First Woman to Lead Major Firm Steps Down

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The managing partner of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is stepping down to take a newly created job at the firm overseeing client development initiatives and lawyer recruitment and development.

Debora de Hoyos was the first woman managing partner of a U.S. law firm when she took the job in 1991, according to a press release. In an interview with the New York Times soon after her appointment at age 37, she said the letters and phone calls congratulating her for breaking the gender barrier “perturbed me at first.”

“I didn’t think of myself as a symbol. I thought of myself as someone who has had a good professional experience.” But then she changed her mind as she heard from more and more people.

In a 2004 interview, she told the Chicago Tribune that one difficult part of becoming managing partner was giving up her practice.

Her duties will be folded into those of the firm’s new chairman, James D. Holzhauer, which is also a newly created position. The changes take effect on June 1, some three months after Mayer Brown announced it was eliminating 10 percent of its equity partnerships. Analysts said the move was designed to boost profits per partner.

Lawyers hoping for a job at Mayer Brown would do well to read an interview de Hoyos gave to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) in 2004. She told the newspaper she is looking for lawyers with integrity, good academic records, and a dedication to client service.

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