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19 October 2020

Baker McKenzie announces latest global leadership shake-up

Firm names new regional chairs for North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific

By Ben Edwards

Baker McKenzie office


Baker McKenzie has announced new regional leaders globally and named its latest two partners to join the firm’s executive committee as it continues to advance its global strategy despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The shake-up sees: Dallas-based Michael Santa Maria take up the reins as regional chair for North America in place of Duane Webber, who works out of Washington DC; Barcelona-based Esteban Raventos replace Munich partner Constanze Ulmer-Eilfort as EMEA head; and Michael Wong (Taipei) take over from Ai Ai Wong (Singapore) overseeing the Asia Pacific region.

Webber and Ai Ai Wong are also standing down from the executive committee with Hong Kong-based IP lawyer Shih Yann Loo and Dallas-based tax expert Melinda Phelan stepping up to replace them.

Milton Cheng, global chair, said he hoped the new leaders would build on the firm’s successes this year and continue moving its global strategy forward. That includes having a strong deal focus and maintaining a steady inflow of high-quality lateral hires in key markets. Cheng was elected global chair last autumn.

Corporate partner Santa Maria is based in Dallas, where he specialises in international cross-border transactions. Raventos will chair the EMEA region from Barcelona, where he was previously office managing partner and chair of the firm’s wealth management group for EMEA. Asia Pacific chair Michael Wong is based in Taipei, where he specialises in M&A and corporate law.

The new executive committee members, meanwhile, both have management experience. Loo previously led the firm’s IP group in cross-border litigation and enforcement in Hong Kong and mainland China, while Phelan was previously chair of the firm’s North America tax practice in Dallas.

Back in April, Baker McKenzie became the first top 20 Am Law 100 firm to announce salary cuts for its US associates in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The firm imposed a 15% reduction in wages for lawyers and business professionals earning more than $100,000 a year in a bid to avoid job losses with the measure scheduled to last until the end of the calendar year.

Despite those pressures, in June the firm announced its largest partner promotion round since 2016, with 84 of its lawyers making partner across 35 offices. Some 41% of those partners were women, up from just under 40% a year earlier. The US and Europe saw the biggest partner expansion, with 26 a piece. Asia Pacific saw 19 lawyers make partner. 

That came shortly after a shake-up in its global practice group leadership, with a trio of London partners taking up key roles. London derivatives partner Matthew Denning was named chair of the firm's banking and finance practice, Helen Bradley was named capital markets chair and Karen Guch was named global private equity chair.

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