09 Nov 2021

Steptoe & Johnson elects litigation partner and general counsel as first woman chair

Gwendolyn Prothro Renigar, who also serves as vice chair, will succeed Philip West in January

Gwendolyn Prothro Renigar Image courtesy of Steptoe & Johnson

Steptoe & Johnson has elected Washington DC litigation partner Gwendolyn Prothro Renigar as chair of its executive committee, the first woman and youngest lawyer to land the job. 

Renigar, who also serves as the DC firm’s vice chair and general counsel, succeeds Philip West, who held the chair position for eight years and will return to his tax practice full-time after stepping down in January. Intellectual property practice head and partner Alfred Mamlet has been elected to take over Renigar’s duty as vice chair. 

“Gwen has worked closely with me to keep our firm focused and thriving during the pandemic,” West said. “She will build on what we’ve achieved so far and keep us moving forward. Her commitment to our clients and our firm and her knowledge of the industry make Gwen an ideal leader for Steptoe’s future."

Renigar first joined Steptoe in 1997 and focuses her practice on professional liability, fiduciary counseling and litigation for clients across the healthcare, financial services and government sectors. She also counsels law firms and lawyers on matters including risk management, loss prevention and firm management. 

Renigar, who has been Steptoe’s general counsel since 2016 and was elected vice chair in 2018, thanked West for his leadership during his eight-year tenure, highlighting the year-on-year growth and practice group launches achieved by the firm under his stewardship. 

Mamlet, meanwhile, focuses on advising telecommunications clients, including satellite operators, on regulatory, transactional and litigation matters. He has handled M&A transactions, joint ventures, licensing arrangements and distribution and other complex commercial agreements over the course of his legal career. 

“Our combination of lawyers, some who have been with Steptoe for their entire professional careers and others who have joined more recently, choose the firm every day for its combination of collegiality, excellent client service and world-class practices,” Mamlet said, adding: “I look forward to continuing our growth, developing our talent and managing our financial performance.”

Other prominent US firms to appoint women to top leadership roles this year include Paul Hastings, which announced in October that Sherrese Smith was to be its next managing partner alongside newly-elected chairman Frank Lopez.

Sidley Austin also shook things up in April when it elected litigation and disputes partner Yvette Ostolaza as the next chair of its management committee, maing her the first woman to lead the Chicago-based firm and the first Latina lawyer to be appointed to lead a top ten US law firm. 

Also in April, top 15 US firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher announced it had appointed New York corporate partner Barbara Becker as its chair and managing partner.