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Dentons Global Chairman Andrew to Step Down After Decade in Post

Nov. 7, 2022, 9:08 PM

Joe Andrew will step down from his post as global chairman at Dentons, the firm said Monday.

Andrew has held the job for a decade, during which Dentons has pushed an aggressive expansion plan. He will relinquish the leadership role next year, Dentons said.

Dentons touts itself as “the world’s largest law firm,” with an affiliated network of more than 12,000 lawyers across 83 countries, according to the firm. Since 2013, it’s opened offices everywhere from Dublin to San Salvador, El Salvador and Melbourne, Australia.

The firm’s Swiss verein structure has come under fire recently, following a $32 million malpractice verdict against the firm. That ruling raises questions about the links between Dentons and affiliate firms.

“When we announced the launch of Dentons a decade ago, many of our critics doubted it would succeed,” Andrew said. “But today we know it is a powerful concept because more law firms and lawyers have joined Dentons than any other firm in the history of the legal profession.”

Andrew, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1999 to 2001, had gained support to run from the firm’s Global Management Committee and its Global Board, had he decided to do so, according to a statement from the firm. Dentons does not plan to fill the global chairman role.

That will leave Dentons Global CEO Elliott Portnoy alone at the top. The pair has led the firm together since it was formed in2013.

Sonia Martin in January was named US CEO of Dentons, the first woman in the role. The move came after the firm quietly removed longtime US leader Mike McNamara, who continues to work as a Dentons partner in Washington.

Martin said at the time that she was committed to more high-level growth that will result in it becoming the first “truly national” U.S. law firm.

Structural Questions

Dentons was hit with the $32 million verdict in a malpractice suit by a former client, RevoLaze Inc., an Ohio-based company that makes laser technology for denim products.

The case, on appeal before the Ohio Supreme Court, could have an impact on whether international law firms using the Swiss verein ownership model—there are about a half-dozen with offices in the United States—will be forced to conduct more rigorous and transparent conflicts checks as corporations weigh whether to become clients.

Andrew, a corporate lawyer who has focused on mergers and acquisitions of regulated companies, will continue practicing at Dentons after he steps down from his leadership role, the statement said.

“My appreciation to Joe for his contributions to Dentons is immense,” said Portnoy in the statement. “His impact on the business of law has been enormous.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sam Skolnik in Washington at sskolnik@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com