The Cozen O'Connor law firm wraps up a years-long succession plan

Thomas A. Decker says he will work on the firm's strategic plan and public affairs.
Thomas A. Decker says he will work on the firm's strategic plan and public affairs.
Posted: September 26, 2012

Cozen O'Connor announced completion of a multiyear succession plan Monday, with Michael Heller taking on responsibilities as chief executive officer and the current CEO, Thomas A. "Tad" Decker, stepping down to become vice chairman, effective Jan. 1.

The announcement brings to a conclusion leadership changes begun in 2007 when Patrick O'Connor and founding member Stephen Cozen announced a reorganization that gave more control to other senior lawyers at the firm, and called for the hiring of a CEO.

Decker, then chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Commission, was chosen for that role a short time later and set about developing plans for further leadership transition and the firm's expansion. With Decker as CEO, the firm expanded its presence in Washington and New York and greatly added to its public affairs and lobbying initiatives.

Heller said that the firm intends to continue to build its commercial and transactional practices and that he expects real estate, intellectual property and utilities will see robust growth. He said the firm would continue to emphasize insurance litigation, for years a source of much of its growth, even as it continues to build out other practice areas.

"We are not going to forget where we came from," he said.

Decker said he would continue to work on the 549-lawyer firm's strategic plan while also being involved in its growing public affairs business. The firm said Vincent R. McGuinness Jr. would remain as managing partner.

Heller's current title is president and executive partner, and he serves on the firm's board of directors. The Villanova University law school graduate's focuses include corporate law, business succession, and venture capital. He said he expects to continue to practice but acknowledged that the added management responsibilities would create time pressures.

Decker, a University of Virginia law school graduate, said he expects more growth for the firm in Chicago and Washington, among other places.

Cozen founded the firm in 1968 with a handful of lawyers, focusing on a lucrative and highly specialized form of insurance defense work. Business boomed, and the firm's clients have included the Lloyd's insurance syndicates in London. It has been involved in recovering losses from the MGM Grand hotel fire in Las Vegas and the fire at One Meridian Plaza in Philadelphia, and has taken a leading role in the litigation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Until the leadership changeover of 2007, Cozen and O'Connor controlled the vast majority of shares in the firm. As a result of the changes, ownership of the firm was distributed far more widely among senior lawyers. The firm now has 173 shareholders, or partners. In addition to the 549 lawyers, there are 610 non-lawyer staff.

The firm has 18 offices in the United States, in addition to offices in London and Toronto.

It has pursued a strategy of growing through lateral recruitment. In 2009, it added 65 lawyers from Wolf Block L.L.P. after that firm's collapse. In April it picked up nine intellectual-property lawyers from Center City-based Duane Morris L.L.P.


Contact Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or cmondics@phillynews.com.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|