Expansion of geographic reach
Profile: Bob Grondine
Widening range of opportunities
Profile: Eberhard Meincke
Building the client base
The Global Journey Continues
Moving Forward under New Leadership
“We enter our second century with significant changes occurring internally and in the world around us.” This sentence, at the conclusion of the 1999 White & Case Annual Review, was a characteristic understatement from a firm that had built its reputation on relishing new challenges. In reality, the pace of change in the world after 2000 was greater than at any time in the Firm’s 100-year history.

The four heads of White & Case from 1976 to Present
Hal Fales, 1976–1980 (seated left), Jim Hurlock, 1980–2000 (seated right), Duane Wall, 2000–2007 (standing right) and Hugh Verrier, 2007–present (standing left) (Photo taken June 2014)

Wall was succeeded as head of the Firm by Hugh Verrier. A Canadian, Verrier was the first non-U.S. national to become head of the Firm and, as the then executive partner of the Moscow office, the first head of the Firm not to be resident in the New York office at the time of his election. He took office on October 1, 2007, exactly 25 years after Jean-Luc Boussard in Paris became the first non-U.S. national partner. Verrier’s aspirations for the Firm were as high as Hurlock’s and Wall’s before him. “White & Case aspires to be a truly global law firm,” he said in his early days as head of the Firm, “achieving top-tier profitability and the market prestige that will make us an employer of choice and a competitive force among our peers in the global elite.” After joining the Firm in 1983, initially for a year on the International Lawyers Program but liking it so much he stayed on, Verrier spent time in Indonesia, was the head of the Firm’s Ankara office (first as an associate and then as a partner) and is credited with guiding the Moscow office through extraordinarily challenging times and with its revitalization from 1998 onward. Verrier was elected to the management board in 2004, then stood for election as Chair of the Firm in 2007 under a new governance structure introduced by Wall as the outgoing head of the Firm. As Verrier took office, he had no doubt that, as he put it, the early years of his chairmanship “would be characterized by recession.” That summer, there were early indications that the seven years of boom were coming to an end and would surely be followed in the economic cycle by a downturn.
From Wall to Verrier
As the 21st century began, the globalization of commercial and financial markets was expanding at an accelerating pace. Corporations were seeking new markets for their products in both developed and developing countries. The competition among them in the global arena was intensifying. Trade restrictions imposed by individual nations were being reduced or eliminated by cooperative efforts at the international level. Rapid developments in information technology and communication capability were changing the ways in which business was done. Financial institutions were expanding their operations to meet the increasing demands of their clients and creating new financial products to take advantage of investor appetite for more lucrative returns on their investments. Competition among financial institutions was also increasing, in part because of the U.S. Congress repeal of most of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, which permitted banking organizations to compete with investment banks on a more equal footing. In the legal services sector, many major law firms were responding to these changes in commercial and financial markets by becoming more global themselves, increasing competition among major law firms in the world’s commercial and financial centers and in the practice areas of interest to their expanding global client bases. Client loyalty to a single firm had diminished almost to the point of elimination. Clients were relying more and more on their internal legal departments. Many major mandates were put out to bid to drive down legal costs. The movement of partners among firms was becoming ever more common. It was in such a fast-changing world that a new management team took the reins at White & Case. The team inherited a global law firm that, under two decades of Jim Hurlock’s leadership, had been transformed. The transformation had been a remarkable story, and the new leadership had the comfort of continuity. The Firm’s globalization strategy was accepted throughout the Firm. On April 1, 2000, Duane Wall became the Firm’s first managing partner under a new governance structure adopted by the Firm as Hurlock’s tenure drew to a close. Wall and the members of the new eight-partner management board understood that a number of partners were anxious about how the Firm would fare without Hurlock at the helm. They believed their overarching responsibility was to transition the Firm as promptly, smoothly and efficiently as possible into the next century of its history. Shortly before taking over as managing partner, Wall circulated a memorandum to all partners setting out some of the ways they intended to do this. He confirmed his and the new management board’s commitment to the Firm’s global strategy and outlined the steps the new leadership team would take “to maintain and improve our global standing and assure our continued success.” He announced that their focus would be on adding depth to the Firm’s principal practices and offices rather than on expanding the Firm’s global reach. The purpose of this approach was both to win more clients and business and, importantly, to improve the Firm’s profitability. The Firm completed its merger with Feddersen Laule in Germany in