Morgan Lewis & Bockius names first woman chair

Posted: October 03, 2013

In a major leadership change, Center City's Morgan Lewis & Bockius L.L.P., one of the nation's largest law firms, named its first woman chair on Tuesday, Jami Wintz McKeon, who will succeed long time chair Francis Milone.

McKeon, a top courtroom advocate who defended corporate clients against class action lawsuits and in various regulatory proceedings, headed Morgan Lewis's 400 lawyer litigation department, and has been instrumental in the firm's overseas growth, particularly in London and Moscow.

She joins a select and very small group of women in the U.S. who have headed large law firms, including Nina Gussack, the chair of Center City's Pepper Hamilton L.L.P., who was chair until former FBI director Louis Freeh took over last year, and Christine LaGarde, the former chair of Baker McKenzie, who now is head of the International Monetary Fund.

Milone took over as chairman of Morgan Lewis in 1999, spearheaded its growth in the U.S. and abroad and helped shepherd the firm through the severe downturn in the legal market in 2008 and 2009. The firm sharply reduced hiring for a time but has since resumed its expansion, growing some 14 percent.

McKeon, in an interview, said the financial downturn, which has proven traumatic for much of the legal industry, spurred the firm to make adjustments such as moving away from the hourly billing model that had dominated law firms for generations. She said the changes bolstered Morgan Lewis's underlying business and proved beneficial to clients.

"The fiscal downturn came and a lot of firms saw that as a negative," she said. "We really looked at it in another way and saw it as an opportunity to be innovative and creative."


cmondics@phillynews.com

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