John Devaney, who will soon become the new managing partner of law firm Perkins Coie , has some big shoes to fill.
The law firm — whose clients include a collection of high-profile Democrats — announced earlier this month the change in the firm’s leadership. Come the new year, Devaney will replace Bob Giles, who has served as chairman for the past 28 years and will still act as an adviser to the firm.
“After being led by a strong leader for 28 years, its going to be a challenge to fill the shoes of someone who has been at the helm of this firm for so long,” Devaney told CQ Roll Call. A 27-year veteran of Perkins Coie, Devaney said he has seen the firm from all perspectives through stints as an associate, partner and manager of the Washington D.C. office. That experience, Devaney said, will equip him for the challenges that lie ahead, both within the firm and throughout the law industry.
With Devaney’s new hire comes another change to the firm’s atmosphere: He will be the first managing partner not to be based at the firm’s Seattle headquarters. Instead, Devaney will remain at his home in Washington, something he said is evidence of Perkins Coie’s growing national clout and its departure from being a strictly regional, Northwest firm. Devaney, however, will still do his fair share of traveling.
“I’m an East Coaster; this is my home. I’ll do my share of airline miles, but I’ll still be here in my native, adopted city,” said Devaney, who’s originally from New York but moved to Washington in 1980.
One of Devaney’s strategies as the new managing partner will be what he calls “selective growth.” Devaney noted California as a state in which the firm will continue to grow. Among the firm's 19 offices, four are California-based.
In addition to geographical expansion, Devaney also underscored the increased focus on various practices, including litigation, intellectual property and privacy. Privacy, Devaney said, has become a paramount concern for the firm’s Fortune 500 companies, who aim to secure their data in a time when data is becoming less secure.
Along with Devaney’s selective growth strategy comes a fair share of challenges. The current legal environment, Devaney said, is one of these anticipated challenges.
“Its no surprise that the legal industry is facing stagnant or declining demand,” Devaney said. “One of my primary challenges will be to position the firm to thrive in an environment where there is decreasing demand.”
Giles will be a hard act to follow, Devaney said. Giles said in a statement that he believes in Devaney’s able leadership.
“Devaney’s enormous talent, energy, and enthusiasm, together with his already deep experience as a leader at the firm, will help us achieve many of the important goals we have set for the firm, including continuing to provide the very best representation to our clients across the nation,” Giles said in a statement.