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‘The firm is in excellent shape’: Boies Schiller elects new chair

Partners at Boies Schiller Flexner have elected New York-based litigator and white-collar defence and internal investigations partner Matthew Schwartz as chair. Schwartz will step into the role from 1 January 2025 to serve for a three-year term.

He will take over from current chair and co-founder David Boies, who has held the position since the firm was established in 1997 and was elected to serve a final one-year term for 2024. Boies will remain a member of the executive board and will continue his active trial practice.

Schwartz will continue to serve as one of the firm’s three managing partners during his time as chair-elect, alongside Sigrid McCawley and Stuart Singer. Singer is a longtime executive committee member and former administrative partner for the Fort Lauderdale office, where McCawley is also based. Singer steps up as managing partner as New York-based Alan Vickery steps down to concentrate on his practice after three years in the role, though he will remain on the executive committee.

Schwartz made partner at Boies Schiller in 2015 and became a managing partner in 2021 after joining the executive committee the previous year. His prior experience includes a nearly decade-long stint as assistant US attorney for the Southern District of New York. As a senior member of SDNY’s securities and commodities fraud task force, his prominent work included investigations into JPMorgan and Commerzbank and leading the federal case against Bernie Madoff that ultimately saw the disgraced financier convicted and sentenced in June 2009 for his role orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He now leads Boies Schiller’s crisis management and global investigations and white-collar defence practices.

Schwartz said in a statement: ‘The firm is coming off one of the strongest years in our history. We have an impressive stable of clients… a strong pipeline of valuable and high-profile cases making their way through the justice system, and a deep bench of trial lawyers. Boies Schiller’s future is very bright.’

Schwartz’s positive reference to the firm’s performance artfully avoids reference to a longer time horizon. It dropped out of the Legal Business Global 100 in 2018 after entering the table in 2017 when a 3% increase in turnover took it to $410m. With reported gross revenues of $220m for its most recent financial year, the firm is now a little over half the size it was five years ago. Its 2022 revenues were down 4% on 2021, though its PEP increased by 13% year-on-year to around $2.5m.

This decline in revenue resulted from a significant dip in headcount: the firm went from 320 lawyers in 2018 to just 150 in 2022. Many in the market have attributed partner losses to Boies’ representation of Harvey Weinstein and Elizabeth Holmes. High-profile exits included Nicholas Gravante, who left the firm for Cadwalader in January 2021 less than a year after becoming a managing partner at Boies Schiller, and Natasha Harrison, who took five other partners from the firm’s London office with her when she departed in January 2022 to set up Pallas Partners.

Harrison has always asserted that her move was motivated by a desire to be ‘the architect of my own firm’ rather than by any push factors concerning Boies Schiller. The firm has since began rebuilding in London, with a total of five partners now working solely from its City office. Its most recent UK hire saw it bring over Constantine Cannon London office founder and art law specialist Pierre Valentin in June. Valentin joined with five other lawyers, and splits his time between London and Milan.

Schwartz stressed that Boies Schiller’s profitability and per lawyer metrics remain healthy. ‘I would be surprised if we got anywhere close to the size we were before’, he told Legal Business. ‘We didn’t just get smaller to get smaller. We got leaner. We focused on core competencies.’

Schwartz went on: ‘We will continue to focus on modest opportunistic growth. We have to be very careful that we maintain our excellence, our cohesion, and our culture.’ He pointed to antitrust and bankruptcy insolvency disputes as key areas of growth. The firm also aims to extend its geographical reach while doubling down on its core strengths on the East Coast. ‘Adding to our capabilities on the West Coast and overseas, especially in London, will continue to be a focus.’

The issue of succession at Boies Schiller has been a fraught one. Both Gravante and Harrison were widely touted as potential heirs to David Boies prior to their departures. Now 82, Boies has a remarkable reputation in the market, with a long list of high-profile cases under his belt, from his work for the Justice Department in the major antitrust case United States v. Microsoft (2001), to acting for former US vice president Al Gore in Bush v. Gore (2000), the US Supreme Court litigation over the 2000 election that ultimately saw George W. Bush elected president after the court’s conservative majority overturned the Florida Supreme Court’s decision ordering a recount of 61,000 ballots missed by Florida vote tabulation machines.

Schwartz, then, is left with a lot to live up to. ‘I don’t think of myself as stepping into David’s shoes’, he said. ‘I certainly don’t think of myself as replacing him. I’m not trying to take over from him or to do what he’s done for the last 26 years. I’m going to do this job differently and I’m going to do it, I think necessarily, in a way that collaborates closely with the partnership – certainly the other managing partners and the executive committee, but also the partnership at large.’

In his statement, Boies stressed both his faith in Schwartz and the firm’s commitment to continuity: ‘This change isn’t an abrupt transition so much as a continuation of a process that has played out in recent years. I’ve worked very closely with Matthew in his capacity as managing partner and executive committee member over the last three years, and I know he will be an excellent choice as chairman. From the strength of our client relationships to our deep bench of attorneys to our pipeline of high-value cases, the firm is in excellent shape as we look to complete this transition by the end of next year.’