision Act by D.C. Law 10-247, enacted on March 23, 1995. The Court of Appeals expressly found that the professional psychiatric opinion offered by the psychiatrist to the employer amounted to the diagnosis of a "disorder." See No. 96-CV-961 at 4.

The District of Columbia Superior Court as well as the Court of Appeals did not find that the action of my Akin Gump supervisor in stating to employees that she feared that I might have had plans to kill her, and the action of the supervisor in arranging to have her office secured against such a homicidal assault, see record on appeal at 41, was invidiously motivated. The supervisor (Robertson) is designated by the employer as one of the three decisionmakers who terminated my employment, see record on appeal at 167, which termination decision was based in part on the above-referenced psychiatric evidence that tended to show that I posed a risk of violence. Robertson's termination decision was made in consultation with Dennis M. Race, Esq., a senior Akin Gump partner, see record on appeal at 138 and 167.

yada, yada, yada

Gary Freedman said...

Brian Baxter

Staff Reporter / Associate Editor at American Lawyer Media

Greater New York City Area