Boies’ Firm Secures Succession Plan After Tumultous Time

Boies' Firm Secures Succession Plan After Tumultous Time
Boies' Firm Secures Succession Plan After Tumultous Time

Law firm Since Boies Schiller Flexner LLP has long been associated with name partner the famed litigator David Boies.

Boies Schiller this week named for the first time managing partners who don’t have their names in the firm, being New York-based Nicholas Gravante Jr. and London-based Natasha Harrison (pictured below).

The announcement comes after a tumultuous period for David Boies who faces a defamation lawsuit from Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and for for involvement reported in the New York Times with an apparent fraudster who said he had damning materials related to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

He has also been pressured for his representation of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, facing sexual assault charges, as well as for his support of the blood testing company Theranos Inc.

Boies' Firm Secures Succession Plan After Tumultous Time
Nicholas Gravante Jr. and Natasha Harrison have been elevated to managing partners at Boies Schiller Flexner

The WSJ reported that the firm’s bad press has led some clients to tell partners they are wary of giving new work to the firm, a person familiar with the matter said. The new leaders pushed back against that notion.

The headlines have been “temporary distractions,” Mr. Gravante said, but he added that they aren’t the driving force behind the transition. Instead, the changes are about preparing the 320-lawyer firm for the eventual retirements of Mr. Boies, 78, and fellow name partner Jonathan Schiller, 73.

“What you need is a willingness from them to hand it over,” Ms. Harrison said.

David Boies has long been one of the primary sources of revenue for Boies Schiller and his name is well known well beyond the law and so moving away from him is a challenge for the firm.

“I am confident that building on what we as a firm do very well, and learning from our mistakes, mine included, that the next generation of leadership will not only equal but will exceed what we have accomplished to date,” Mr. Boies said.

Boies rose to fame over the decades for legal successes including his successful representation of the Justice Department in an antitrust trial against Microsoft Corp. , representing Al Gore in the 2000 Florida presidential election recount and helping win same-sex marriage rights in California.

He said he has been working for the past decade on the best way to hand off the litigation firm he founded in 1997. Last year, he and Schiller ceded some power to a new four-person management committee that took on many day-to-day operations.

The slow-moving transition, spearheaded by Messrs. Boies and Schiller, has frustrated some partners internally, according to a person familiar with the matter.

But both Mr. Gravante, 59, and Ms. Harrison, 46, say there are no internal calls among the partners to push Boies aside.

“I don’t see any indication of any turmoil in the firm,” Mr. Boies said.

Gravante, who first began working with . Boies in 1985 when the two were at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, has represented a host of high-profile clients, including former American International Group Inc. head Hank Greenberg, the family of former Vice President Joe Biden and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

He has inspired some of his own colorful headlines. In 2016 he sued his mother in a dispute related to assets of his father, Nicholas Gravante Sr. , who was longtime counsel to Brooklyn mafia families.

The WSJ report that Harrison joined the firm six years ago to start a London office, its first international venture. She represents investment banks, private equity and hedge funds and corporations in international disputes.

Since 2013, the percentage of the firm’s business generated by the named partners has declined from slightly over 40% to just over 20%. But Gravante said the firm’s system of compensating partners still focuses too much on the number of hours worked and not enough on making sure partners are hustling for new business.

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