Cravath: The Changing of the Guard

cravath swaine and moore.jpgNear the end of last week, we learned about an upcoming change at the helm of the sublimely prestigious, yet supremely terrifying, New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. From the New York Law Journal:

Cravath, Swaine & Moore has elected a deputy presiding partner.

Corporate partner C. Allen Parker will become the elite firm’s second-in-command on Jan. 1, 2007, at the same time Evan R. Chesler will succeed Robert D. Joffe as presiding partner.

This is an interesting and unexpected development:

The naming of a deputy presiding partner at this juncture is an unusual step for Cravath, which has traditionally reserved that position for those slated to succeed the presiding partner within roughly a year.

The article concludes:

One of the nation’s most prestigious and profitable firms, Cravath is also one of its most conservative. Whereas other firm leaders increasingly manage their firms full-time, Cravath presiding partners generally maintain very active practices.

In fact, Cravath differs from other Biglaw firms in a number of ways. In addition to its unusual “Cravath System,” in which associates work closely for a specific partner (or small group of partners) for a rotation of a specified length (e.g., 18 months), the firm also has a unique administrative structure.
In general, Cravath relies less on committees than many other top shops, and its decisionmaking process is less structured than most other firms. Instead, issues are decided by consensus among the partnership. In addition, and perhaps as a result of this highly democratic (and quasi-chaotic) set-up, the individual partners responsible for particular areas or departments — e.g., head of litigation, hiring partner, etc. — exercise a fair amount of control over their respective fiefdoms.
If you have good inside knowledge of Cravath and would be willing to enlighten us as to the meaning of these latest moves, as well as to make some predictions about the future leadership of the firm, you know where to reach us. (If you have information to share about Cravath — or any other juicy topic, for that matter — but would rather do so by a means other than email, send us a short email to that effect, and we’ll give you our telephone or AIM contact info.)
Cravath Elects Deputy Presiding Partner []
Cravath, Swaine & Moore [official website]

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