August 2000, adding about 180 lawyers to the Firm in Frankfurt and the new offices in Hamburg, Berlin, Düsseldorf and Dresden, and adding Eberhard Meincke as a member of the Firm’s management board to help lead the integration of the two merged firms. The Firm also acquired a top-level banking capability in London in 2000 with the lateral hire of Maurice Allen and a team of banking lawyers. In just over a year, the London office more than doubled in size, from about 50 lawyers to about 100, and it would grow to more than 300 lawyers within the next five years. For more than four years while he was managing partner, Wall and his wife, Myrle, rotated back and forth between New York and London about every two weeks so Wall could be actively involved in the Firm’s strategic plan to grow the London office. “As one of the original three-member team that was there in the early days of the Eurodollar market, I felt I had a vested interest in helping the London office become big enough to be a force not only in London but in all of today’s global markets,” Wall recalls. The Firm opened an office in Beijing in 2005, its second on mainland China, to strengthen its global China practice. Closer to home, the Firm’s core practice areas in the New York office were strengthened and expanded. The new leadership addressed some of the consequences of rapid expansion. As the Firm became bigger, Wall believed that its operation had become unwieldy and needed refinement. In particular, he felt that lawyers needed to work together in more manageable groups of no more than 150 so that the head of a group would have the opportunity to be able to get to know all the lawyers in the group. Most offices had fewer than 150 lawyers. Those that had more would be organized into “sections” along practice area lines. This was a radical departure from the past, where lawyers from different practices intermingled. There was significant resistance to Wall’s section initiative in the New York office, only broken down when Wall enlisted the support of John Reiss, global head of M&A. “John’s involvement helped to get the idea pushed through. His role was vital,” says Wall. Reiss himself is more reticent about his role in it: “I am surprised that Duane has given me so much credit, but that’s Duane. I do know that if Duane believed something was necessary, I would have done all I could to support him.” Another initiative, more readily accepted, was to strengthen the business support functions. Wall and Jim Latchford, the Firm’s chief financial officer, set about recruiting talented people to be responsible for core areas, such as HR and IT, freeing up the lawyers to devote more time and attention to client work. Wall and Latchford also led the establishment of an audit committee and an internal audit function that drew praise from the Firm’s independent auditors as industry-leading initiatives in financial prudence. Latchford was later made the Firm’s first global chief operating officer, and when he left the Firm in 2008, he was succeeded in that position by Greg Dolan, one of the talented people Wall and Latchford had recruited. Wall also believed that investment in professional business development and marketing would be repaid in terms not just of more work but also in the Firm’s higher profile. The business development team grew from about 20 to about 120 over the next few years, with at least one member of the team being “embedded” within each of the New York practice groups. “More proactive marketing and business development were vital,” notes Wall. “Our increased resources helped us build our reputation, push the Firm up in the league tables and win us awards, so that we appeared as good as we were and equally as good as anyone else. That helped us develop more business from existing and new clients, and from more business came increased revenue.” Not everything the new leadership team tried turned out as well as they would have liked. Client teams had always existed at the Firm but none had been formalized by senior management with designated client relationship managers. Wall and Goodwillie had been unsuccessful in convincing Hurlock to establish formal client teams and now, with more control over this decision, they led the initiative that resulted in the formation of 50 global client teams. That was too many, as they admit in retrospect. “We went from none to 50 overnight,” Goodwillie recalls. “We should have begun with about five so we could have spent more time making sure they all worked as well as we had hoped.” Wall served two terms, and during his tenure the Firm achieved most of the objectives he had announced in his first memorandum to partners. Lawyer headcount had increased from about 1,100 to about 2,400; the Firm’s revenues had more than tripled, passing the $1 billion mark in 2005; and profits per equity partner had more than doubled.
“Successful law firms have to keep moving forward. I always made it a point to encourage everyone to aim high.”
Duane Wall
Impressive though the numbers are, Wall believes one of his most significant achievements was to release higher ambitions across the Firm. “Successful law firms have to keep moving forward,” he explains. “I always made it a point to encourage everyone to aim high, and I think that worked. In my early years, we had lengthy discussions about whether we should be
preeminent global law firm. At one of our meetings, one of the partners stood up and left, saying on his way out that he wasn’t interested in speaking about being
preeminent firm, and that we should only call him to return if and when we started talking about how to be
preeminent firm. That was the sort of aspiration I was hoping to achieve.”
