Dentons CEO Portnoy to step down after more than a decade at helm

Firm to employ consultancy to help find successor for Portnoy, whose term ends in November 2024

Elliott Portnoy Image courtesy of Dentons

Dentons has begun to search for a new leader after its longstanding global CEO, Elliott Portnoy, announced his intention to stand down. 

Portnoy will lead the firm until the end of his current term in November 2024 and will play a key role in the choice and bedding down of his successor, according to Dentons.

“After more than 10 years in the role, I have decided not to seek another three-year term as global CEO,” Washington DC-based Portnoy said. “Serving as global CEO and as one of the founders of Dentons has been a source of immense privilege and pride as we built the world’s largest and leading global law firm.”

Portnoy has been Dentons’ global CEO since the firm assumed its current name following the $1bn tripartite merger of legacy SNR Denton, of which Portnoy was global CEO, with French firm Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain in 2013. 

Since then more than 50 law firms have joined Dentons, which became the largest firm in the world by lawyer headcount in 2015 following a tie-up with 4,000-lawyer Beijing giant Dacheng. 

Dentons said today that its global governing bodies were “initiating processes for both internal and external candidates for the appointment of a successor” and would hire an external consultancy to help with the search. 

“Elliott’s input will be integral, and he will partner closely with the successor during the transition period. The firm is committed to its firm-wide leadership diversity policy and is applying these principles and best practices to help identify a new Global CEO,” Dentons said. 

Portnoy added: “Over the next year, I will work closely with our global governing bodies to help identify a successor from a candidate pool that reflects the diversity of our firm and build on the momentum we have achieved. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure a smooth and successful transition.”

Portnoy’s decision to stand down follows Joe Andrew, Dentons’ founding global chair, stepping down earlier this year, after which he returned to his corporate practice and the firm axed the global chair role. 

The duo worked together to create a ‘polycentric’ law firm through a series of mergers that began back in 2010 when legacy Chicago firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal joined with London’s Denton Wilde Sapte to create SNR Denton. Andrew had been a partner at Sonnenschein, while Portnoy had risen to become the firm’s youngest chairman after founding and leading its public law group.  

Dentons remains the largest law firm in the world by lawyer headcount despite splitting from Dacheng earlier this year citing Chinese cybersecurity and data protection laws. The firm currently has almost 6,000 lawyers across more than 80 countries. 

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