White & Case elects New York litigator as first woman chair

Executive committee member Heather McDevitt to succeed veteran chair Hugh Verrier 1 September

Heather McDevitt Image courtesy of White & Case

Top 10 US law firm White & Case has elected New York litigator Heather McDevitt as its next chair. 

McDevitt will become the first woman to lead the firm when she begins her four-year term 1 September. She succeeds veteran chair Hugh Verrier, who has been at the helm since 2007. 

New York-based McDevitt was selected by the firm’s partners after an election that kicked off last month and defeated global M&A head John Reiss in a run-off to clinch the role, according to a report by Financial News. 

McDevitt has been a partner at White & Case for more than 20 years. She was elected to the partnership committee in 2015 and again in 2019, when she was appointed to the firm’s four-member global executive committee. She also led the pharmaceutical and healthcare global industry group for six years from 2013 and has represented clients in disputes before state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the US. 

“I look forward to working with our talented and dedicated partners and colleagues across the globe to ensure our firm continues to provide exceptional service to our clients,” McDevitt said. “Building upon the success that has defined our journey under Hugh’s leadership, I am dedicated to the continued growth of our firm in the years to come.”

During Verrier’s 16 years at the helm, revenue more than doubled to $2.83bn in 2022 with the partnership growing by nearly 60% to 678. The firm also expanded its global footprint by 15%, going from 34 offices to 44, including a base in Luxembourg the firm opened last year.

Verrier commented: “I congratulate Heather on her election to chair. White & Case is a great law firm with a great future under her leadership. It has been and remains my privilege to lead it through a period of remarkable change over the past 16 years.”

Revenue at White & Case edged down by 1.5% in 2022 against a 20% decline in profit-per-equity partner (PEP). The results, which saw revenue dip to $2.83bn and PEP fall back to $2.8m from $3.5m in 2021, came off the back of a record 2021 and another strong performance in 2020.

McDevitt’s election sees her join a growing list of women appointed to senior leadership roles within their respective firms over the past few years, including Yvette Ostolaza, who in 2022 became the first Latina lawyer to lead a top 10 US firm when she took over as chair of Sidley Austin’s management committee from Larry Barden.

Meantime, in 2020 Georgia Dawson became the first woman leader of a UK Magic Circle firm when she became senior partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and the following year Magic Circle rivals Linklaters and Slaughter and May named Aedamar Comiskey as senior partner and Deborah Finkler as managing partner respectively. Ashurst, Hogan Lovells, Clyde & Co and Herbert Smith Freehills have also installed women as leaders.

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