Bloomberg Law
March 3, 2021, 9:55 PM

Gibson Dunn Names First Woman Chair in 131st Year After Founding

Elizabeth Olson

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on Wednesday elected Barbara Becker as chair and managing partner, making her the first woman to lead the firm since its founding in 1890.

Becker, a partner who has co-chaired the 400-lawyer mergers and acquisitions group, starts May 1. She succeeds Ken Doran, who has led the firm since 2002.

“As the first woman to lead the firm, Barbara’s election is a momentous point in our firm’s history,” Doran said in a statement. “She is absolutely the right person to succeed me.”

Becker joins a small group of women who lead large firms, including Kim Koopersmith at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Jami McKeon at Morgan Lewis & Bockius; and Marie-Aimee de Dampierre at Hogan Lovells.

Her firm leadership roles have included being a member of the executive committee and creating and leading the firm’s diversity committee.

“I worked across practices, across offices, and across oceans, so when partners were asked who would be good to fill Ken’s very big shoes, the firm wanted someone who was good, as well as female,” Becker said in an interview.

She said her priorities will be “continuing Gibson Dunn’s track record of success through maintaining the growth of our global platform.” Becker added that she wants to protect “our culture of teamwork and collegiality.”

The firm has expanded over the years through lateral hires, including Becker, who was such an addition in 2000. She earlier worked for Morrison Foerster, Chadbourne & Parke and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

In her corporate practice, Becker advised companies on domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, spinoffs, joint ventures and general corporate matters. She also advised boards of directors and special committees of public companies.

Her experience includes the consumer/retail, technology, healthcare and industrial industries. Her clients have included Accenture, Kraft Heinz, Merck, News Corp, PepsiCo and VMware.

Doran presided over firm growth, including nine new offices and nearly doubling the number of attorneys. The firm currently has more than 1,400 lawyers and 20 offices globally.

Gibson Dunn has just over 101 women partners, which is 23% of that group in the U.S. and 22% firmwide. The firm has added 66 women partners since 2014. Five are on the firm’s executive committee.

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