A major Richmond law firm is shaking things up in its highest ranks.
Williams Mullen CEO Thomas Frantz will step down from his position April 1, and Calvin “Woody” Fowler, Jr. will take his place.
The transition has been in the works for nearly a year, when Fowler said Frantz started discussions with the firm’s board of directors about finding a successor.
“(Frantz) will remain a really important part of the firm, but I think he felt it was time to turn leadership over to the next generation of lawyers, and he thought the timing was right to do that,” Fowler said.
The move will bring the CEO position full-time to Richmond, the firm’s home base. Frantz works out of the Virginia Beach office, but Fowler’s office is in the firm’s headquarters building at 200 S. 10th St.
Frantz, 67, will have served as CEO for five years by the time Fowler takes his place. Frantz will continue on as chairman of the firm’s board and will continue practicing law with a focus in business planning, succession and corporate transactions.
Fowler, 53, was born in Richmond and raised in Danville. He’s been with Williams Mullen for 24 years. His practice focuses on commercial litigation and banking and financial services litigation. He has been chair of the firm’s litigation practice for the past 11 years.
“Litigation is one of the biggest sections in the firm,” Fowler said. “It really allowed me to essentially run a small law firm.”
Without getting into specific plans, Fowler said he is looking to the firm’s future as he takes the helm. He said one critical task is responding to a changing legal environment.
“The legal profession has changed a lot over the last five years, and I think more changes are going to occur, some as a result of technology, some as a result of client demands, and some just as law firms gain a better understanding of how to use project management,” he said.
The firm has 225 attorneys and 10 offices located between Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. Both of those figures will likely continue to rise in the next several years, Fowler said.
“The goal is to be a really significant regional player,” he said. “I think as we get bigger and as we increase the number of attorneys in certain specialties, you’ll continue to see us have more national practices, but that is something that will take a little time.”
There will be some additional changes to Williams Mullen’s leadership structure once Fowler takes over, but he said it is too early to specify what those changes will be.