As Wall and Verrier ruminated over the challenges that lay ahead, Wall suggested that the greatest challenges would be those that could not be anticipated. Little did he know. Eight days after Verrier took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a then all-time high of 14,164. Within 18 months, on March 9, 2009, the Dow had sunk to a low of 6,547, a decline of more than 50 percent. The downturn was a reaction to a crisis in the financial sector that included the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the near-collapse of the global financial system and a subsequent crisis of confidence in the Euro. Governments in the United States, the UK and the rest of Europe bailed out a number of banks, insurance companies and large corporations, particularly in the auto sector. Among these was the Chrysler bailout, in which White & Case represented bondholders. The crisis had a direct impact on the Firm, with a significant downturn in business volume. Tough decisions needed to be made. For the first time in its history, the Firm had to reduce headcount in response to market conditions. This was done as professionally and considerately as possible, but left a painful memory for all concerned. The Dresden and Milan offices were closed, and the Bangkok office was spun off as an independent firm. Other cost-cutting measures were taken. The fact that clients and competitors were taking similar actions in response to the financial crisis did little to ease the discomfort within the Firm. Yet, the downturn also presented the opportunity to make changes that would strengthen the Firm for the future. After nearly 30 years of geographic expansion and rapid headcount growth, Verrier focused on integration and collaboration. He proposed a reorganization of the Firm globally, shifting the emphasis from offices as the Firm’s primary business units to newly created regional sections. Every lawyer in the Firm was assigned to a regional section—a group of lawyers with geographic and practice commonalities. The regional sections were organized to be large enough to function as cost-effective management units, but not too large for their members to work together effectively. The Firm’s offices were given the role of serving as bases of the Firm’s operations, providing strong local law capability and maintaining their status in their local markets. At the same time, Verrier reorganized the Firm’s global practices and introduced global industry and interest groups and global client teams, whose efforts were aimed at building an integrated global offering for clients, focused on their changing needs. Verrier emphasized his belief in full integration of the Firm’s resources and standards around the world as being essential to the Firm’s continued success. To make these integrated resources work as efficiently as possible, Verrier continued to strengthen the Firm’s executive staff. He brought in a new chief marketing officer, chief information officer and chief knowledge officer, and recruited the Firm’s first chief people officer. Verrier also focused on enhancing the Firm’s training, mentoring, evaluation and career planning for lawyers at all levels of the Firm. The implementation of the business plans developed by the regional sections began to produce more business activity. The Firm’s global practices won more major mandates. The newly created global client teams started to make significant progress in expanding the Firm’s relationships with its major clients. These successes were recognized in an increasing number of accolades, among them Number One Global Law Firm (
Law360 2012
); Most Innovative U.S. Firm in Europe (
International Financial Law Review 2012
); Law Firm of the Year
(The M&A Advisor 2012)
; Leading Innovative U.S. Firm in Finance, Litigation, Corporate and Business of Law
(Financial Times U.S. Innovative Lawyers 2012)
; Law Firm of the Year in Germany (JUVE 2011); and International Law Firm of the Year
(The Lawyer 2013)
. The Firm saw opportunity in promising new markets, opening offices in Doha and Geneva in 2009, Madrid and Astana in 2013, Dubai and Seoul in 2015 and Boston in 2016. It also reopened an office in Milan in 2011. These strategic and internal initiatives translated into higher revenues and profits per equity partner, with the latter reaching record levels in 2012 through 2015. Verrier feels confident about the ability of the Firm to move forward at an accelerating pace, but recognizes that its competitors in the global arena are not standing still. The magic circle firms in London and a number of U.S. firms continue to have global ambitions, and several recent mergers have created new players at the global level. As acknowledged by Eric Berg, the head of the Firm’s global banking practice: “The good news is that there is more competition, and the bad news is that there is more competition. We have to stay on our toes all the time to stay out in front. There will be more commoditized work, outsourcing of legal services and pressure on margins. The challenges in the next 20 years will be more severe than in the past 20, and certainly more than we have ever experienced. The challenges will also give rise to opportunities, which we must be prepared to exploit.”
