Longtime Paul Hastings chairman to step down after two decades in the role

Seth Zachary will be succeeded by New York-based leveraged finance partner Frank Lopez in October 2022

Sherrese Smith, Seth Zachary and Frank Lopez Image courtesy of Paul Hastings

Paul Hastings’ longtime chairman, Seth Zachary, is to step down in late 2022 following two decades in the role as part of a wider shake up of the firm's leadership.

Zachary, who was first elected chairman in 2000, has served seven terms as chairman and will officially hand over the reins to leveraged finance partner Frank Lopez, who currently heads the Los Angeles-founded firm’s capital markets practice in New York, in October of next year.

The firm has also appointed a new managing partner in Sherrese Smith, who will serve alongside Lopez as co-managing partner until the duo take on their new roles next year. Washington DC-based media, technology and communications partner Smith, who also serves as vice chair of the firm's data privacy and cybersecurity practice, will be succeeding current managing partners Greg Nitzkowski and Ronan O’Sullivan, who will end their respective terms effective immediately.

Nitzkowski became managing partner the same year Zachary ascended to the chairman position in 2000, while O’Sullivan has served in the role since 2018. Following the transition, Los Angeles-based Nitzkowski is set to remain with the firm as a partner until his retirement in 2023. O’Sullivan, meanwhile, will remain with the firm as a partner in Paul Hastings’ corporate practice in London. 

Upon stepping down, Zachary will remain with the firm as a partner in its New York office until 2024. A seasoned tax practitioner, Zachary focuses his work on representing corporations and investment banks in federal, state and local tax arenas in general, corporate and real-estate tax matters as well as foreign tax issues. 

Paul Hastings experienced tremendous growth during Zachary’s twenty-one-year run as chairman. He led the firm to more than triple its gross revenue and profits per partner (PEP), while doubling revenue per lawyer over the course of his time in the top job. The firm’s gross revenue hit $1.31bn in 2020, placing it at 27th on The American Lawyer’s 2021 AmLaw 200 ranking. 

The firm’s revenue per lawyer surged to $1.3m in 2020, while PEP notched in at $3.9m, a similar figure to other high-flying firms like Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. 

In terms of headcount, Zachary led the firm to nearly double in size, going from 654 lawyers in 2000 to about 1,000 today. Paul Hastings also enjoyed significant geographic growth under Zachary’s leadership, adding 12 offices to its global network. The firm currently operates 22 bases across Europe, Asia and the Americas. 

“Frank and Sherrese are exceptional leaders with distinguished track records in developing client relationships, accelerating practice growth and attracting and developing strong talent,” Zachary commented. “I am looking forward to working closely with them over this next year to position the firm to reach its next stage of prominence.”

Smith added: “Paul Hastings’ reputation in the market has been defined by its strong and steady leadership, and we are excited to continue the strong trajectory set by Seth, Greg, and Ronan. We are well positioned for the future and look forward to building on this incredible foundation.” 

Other US firms to change their leadership structure this year include Sidley Austin, which elected litigation and disputes partner Yvette Ostolaza as the next chair of its management committee in April, and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher which appointed New York corporate partner Barbara Becker as its chair and managing partner in April. 

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