Legal Business Blogs

‘Adapt or die’ – K&L’s outspoken chief Kalis to stand down after 20 years at the helm of US giant

He has been one of the longest-serving and most outspoken law firm leaders in the conservative US legal market but Peter Kalis, the veteran head of K&L Gates, has confirmed that he is to finally step down after two decades running the US law firm.

Kalis first assumed the role in 1997. During his tenure the US national practice has grown from under 400 lawyers in six offices to over 2,000 lawyers in 46 offices, while revenue has also grown from $140m to over $1bn.

Kalis, who will conclude his current term as chairman and managing partner in 2017, informed the firm’s management committee that he ‘would not be a candidate for another term as head of the firm. It has been an honour to serve the only law firm I have called home.’

K&L Gates’ management committee issued its own statement, which read: ‘K&L Gates is extremely fortunate to have benefited from Peter Kalis’ leadership over the past 20 years. He is and has been a giant both in the firm’s history and in the modern legal industry. The firm is well-positioned for a smooth transition and to build on these values and on its current foundation.’

News of Kalis’s decision comes after a challenging few years for K&L Gates, which has been one of the worst-performing firms in the Global 100 since 2010, with revenues virtually static over the last five years. Separately, the top 40 Global law firm this year was hit with multiple partner departures across its US offices.

As noted in a 2013 Legal Business profile, Kalis has long stood out among US law firm leaders for his forthright style, in recent years championing greater financial transparency and being a strident critic of the governance failures exposed during the 2012 collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Kalis himself had often reflected on the need for major law firms to be more adaptable to events and client needs, once telling Legal Business: ‘When people say that law firms don’t adapt to the changing marketplace, I would respectfully respond that the ones that didn’t adapt are dead and the ones that won’t now are the walking dead.’

(£) Click here for ‘Ready for his close up’, a profile of Peter Kalis.