Verrier attributes the Firm’s achievements in the first part of its second century to its long and distinguished history and the contributions of the Firm’s partners during that time. He singles out the defining characteristics of the Firm’s partners—their entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to collaboration—as being critical to the Firm’s past and future success. Verrier believes the root of the Firm’s success lies in the strong sense of stewardship of its partners: “Our shared values, our aspiration to keep the Firm in the upper echelon of global law firms, and our willingness to embrace change to achieve our ambitions all come from a desire to pass on to the next generation an even better firm than the one we inherited from those who came before us.”
Verrier believes that the Firm is about to enter as exciting a period as it has ever experienced: “Thanks to the vision of Jim Hurlock, White & Case has become a global law firm, with well established offices around the world and a leading role in emerging markets. And as the world becomes more interconnected, that means one thing: greater complexity for business, which plays right to our strengths. There will be opportunities for us that simply did not exist at the time we started on the globalization journey. This is a great time to be a young lawyer coming into the Firm.”
“White & Case aspires to be a truly global law firm, achieving top-tier profitability and the market prestige that will make us an employer of choice and a competitive force among our peers in the global elite.”
Hugh Verrier

Cipriani on 42nd Street, NYC (2008)

Duane and Myrle Wall (left) and Hugh Verrier (right) at a dinner in honor of Duane and Myrle, commemorating Wall's seven-plus years as head of the Firm.

Duane Wall
Born in Oklahoma, Duane Wall received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1965. He spent the first year of a Ford Foundation scholarship at NYU Law School, receiving an LL.M. in comparative law in 1966, and the second year working with the Argentine law firm Allende & Brea in Buenos Aires. In 1967, while he was still in Buenos Aires, he was hired “sight unseen” by the University of Florida School of Law to direct its Latin American law program.
After deciding he did not wish to pursue a teaching career, Wall joined White & Case in 1968, impressed with its internationalism and open-mindedness. He spent four years in New York before moving to London in 1972, where he was one of only three lawyers. The office was headed by Jim Hurlock, who became a close friend and acted as a valuable mentor throughout his career at the Firm. “The 1970s were the early days of the Eurodollar market,” Wall recalls, “and the three of us did one deal after another that kept us on the outer edge of an ever-expanding financial frontier.” Wall returned to New York in 1976 and worked closely with Hurlock on Indonesia’s debt rescheduling. He became a partner in 1979 and went back to London in 1980, but he was called back to New York within six months to take charge of the Firm’s bank advisory practice following the sudden death of Bill Knox. Having always been a transactional lawyer, Wall was required at short notice to master the complexities of banking law and regulation, but he rose to the challenge. For the next 20 years, he worked with a broad range of banking clients, including Bankers Trust in its attack on the Glass-Steagall Act; Swiss Bank Corporation when it diversified into investment banking in the United States; and Deutsche Bank on regulatory aspects of its acquisition of Bankers Trust in 1999. During the first half of the 1980s, Wall also remained a member of the Firm’s sovereign practice and was Hurlock’s right-hand man on the Costa Rican, Peruvian and Panamanian debt reschedulings during that time. Wall became head of the corporate department in 1985 and served on the Firm’s management committee from 1990 until 2000. He was elected managing partner in 2000 under a newly adopted management structure and continued in that role until October 2007. During Wall’s two terms as managing partner, the Firm’s revenues more than tripled and profits per equity partner more than doubled, with gross revenues exceeding $1 billion for the first time in 2005. Wall is a strong believer in White & Case’s culture and values, and during his tenure the Firm formally designated “Firm culture” as a criteria of success, commenced a women’s advancement initiative and appointed its first full-time director of pro bono activities. Wall also led two other major initiatives: to change the Firm’s partner compensation system in 2005 in ways designed to enable senior management to use it more effectively to reward contributions and induce higher performance based on the broad range of criteria that reflect the culture and values of the Firm; and to change the Firm’s management structure to provide, among other things, for the direct nomination and election by partners of the Chair of the Firm and for the appointment by the Chair of the other three members of the executive committee. (see
Senior Leadership Chronology
). In 2008, he reassumed leadership of the Firm’s bank advisory practice in time to help financial institution clients navigate the new requirements imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act and the other laws and regulations adopted in the United States and abroad in response to the financial crisis that began in 2008. He served for three years, commencing in 2009, on the American Bar Association Task Force on Financial Markets Regulatory Reform, which monitored and commented on financial regulatory developments arising out of the financial crisis. As other White & Case partners before him, Wall has served on the board of directors of the Legal Aid Society of New York. He was honored in 2007 by Women’s World Banking, one of the Firm’s longstanding pro bono clients, for his commitment to causes related to the needs of women and their families. He has also served on the board of trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of New York and Grace Church School. As for hobbies, he has written four novels, as yet unpublished, and is a composer of Country songs, as yet unrecorded. He was in charge of the project team that produced this White & Case history book.
