Morgan Lewis Chairman Jami McKeon on Rankings, Earnings and Leadership

(Reuters) – When partners Morgan, Lewis and Bockius gather for their annual meeting in Arizona next week – their first person since the pandemic – one item will not be on the agenda: succession planning.

The firm’s 775 partners, by unanimous vote last week, extended Chairman Jami Wintz McKeon’s term until 2026. That’s two years longer than she originally planned to serve after taking over as head. in 2014, she told me — but that was before the pandemic.

“Everything has remained status quo during COVID,” noted McKeon, 65. With lawyers and employees working from home, there weren’t the same opportunities to start laying the groundwork for a leadership transition, she said. By extending his term, the “feeling was that we were going to, in a way, recover those two years”.

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McKeon is one of the few women to chair a major law firm. (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Hogan Lovells; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Ropes & Gray are among others also currently chaired by women.)

Morgan Lewis has just closed its 2022 fiscal year. Economic headwinds aside, McKeon said it was the best performance ever for the 2,000-lawyer firm in terms of revenue and profit, though she declined to share specific numbers, citing the firm’s policy against disclosing financial information.

The US attorney reported that Morgan Lewis in 2021 had gross revenue of $2.58 billion – No. 10 in the country – and earnings per partner of $1.8 million – No. 59.

I asked McKeon about the gap in rankings and if she felt pressured to increase her profits. “No, not at all,” she said.

Because the company does not release its financial information, intrepid reporters must piece it together using whatever information they can find. (I’ve been in these shoes. It’s not easy.)

McKeon says the numbers “aren’t exact” and the company “should probably be around No. 20 in earnings.” (The No. 20 company, Ropes & Gray, had earnings per partner in 2021 of $4.3 million.)

“We’re not chasing the rankings,” she said, adding that “if everything else is okay, the bottom line will follow.”

That said, Morgan Lewis isn’t aiming to be another Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, with an EPP north of $8 million.

Jamie McKeon. Photo courtesy of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius

Years ago, McKeon said his firm had made the decision to stay “broad and deep,” retaining practice areas such as immigration, labor and employment, real estate and business consulting. regulations.

“We don’t look at these and say, ‘Oh, they charge lower rates or are more limited in margin,'” she said. “A lot of companies have gotten rid of these practices, but for us these practices are crown jewels” that make cross-selling a key aspect of the business.

Of the firm’s top 100 clients, 83 receive services from six or more firms, she said, and more than half have served the firm for more than 20 years.

“As a result, when the economy slows and many companies that are overweight in one area or another struggle, we continue to do well,” she said. “What we focus on are those deep relationships.”

Indeed, relationship building strikes me as one of its strengths. I have seen it with my own eyes when she invariably remembers my children’s names and asks about them.

This ability to forge relationships helps it bring together lawyers working in 31 offices across 17 time zones.

“I have a relational style of leadership. I actually care if I know all my partners,” she said.

Not just partners, but also their families. “I just wrote a note yesterday to every guest who joins us with a partner at the partners meeting” in Arizona, she said, as well as every up and side partner who will be there for the first time.

On Monday, the firm announced the addition of an aviation finance team of eight K&L Gates lawyers to its offices in London, Dubai and Singapore.

In June, Morgan Lewis opened an office in Seattle with a 34-member team, including 14 attorneys from litigation boutique Calfo Eakes.

This is familiar ground for McKeon. Six weeks into her first term as president in 2014, she led the addition of more than 750 Bingham McCutchen lawyers and employees.

A mother of four, now an adult, she has long juggled a prodigious workload with family events and milestones. Without confirming a treat in a former profile billing 3,000 hours a year for five straight years, McKeon told me, “I always wanted to do it all, so I always said yes, even when the people I worked with reminded me that I didn’t. didn’t have to.

It helps her to be able to run for four hours of sleep a night, although she added: ‘I try to discipline myself to quit earlier than I used to. I’ve learned that there’s always more to do, so you need to be mindful of your need to rest and rejuvenate.

A Villanova law graduate, McKeon spent her entire career at Morgan Lewis. “People ask me why I’ve been here for 41 years,” she says. “I feel like even though it’s 10, 15 times bigger, it’s still the same place.”

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