Large Law Firms

O’Melveny Moves Up Leadership Vote; Defections Continue with A&O Acquisition

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Updated: Will O’Melveny & Myers chairman Arthur Culvahouse Jr. step down before the end of his term in 2013?

The answer is unclear, Thomson Reuters News & Insight reports. Culvahouse’s term ends in February 2013, but a vote on the person who will eventually replace him could come as early as this summer. The election was originally scheduled for the fall of 2012.

The early vote comes amid partner losses at the firm, which have numbered at least 23 since the beginning of this year, the story says. In the most recent defections, Allen & Overy announced this week that it is launching a Washington, D.C., office with several O’Melveny lawyers, including three partners.

An anonymous source told Reuters that at least five lawyers are competing for Culvahouse’s position, but O’Melveny spokeswoman Marjory Appel says the source is incorrect. She also says it’s wrong to link the earlier vote to partner defections, since Culvahouse announced the early transition process back in March. Since then, the firm’s policy committee has been “conducting an orderly transition from chair to chair elect, using best practices in leadership succession,” Appel said. “It has long been the firm’s intention to have a gradual transition from the chair to the chair elect.”

The transition comes on the heels of revenue numbers for 2010 that fall below other large firms, Reuters says. O’Melveny’s gross revenue dropped 5.3 percent, compared to 4 percent for other firms in the AmLaw 100. Profits per partner were up 4.8 percent, compared to an increase of 8.4 percent for other top 100 firms.

The firm recently promoted four lawyers to head practice groups, the Am Law Daily reported earlier this month. The article says the firm has lost several partners acquired along with the boutique O’Sullivan Graev & Karabell. The two firms had cultural differences, the story says, and the acquisition created resentment because O’Sullivan partners received large pay guarantees.

Prior coverage: “22 Partners Have Left O’Melveny in 2011; Some Exits Create ‘Growth Opportunities,’ Firm Says”

Updated at 8:55 a.m. to include information from O’Melveny spokeswoman Marjory Appel.

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