Jon Van Gorp said he wants to continue building through lateral hires, talent development and, where possible, combinations.

After nine years as chairman, Paul Theiss is stepping down from Mayer Brown’s leadership, and Jon Van Gorp, a structured finance partner in New York and Chicago, will take the reins of the 1,685-lawyer firm, the firm announced Tuesday.

The leadership change, effective June 1, comes as Mayer Brown, ranked No. 22 in the Am Law 100, is planning more ambitious growth. In an interview, Van Gorp said he wants to continue building in several markets through lateral hires, talent development and, where possible, combinations.

Van Gorp pointed to the firm’s corporate practices in New York, its technology and life sciences practices in Northern California, and energy practices in Texas more broadly as places the firm has had recent success and will seek further expansion.

“We’re going to grow in a very intentional way,” he said.

In Texas, firm leaders said they want to maintain a focus on the energy sector in Houston and the state of Texas in general, citing a broad migration of corporations there. “We’ve been in Houston a long time. So that gives us a nice base to build off of,” Van Gorp said.

And in New York, Mayer Brown is seeking to continue its trajectory. The firm has seen a 47% increase in revenue over the last five years and has more than doubled the size of its corporate practice by increasing its funds and capital markets capabilities, the firm leaders said.

Mayer Brown also continues to hunt for talent in restructuring, cybersecurity and fintech while doubling down on its high stakes litigation and disputes practices. The firm’s leaders believe restructuring is ripe for growth, even if the work hasn’t yet materialized the way it was predicted a year ago.

Around the world, businesses being propped up with COVID-19-related stimulus may not be able to rely on that funding for much longer, Van Gorp said. That’s part of the reason the firm has tried to expand its restructuring capabilities. ”We’re taking a little bit of a bet on that. But I think it’s an informed position we’re taking.” Van Gorp said.

The leadership transition comes as Mayer Brown and others are studying the best return-to-office approach. The firm’s leaders said they haven’t made a lot of rules about office returns in the United States, but they are encouraging people to get together at the office during the summer as more people are vaccinated and as COVID-19 case counts decrease. They said they continue to monitor local rules on masks, and that the firm’s summer program is going to be virtual again for now.

“I would expect there to be some gatherings in the summer. The world is a lot different in the U.S. at least today than it was a month ago, and it’s probably going to be a lot different in another month,” Theiss said. “We ran a virtual summer program last year, and we’re starting it out the same way.”

Theiss’ Tenure

Theiss, a partner in Chicago and New York, has held the chair position since 2012. His transition away from the chairman role had been planned for a few years, he said. Mayer Brown traditionally rotates leadership roles, and although the chair is usually occupied for two terms, he agreed to do a third term but told the board the third term would be his last. He will continue practicing law as a partner after stepping down.

During Theiss’ leadership, the firm expanded its footprint through office openings in Dubai, Mexico City and Tokyo, among others. Meanwhile, the firm said its panel appointments— the corporate world effort to consolidate legal work—increased nearly four-fold during Theiss’ tenure.

Last year, Mayer Brown increased revenue 2.2% to $1.5 billion and profits per partner by 11% to more than $2 million. It’s added roughly 24 laterals this year—the same amount it added through all of 2020. Client hours are also up 11% so far, Theiss said, noting the firm is “certainly going to have an outsized performance this year.”


Reprinted with permission from the May 25, 2021 edition of The American Lawyer © 2021 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.