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Incoming Bryan Cave Chairwoman Shifts Firm's Leadership to D.C.

Managing partner of firm's Atlanta office says the selection 'sets the tone for … a firm moving forward'

, Daily Report

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Therese Pritchard will step fully into the role of chairwoman on Oct. 1.
Therese Pritchard will step fully into the role of chairwoman on Oct. 1.

Bryan Cave has chosen Therese Pritchard as the first chairwoman and the first leader from outside its St. Louis base in its 140-year history, as the firm, which has a sizeable Atlanta office, adapts to the 21st century.

Pritchard, who leads the white collar and securities enforcement practice from Washington, was elected Bryan Cave's next leader by the partnership on Monday. She will step into the role on Oct. 1, working as chair-elect with the current chairman, Don Lents, for the transition period, the firm announced Wednesday.

Lents will return to his corporate practice after completing his second five-year term as chairman. At 64 he is approaching the firm's age 65 cutoff for management roles.

Pritchard, 60, has held several leadership positions during her 14 years at Bryan Cave. She has served on the firm's executive and compensation committees and currently oversees its Asia offices in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

"I think it's great that the best candidate also turned out to be a woman," said Thomas McNeill, who became the firm's Atlanta managing partner after its acquisition of Powell Goldstein in 2009. Atlanta is the 1,100-lawyer firm's third-largest office, after St. Louis and New York.

"I think it will be good for us. It will help us set the tone for being a firm moving forward in the crazy world we're living in today," McNeill said.

He added that the choice signals continuity. "Part of the reason Terry was chosen was she shares the values and the vision that the firm has and that Don has been moving forward with. I view this as the next step, not a radical change of direction."

Pritchard will be the fourth woman to head an Am Law 50 firm and the eighth to lead an Am Law 100 firm. (Bryan Cave ranked 46th in The American Lawyer's 2012 survey, based on revenue.)

Her path to large firm leadership has been very different from that of her predecessor, who has spent his entire career at Bryan Cave. When Lents joined in 1974, after law school at Harvard University, the firm had 55 lawyers, all in St. Louis.

By the time Pritchard joined Bryan Cave in 1999, she was two decades into her legal career and already had worked on high-profile cases and held leadership roles at the Securities and Exchange Commission and elsewhere.

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