Litigator Immelt Set to Become Hogan Lovells' Sole CEO

, The Am Law Daily

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Stephen Immelt
Stephen Immelt

Hogan Lovells co–CEOs J. Warren Gorrell Jr. and David Harris will vacate their posts when their current terms expire next summer, and the firm's partners are in the process of voting to approve their proposed successor, global litigation cohead Stephen Immelt, the firm announced Wednesday.

Gorrell and Harris, both of whom are 59, have shared the CEO title since their respective legacy firms, Hogan & Hartson and Lovells, combined in a 2010 tie-up that the two men took the lead in negotiating. Their four-year terms are set to end next summer, and—pending the results of a firmwide partnership vote—Immelt is likely to step into the newly created sole CEO role as of July 1.

Should the partners approve Immelt's ascension to CEO, he would be joined in the firm's upper echelon by global finance practice head David Hudd, a London-based Lovells legacy partner set to fill a second newly created post, deputy CEO. After stepping down from their leadership positions, Harris plans to retire, while Gorrell will continue his M&A practice.

Hogan Lovells chair Nicholas Cheffings tells The Am Law Daily that he and his fellow board members decided to alter the firm's structure after a poll of the partnership revealed that more than three years after the combination, "the vast majority thought that the time was right to move to a single CEO."

The board began the search for candidates to fill the position in the fall after Gorrell and Harris said they did not intend to seek additional terms, before voting unanimously to submit Immelt's name to the partners for consideration. The partnership vote opened Dec. 6 and will run until Monday.

Based in Washington, D.C., the 61-year-old Immelt sits on the firm's international management committee. He previously served as managing partner of Hogan & Hartson's Baltimore office, then became head of that firm's international offices prior to the 2010 tie-up with Lovells.

Says Cheffings: "Steve has been part of [the firm's strategy], part of bringing Hogan Lovells together, and he understands the business."

Gorrell says Immelt's familiarity with the firm's international operations, his leadership experience, and his reputation among his fellow partners made him an obvious choice for the CEO position. "Steve has great judgment and he's a very strategic thinker," Gorrell says. "He's straightforward, he's direct, and he commands huge respect from the partners around the firm."

Claudette Christian, managing partner of Hogan Lovells' recently launched Rio de Janeiro office, is among those voicing full support for Immelt as the right person to succeed Gorrell and Harris.The former cochair of the firm's global board, Christian has known Immelt for at least 15 years, dating back to their time in various leadership positions at Hogan & Hartson. "He understands the global perspective a firm like Hogan Lovells needs to have," she says. "He gets it and has for a while. He's not new to management of foreign offices."

For his part, Immelt sees plenty of opportunities ahead for Hogan Lovells and plans to continue steering the firm along the postcombination path on which it has embarked. "[I plan] to clearly articulate the vision and strategy, to continue to work to make sure that we've got a one-firm mind-set across the platform, and to work on leadership development—which is really crucial with an organization of our size," he says.

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