Mayer Brown has selected Jon Van Gorp, a New York and Chicago-based structured finance partner, as its next firm chair, succeeding Chicagoan Paul Theiss, who’d been in the role since 2012.
Van Gorp, who will serve at least one three-year term, has worked at Mayer Brown for the past 24 years and previously co-led practice groups at the firm, including capital markets, structured finance, and banking and finance.
He has served on Mayer Brown’s management committee since 2017, where the firm said he worked closely with Theiss, whom he will succeed on June 1.
Van Gorp said in an interview he’ll focus on executing a strategy the firm developed in 2019 that focuses on growth in the major financial hubs of New York, London, and Hong Kong— where the firm already has more than 200 lawyers in each. The firm also wants to grow in California.
From a practice group and industry standpoint, Mayer Brown is focused on funds, projects and infrastructure work, high stakes litigation, and corporate work including M&A and capital markets.
The firm is also targeting corporate and intellectual property lawyers in the technology and life sciences space, two of the hottest areas for Big Law hiring this year. And it is bulking up its restructuring group, Van Gorp said, expecting a wave of that work to finally come after businesses were propped up by cheap lending and government stimulus programs during the downturn caused by the pandemic.
Theiss’ leadership began in 2012 during the tumultuous aftermath of the Great Recession, a challenging period for Big Law firms. He steered the firm to eight consecutive years of revenue increases and 74% growth in partner profits over that time, according to Mayer Brown. The three terms he served were the most for any Mayer Brown chair since the 1990s, the firm said.
During his tenure, the firm said total pro bono hours increased more than 50% while the number of panel appointments it earned on clients’ go-to roster of law firms rose nearly four-fold to 275. That style of law firm hiring became more popular generally over the last decade, and Van Gorp said the firm’s focus on client teams and panel appointments was one of Theiss’ “signature accomplishments.”
Growing its list of panel appointments fostered inter-office collaboration at the firm, Theiss said, noting that over the last three years 45 of the firm’s 50 largest clients had worked with the firm in all three of its regions (the Americas, Europe, and Asia).
“We think that is another manifestation of our commitment to deepening and strengthening our client relationships,” Theiss said in an interview.
Mayer Brown revenue in 2020 grew more than 2% to cross the $1.5 billion threshold while its profits per equity partner rose more than 10% to slightly more than $2 million, according to AmLaw data.
Van Gorp will take the helm of the Top 25 firm by revenue as the industry returns in fits and starts to its office space that has been vacated for more than a year during the pandemic. He said the firm will look to encourage lawyers to return to the office with things such as training and development programs rather than mandating their return.
“We don’t think the differentiator will be whether people have to go to the office or whether they can always work remotely,” he said. “We think the differentiator will be how we develop talent and how we give people the opportunity to grow and develop with us.”