Financial basis

Paul Hastings’ new boss Lopez takes the helm with growth in mind

Paul Hastings welcomes its first new executive in more than two decades on Monday as Frank Lopez steps into the role of chairman of the law firm.

Lopez, head of the firm’s global securities and capital markets practice, succeeds Seth Zachary, who presided over meteoric growth that culminated last year with $1.6 billion in gross revenue and profits of over $4.7 million. Zachary will remain a partner at Paul Hastings.

“Seth has done a great job leading the business, growing it and diversifying it,” said Ralph Baxter, former executive of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “For a lot of people, they don’t know the business before Seth Zachary.”

Sherrese Smith, Seth Zachary and Frank Lopez

Credit: Paul Hastings

Paul Hastings named Lopez as his next manager last year, along with his Washington-based partner Sherrese Smith, who succeeds Greg Nitzkowski as managing partner.

The company had tapped London partner Ronan O’Sullivan to replace Zachary, but O’Sullivan decided against it last year for what the company said were personal reasons.

Lopez comes after a relatively short time as a partner in the firm. He has already taken a hands-on approach to further developing Paul Hastings, who he joined less than four years ago.

From California to the world

Paul Hastings, founded in Los Angeles in 1951, has become one of the leading law firms on the West Coast. He focused on business law, real estate, litigation and tax, and established one of the nation’s preeminent labor and employment practices.

Zachary, who headed the New York office of Paul Hastings, was first elected to lead the firm in 2000. In June of that year, the Paul Hastings teamed up with Battle Fowler, 120 New York lawyers , cementing its bi-coastal growth plan and paving the way for continued expansion.

“Seth is one of those transformational figures who has not only been instrumental in the progress of our firm under his leadership, but also a generational leader in the broader legal industry,” Lopez said in an email. .

“His ability to constantly adapt and resist complacency has been the driving force behind extraordinary success,” Lopez said.

‘Shared vision’

In Zachary’s more than two decades at the helm of Paul Hastings, the firm has grown from nine offices to 21 and from 654 lawyers to nearly 1,000 last year. As the company grew, financial success followed, as revenues tripled and partner profits soared.

Going forward, Lopez and Smith will guide the business and work closely together on a day-to-day basis to execute their “shared vision” and strategy for the business, Lopez said.

“Our goal is to continue our success and grow financially, to build prestigious firms with lawyers who deliver distinguished intellectual capital and superior execution to our clients,” he said. They will do so “while fostering an entrepreneurial environment and a culture of collaboration”.

Lopez joined the firm in 2019 from Proskauer Rose as co-head of its securities and capital markets practice. He has advised Jefferies, where he had a short stint as a banker, as well as Citigroup, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse.

The company’s capital markets earnings jumped 85% in three years with Lopez at the helm, according to Paul Hastings. It also saw the addition of rival talent like Jonathan Ko, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partner and SPAC specialist, and Chris DeCresce, head of Covington & Burling’s capital markets group.

Smith, the incoming managing partner, joined Paul Hastings in 2013 from the Federal Communications Commission, where she served as chief counsel to then-chairman Julius Genachowski. Prior to joining the FCC, she served as Vice President and General Counsel for the Washington Post Digital for over seven years.

“Growth is a top priority for us,” Lopez said, adding that the company is focused on both organic and lateral growth.

New employees

Lopez and Smith have already been involved in some high profile hires this year.

In March, Paul Hastings added a restructuring group of 43 lawyers from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. Two months later, the company took over a three-partner energy transition group from Shearman & Sterling.

Paul Hastings followed these moves by bringing in a finance team of four partners from Latham & Watkins in London. The group includes Mo Nurmohamed, who was co-chairman of Latham’s finance department in London and is now co-chairman of Paul Hastings’ global finance practice.

He also added Gibson Dunn & Crutcher partners Avi Weitzman and Eduardo Gallardo, who is now co-chairman of Paul Hastings’ mergers and acquisitions practice.

The company has also seen its share of departures amid the leadership transition.

Kenneth Breen, the chairman of his white-collar group, and his partner Phara Guberman joined Cadwalader Wickerham & Taft in New York last month. Litigation partner Samuel Cooper left for Shearman & Sterling in Texas.

O’Sullivan, the attorney originally chosen as the firm’s next chairman, also recently left Paul Hastings. So did Teri O’Brien, the firm’s former co-chair of global securities and capital markets who was elected to serve as managing partner alongside O’Sullivan before stepping down. .

Lopez and Smith are rising as several of the company’s competitors have also welcomed new management.

Barbara Becker succeeded Ken Doran, longtime Gibson Dunn & Crutcher president and managing partner, last year. Sidley Austin named Yvette Ostolaza as chair of its management committee, replacing Larry Barden earlier this year. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has named Alden Millard Chairman of its Executive Committee, succeeding Bill Dougherty.

New leaders are increasingly taking a proactive approach to running their businesses, said Robert Delicate and Erica Lehman, co-founders of New York-based staffing firm Erica Robert Associates.

“A trend we’re seeing is more hands-on involvement by cabinet presidents when it comes to meeting and recruiting high-profile partners,” they said in an email.

The challenge for new leaders is to connect with business partners, said Baxter, who led Orrick for more than 20 years. Become the new leaders in their own right who demand work in a law firm, he said.

“The dynamic between the head of the firm and the lawyers is really a leader-follower type of relationship,” Baxter said. “Subscribers are only subscribers by consent.”