Law Firms

Riley Safer names managing partner who may be the first black female to lead a national law firm

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Patricia Brown Holmes/Photo by Wayne Slezak.

Riley, Safer, Holmes & Cancila has named co-founder Patricia Brown Holmes as its first managing partner in what may be a precedent-setting appointment, according to the law firm.

Holmes, an African-American female, may be the first black woman to lead a national law firm of more than 50 lawyers that is not women- or minority-owned, according to a press release. The American Lawyer and Law360 have stories.

Other minority females leading law firms include include Faiza Saeed, who became Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s presiding partner in 2016, and Graciela Gomez Cowger, who became CEO of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt last year, according to The American Lawyer.

“To be the first to shatter the glass ceiling, I think, is an enormous responsibility,” Holmes told The American Lawyer. “But I’m hopeful that what it means is that fairly soon, in the next five to 10 years, it’s commonplace.”

Riley Safer was created in 2016 with lawyers from Schiff Hardin. Riley Safer now has 73 lawyers. Fifty-two percent are women and 29 percent are minorities.

Holmes is a former Cook County, Illinois, judge and prosecutor, and is currently serving as a special prosecutor for Cook County in a case accusing three police officers of a cover-up in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

She told the ABA Journal in a feature last December about a battle with lymphoma after being told in 1999 that she might have only six months to live. “I tend to be tenacious and determined,” Holmes said. “I didn’t accept the prognosis. I assessed the situation and found ways to fight.”

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