For the second time this year, there’s a change at the top at one of Richmond’s largest law firms.
McGuireWoods announced Monday that Jon Harmon has taken over as chairman, succeeding Richard Cullen. It also announced Tracy Walker IV is now managing partner, replacing Thomas Cabaniss. Both are longtime trial lawyers who work out of the firm’s downtown Richmond office in Gateway Plaza.
The transition ends an 11-year leadership run for Cullen and Cabaniss, who both remain with the firm and continue their law practices.
Those moves follow a changing of the guard at one of McGuireWoods’ biggest local competitors, Hunton & Williams, which in October named Douglas Granger managing partner of its Richmond office. He succeeded Jay Moore III, who left for a position at Altria Group.
Harmon and Walker are now tasked with overseeing a firm with 23 offices and more than 1,000 attorneys. Its revenue in 2016 grew to $682 million, according to the National Law Journal.
The firm is consistently at or near the top of the list of largest law firms in Richmond, with Hunton & Williams as its nearest rival.
Harmon, an army veteran and West Point grad who joined McGuireWoods in 1995, said the leadership change had been in the works for some time, as the firm typically swaps in new top bosses every 10 years or so.
“It’s important that you have new leadership for new seasons,” Harmon said. “Just like with corporations, leadership brings them to a certain spot and then there’s a new leadership team that hopefully brings them to a higher spot. With every organization there’s time for change.”
Walker, who arrived at the firm in 1998, said their challenge is leading the firm in an industry that’s rapidly changing.
“There’s been great consolidation both nationally and internationally,” Walker said. “It’s a very competitive industry when you reach a certain level. With client demands of ever increasing quality and efficiency and managing legal spend, it is a challenge to stay on the edge of the curve.”
The firm also has a change in leadership at its consulting and lobbying arm, McGuireWoods Consulting, with a new chairman and CEO to step in next month.
Both Harmon and Walker said they’re settling into the new roles, which began Monday, and learning as they go of what the jobs entail.
“I’m going to be managing the firm full time,” Walker said. “I’m learning how to run a big business, basically.”
For Harmon’s new position, he said, “One of the more important thing that the chairman does is provide the vision for the firm, where we’re going, who we are as an entity.
“Our previous leaders were very successful in taking our super-regional firm and making it a national firm,” he said. “I believe the next step in our development is to become a national powerhouse.”
A powerhouse, he said, is not just the firm’s headcount, but making the McGuireWoods brand as recognizable in all its markets as it is in Richmond and in Virginia.
“It’s not necessarily just size, but in terms of our brand and how strong it is in other places,” he said. “We want the brand to be that strong in California.”