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26 April 2021

Sidley Austin litigation co-head set to become first Latina leader of a top 10 Am Law firm

Yvette Ostolaza will replace Larry Barden in April next year as management committee chair

By Ben Edwards

Sidley Austin has elected litigation and disputes partner Yvette Ostolaza as the next chair of its management committee, replacing Larry Barden when his term concludes next April.

Ostolaza will become the first woman to lead the Chicago-based firm. She is also the first Latina lawyer to be appointed to lead a top ten US law firm, joining a small group of lawyers of Hispanic American origin to have taken the helm of leading US or global law firms, who notably include Hogan Lovells' CEO, Miguel Zaldivar.

She currently co-chairs the firm’s global litigation practice and is managing partner of its Dallas office, as well as being a member of the firm’s executive committee. Sidley’s nine-member management committee oversees day-to-day operations and is one of the firm’s main governing bodies alongside the executive committee. She will work closely with Michael Schmidtberger, who remains chair of the executive committee.

Her appointment comes off the back of a strong year financially for her firm. According to Law.com, it posted at 5.4% increase in revenue to $2.46bn against a 9.8% increase in profits per equity partner to $3.09m.

Barden said: “This role is a natural for Yvette, who has proven to be a highly dynamic and effective leader, lawyer and partner. She is the kind of leader who brings out the best in those around her, the kind of lawyer who clients trust with their most important matters and the kind of partner who is completely dedicated to the success of the firm.”

He added: “Those traits and experiences translate perfectly to the chair position and help ensure that Sidley’s future is bright.”

Ostolaza’s practice focuses on commercial litigation and disputes, securities and shareholder litigation and white collar investigations. She will continue her practice in addition to her work on the management committee.

Schmidtberger said: “With her impressive record as a boardroom and C-suite counsellor on both bet-the-company litigation and business strategy, there is no doubt that Yvette can make a true difference in this firm and in the legal community. Yvette also brings a keen understanding of legal operations and economics, the markets where we compete and the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The conclusion of M&A lawyer Barden’s eight-year tenure next year will also coincide with his 40th anniversary at the firm, having joined as an associate in 1982.

Ostolaza said: “Larry has demonstrated incredibly successful, inspiring leadership since taking the reins in 2014, and I look forward to continuing Sidley’s 155-year legacy of growth and progress. I am deeply grateful for his mentorship throughout my career at Sidley and appreciate his steadfast commitment and many contributions to this great firm.”

Other women to assume leadership roles at leading international law firms recently include Shauna Clark, who in January became Norton Rose Fulbright's US and global chair, making her the first woman of colour to hold either role.

In the same month, Georgia Dawson became the first woman leader of a UK Magic Circle firm when she took up the role of senior partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

There were 12 women among the the 28 Sidley partners promoted at the start of the year, representing 43% of the cohort, up from 37% in 2020.

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