Jones Day won’t be naming a successor to Managing Partner Stephen Brogan this year—because that’s the way he wants it.
The firm is promoting Kevyn Orr from partner-in-charge of the Washington office to a new position: Partner-in-charge of the United States, Jones Day announced Tuesday. Noel Francisco, the Solicitor General under former President Donald Trump, will step into Orr’s role leading the Washington office.
Brogan, who will continue as managing partner, is showing no signs of stepping down anytime soon. The Washington, D.C. lawyer has kept a tight grip on the reins, despite blowing past the firm’s “semi-mandatory” retirement age.
Among the bureaucracy and leadership-by-committee that defines Big Law decision-making, Jones Day stands out for a unique approach that allows its top leader wide discretion, including to hand pick his successor. In the legalese the firm uses, Brogan can “designate by written instrument” his successor.
Brogan hasn’t done that yet, and he is remaining in the position he has held since 2003. Brogan was age 50 when the firmed announced in late 2002 he had been appointed its seventh managing partner. That makes him at least a handful of years past the age 65, which was once viewed as a “semi-mandatory” retirement age for the firm’s leader, according to a former partner at the firm.
A firm spokesman declined comment on Brogan’s age or how long he’d remain in the role. Jones Day in 2019 was the 10th largest law firm in the U.S. by revenue, bringing in slightly more than $2 billion, according to AmLaw data.
Orr, the new partner-in-charge for the U.S., gained prominence serving as the emergency manager of Detroit during the city’s bankruptcy. Jones Day advised the city, earning nearly $58 million in legal fees.
Francisco steps into Orr’s role after leaving the Trump administration last year. Francisco’s promotion has already drawn scrutiny from a group of law students who’d started a campaign opposing Big Law jobs for top Trump administration lawyers.
Jones Day leaders came under fire for the firm’s role in a Pennsylvania lawsuit that challenged a rule change extending time for mail-in ballots to arrive, Bloomberg reported in November. At the time, Orr defended the firm’s work in an internal conference call with Jones Day’s own lawyers and said it wouldn’t become involved in any other post-election challenges.
Jones Day had arguably more connections to the Trump administration than any other law firm. Under Brogan’s direction, the firm has been one of the few to not bow to public pressure to abandon the former president in wake of the riot at the Capitol.
The firm promoted New York-based partner Traci Lovitt to lead its vaunted issues and appeals practice. Jones Day routinely hires more Supreme Court clerks than almost any other law firm for that appellate practice. Lovitt had previously served as partner-in-charge of the firm’s Boston office, which she helped open in 2011.
Jones Day’s healthcare and life sciences practice also has new leaders. Partners Alexis Gilroy, Heather O’Shea, and Cristiana Spontoni will join Ken Fields as leaders of the group.
The firm says its “managing partner system"—currently giving much of the power to Brogan—allows lawyers to focus on serving clients rather than worry about law firm management.
“This governance system has never been the subject of any disagreement within the Firm,” Jones Day’s website says. “It is one of the critical components of an institutional management approach that has been an important element of the Firm’s success over the last century.”
The firm’s sixth managing partner, Pat McCartan, died in December at age 86. McCartan, like the successor he chose in Brogan, was closely connected to the University of Notre Dame. Both served on the university’s board of trustees. McCartan was appointed managing partner in 1993 and served until 2003. By that time, he was also past 65, becoming Jones Day’s first managing partner to serve past that age, the former partner said.
Brogan wrote an affectionate letter when McCartan passed, calling him “the greatest partner in the history” of the firm.
“If Jones Day were a person, it would want to be remembered as Pat McCartan,” Brogan said in a statement. “It is that sentiment that caused me at times to say to partners who were not living up to Pat’s standards, ‘You are Pat McCartan’s partner, act like it.’”