McDermott votes in new leadership after contested election

Ira J. Coleman

McDermott Will & Emery has chosen global corporate head Ira Coleman as its next chairman after a contested election featuring four other contenders.

The vote was cast by the 21 partners who sit on McDermott’s management committee, with a majority required to win. The voting was anonymous and committee members were not told the tallies of each vote, only whether a majority has been reached.

Four other US-based partners had campaigned for the top spot: intellectual property head Sarah Chapin Columbia; litigation head Lazar Raynal; employee benefits, compensation, labour and employment head David Rogers; and financial institutions head David Taub.

Coleman (pictured above), who also runs the firm’s Miami office, said the other candidates have all pledged their support. “Each one of them said, ‘I’m here for you,’” he said.

He has a practice focusing on healthcare and private equity, with a client base that includes Goldman Sachs, Altaris Capital Partners, the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group, according to the firm’s website.

Coleman said he will give up his full-time practice, while continuing his client relationships.
He will take charge of the sprawling Chicago-based firm – which has more than 1,000 lawyers in 20 offices – at the start of next year, succeeding Jeffrey Stone and Peter Sacripanti, who have led McDermott for eight years as co-chairmen. The chairman’s term is for one year but leaders have typically served for seven or eight years.

“Ira is an exceptional leader, and I am fully confident in his ability to take the reins and lead our firm into the future,” Sacripanti said in a statement. Stone added: “I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Ira over many years, and have seen first-hand the commitment and passion he brings every day to our clients and our people.”

Sacripanti and Stone will remain on the firm’s management committee and will practice law full time.

Last year, McDermott’s revenue declined 1% to $891.5m, while its revenue still sits significantly below pre-recession levels, when it peaked at $978m in 2007. Revenue per lawyer at the Chicago-based firm inched up 1.1% last year, to $910,000, and profits per equity partner rose 3.3%, to $1.58m.