Boies’ heir Harrison steps down as manager
Natasha Harrison, the London lawyer who was widely regarded as the next to head the namesake firm of David Boies, is stepping down as vice-president.
Harrison told Bloomberg Law that she will remain one of Boies Schiller Flexner’s four managing partners for at least the remainder of the year, “subject to continued assessment of the circumstances” surrounding the pandemic and international travel. She declined to say if she would stay in the role or in the company beyond this period.
“Covid has increased in scope and duration in a way that I hadn’t anticipated, and I don’t think a lot of people anticipated it,” Harrison said. “I’m sitting in London at the head of an American company with managing partners who are there, but I can’t be there. You have to be present. “
The move marks another upheaval for management as the company seeks to move away from founders Boies and Jonathan Schiller. It follows a rough 18-month period that saw several rainmakers head for the exit amid plummeting revenue and profits.
Founded by Boies, the 80-year-old courtroom titan known for gutting Microsoft Corp’s Bill Gates. .
The firm reported a 38% drop in gross revenue last year, slashing profits per partner by nearly a third, according to The American Lawyer. Its legal workforce has fallen by more than 40% in the past two years to 177 at the end of last year.
Boies Schiller has also been embroiled in a controversy arising from David Boies’ work for a pair of disgraced public figures: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.
The firm announced the move internally in an email to lawyers and staff on Wednesday.
“Natasha’s decision, which we all support, exemplifies the kind of leadership we expect from her,” company executives said in the joint email. “His commitment to openness, inclusiveness and collaboration have benefited the company immensely.”
Harrison’s uncertain future means there is no clear successor to Boies as the face of the company.
“Two years ago, if anyone had asked, I don’t think Natasha would have been the person everyone would have identified“ as the heir apparent, ”Boies said in an interview. “Just because there isn’t someone obvious doesn’t mean there aren’t good alternatives.”
The cabinet does not immediately replace Harrison as vice president. The other managing partners, Sigrid McCawley, Matthew Schwartz and Alan Vickery, are all expected to retain their positions beyond the end of the year.
Boies, McCawley and Schwartz told Bloomberg Law that the change with Harrison would have little short-term impact on day-to-day operations.
“I didn’t see any immediate changes in terms of what we were doing,” McCawley said.
Boies is likely to be re-appointed as the company’s chairman when the partners meet for an annual meeting in December. He declined to say how long he plans to stay in that role, other than saying he didn’t expect to be president when he turns 86 in just over five years.
The ongoing pandemic and tighter travel restrictions have made it impossible for Harrison to do the job of vice president effectively, she said. The Biden administration has restricted travel to the United States from the UK, while the rise in infections has other countries considering similar limits for departing travelers.
“The uncertainties and challenges of international travel in this ever-changing and ongoing pandemic are almost impossible to navigate,” Harrison said via email. “These same uncertainties and challenges also have an impact on my family and in particular my two children. My children are like all children: they need certainty.
Harrison and New York litigator Nicholas Gravante were named the firm’s co-managers in December 2019. The firm said at the time that the move was an important step towards developing a new model of leadership.
Less than a year later, Gravante abruptly left to join Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. Boies Schiller pivoted to later make Harrison one of the four managing partners and gave him the post of vice president.
Gravante fled after clashing with business executives over his drive to close offices and downsize, as well as a case to merge Boies Schiller with Cadwalader, people familiar with the matter say .
Several of the firm’s top rainmakers, including DC attorneys Karen Dunn and William Isaacson, New York attorneys Lee Wolosky and Damien Marshall, and members of the Boies Schiller executive committee, also left, bringing in colleagues and clients. among competitors.
Some of the prominent lawyers who left the firm were drawn to more money, according to former partners, while others also spoke of difficulties wooing tech and other clients due to the backlash. against the Weinstein and Theranos sagas.
The company’s managing partners have taken steps to try to strengthen the culture and stem the tide of departures, Boies, Harrison, McCawley and Schwartz said.
These include changing partner compensation to put more emphasis on business development, reducing the payroll for some underachievers, and implementing a “one-company” strategy to improve performance. collaboration between Boies Schiller. The firm is also preparing to launch BSF Academy, an associate training program run by partner and former Altria Group lawyer William Ohlemeyer.
“They brought the firm together and focused people a lot more on the firm as a single organization rather than a collection of offices,” said Boies.
The managing partners of the firm and an enlarged executive committee renegotiate the remuneration structure of the founders. This is a “royalty” payment that some former partners referred to as “tax” because it reduces the profit pool.
Boies Schiller is banking on costly litigation to turn the ship around financially, including a long-standing antitrust class action lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield in which lawyers are seeking to collect nearly $ 630 million in fees.
Boies Schiller is leading antitrust action in California against Google, with a team that includes, among others, Boies and his partners Phil Korologos and Mark Mao. He is also waging legal battles involving Carnival Cruise Lines and NextEra Energy, as well as a UK litigation against Credit Suisse over its role in Mozambique’s $ 2 billion “tuna bond” scandal.
McCawley, a South Florida lawyer, has drawn attention for her work portraying Virginia Giuffre, one of the many women who accused hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein of running a teen sex ring out. from his Palm Beach home.
“Like Mark Twain, our demise has been announced several times,” Boies said. “I don’t think the people at the firm lack confidence in the firm and I don’t think our clients lack confidence in the firm. “