Employment and labor law firm Littler Mendelson elected Erin Webber as its new managing director and president, placing women in the top two roles at the firm.
Webber, who has been a managing shareholder in the firm’s Denver and Kansas City offices, follows co-managing directors Tom Bender and Jeremy Roth, who led the San Francisco-headquartered firm for an eight-year term. The firm prohibits re-election.
She assumes her role in January, and is ready to face coronavirus pandemic fallout.
“It could be the second quarter of 2021 before things come back,” Webber said in an interview. “Even though we can’t go to the office or have lunch together, some things are almost easier. The key is to keep people connected.”
She said productivity has remained very good. “We have worked to make people feel involved even when its easy not to feel part of it when people are sitting in their kitchen or basement,” she said.
Webber also plans to carry out the strategy implemented by Bender and Roth, who expanded the firm to some 1,500 attorneys in 94 offices in 23 countries.
An 18-year Littler veteran, Webber has defended a wide range of companies, including Home Depot, Staples, Sodexo, Sears, Hertz. and TJX, in lawsuits by employees alleging discrimination or seeking unpaid wages.
She heads to the post a year after Kate Mrkonich Wilson was elected board chair.
While women in any firm’s top two leadership positions may be rare, Webber said it was not unusual at Littler.
Littler’s managing director was a woman when she joined the firm in 2001.
“Diversity has always been one of our trademarks,” she said in pledging to place a premium on diversity and inclusion.
Since Littler sent employees home in March, it has focused on providing, and now upgrading, equipment provided to them. It has also supported a parenting group and initiatives like an extra day of vacation in July and earlier closing hours on Fridays.
Eventually, Webber said she will be looking at the firm’s physical presence.
“We can’t say we won’t need offices,” she said. “Our global imprint is still important but where we are has been motivated by where to our clients need us to be. We’re pretty bullish that opportunities are there for expansion.”
Even as the pandemic has spread, the firm has continued to expand, Roth confirmed. It has recently added offices in Poland, and expects to add several more before the end of the year.
“Clients are more interested in global solutions, and are asking what brand name player they can team up with,” he said.
Webber spent 10 years on the firm’s board of directors and has chaired the shareholder candidate committee since 2013.