Hugh Verrier
Canadian Hugh Verrier came to White & Case’s Wall Street office in 1983 via the Firm’s International Lawyers Program, aimed at attracting non-U.S. lawyers to the Firm. Verrier had received his LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 1982 and then spent a year in Ottawa clerking for Justice Bertha Wilson, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada.
He joined White & Case at the suggestion of an aunt in London—the Duchess of Portland—who knew partner Vernon Munroe from his time in Europe and thought highly of him. Verrier recalls: “I remember Vernon coming to welcome me after I joined. He’d been a mentor to Jim Hurlock and in fact had offered him his starting position at the Firm 25 years before.” Intending to work for a year in New York and return to Canada, he was drawn to the opportunities created by the globalization of the Firm. Before long, Verrier joined partner George Crozer in Indonesia, where they built on the deep relationship with the Indonesian government that Hurlock had established during the country’s debt crisis. A three-month assignment turned into several years in Jakarta, advising on natural resource and infrastructure projects. Like so many lawyers at the Firm who served in Indonesia, his experience living and working there left a deep impression. He later said he felt that White & Case had opened up the world to him. After returning to New York, where he worked with Duane Wall for several years, the Firm asked him to move to Ankara, building on another sovereign relationship that Hurlock, Wall and Crozer had started a decade before. He spent seven years representing both the Turkish government and private power companies such as Enron developing Turkey’s first build-operate-transfer (BOT) power project. It took a decade of failed projects before the Enron project finally cracked the code for private power in Turkey. “I felt I was pursuing Turkey’s goal to reform its energy sector and also fulfilling the Firm’s vision of playing a constructive role in the country,” Verrier recalls. Verrier’s next assignment presented a new challenge—the Firm’s Moscow office, plagued with difficulties in its early years. “Gwynne Wales once said to me: ‘We can’t get anyone to go to Moscow. The guy who can turn that office around will have done a great service to the Firm,’” Verrier recalls. “Well, that was all I needed to hear.” He moved to Moscow soon afterward. Shortly after he arrived in 1998, Russia defaulted on its sovereign debt, which led to a collapse of the banking system and a severe financial crisis. Verrier was confident the crisis would pass and Russia would become an important market for the Firm and its clients. He believed the key to rebuilding the office would be getting the right people and training them. Within three years, the Moscow office had established leading practices in finance, capital markets, corporate, disputes and pro bono—a practice Verrier felt was essential to developing great international lawyers. The success of this long-term approach led to White & Case being recognized in 2005 as “Law Firm of the Year” in Russia by the
International Financial Law Review
. As partner Doug Peel, who co-managed the Moscow office with Verrier, said: “Hugh makes it his business to think and reflect on how to make White & Case better. And he is extremely good at it.” Verrier was elected Chair of the Firm in 2007, having been elected to the Firm’s global management board three years earlier. Returning to New York after 17 years, he was quickly confronted with another financial crisis, this one global. Memories of the Russian economic crisis only bolstered his confidence that the Firm would weather the difficulties that lay ahead. He moved forward with a major reorganization of the Firm, making it more nimble to adjust to the protracted recession. He also introduced a long-term strategy focused on increasing global integration—bringing the parts of the Firm together—to secure its position as one of the elite global law firms. After a period of consolidation, and as the recession began to subside, the Firm posted record financial results. He was re-elected as Chair in 2011 and 2015. A competitive chess player since his university years in France, Verrier has continued to play in tournaments, including the Russian Aeroflot Open. He also enjoys open water swimming and competed in the iconic Hellespont swimming race across the Dardanelles in Turkey in 2011. When he was an associate, he wrote
The Songs of Wade Hemsworth
, a collection of the music of the legendary Canadian folk songwriter, which is credited with having revived Hemsworth’s career; in Moscow, he and Mikki Mahan led the team that produced
, a history of White & Case in Russia, to mark the Moscow office’s 15th anniversary; and while Chair, he published a book about his grandfather, Hazen Hansard, once president of the Canadian Bar Association.

Dancers during the ceremony marking the opening of bhutan’s first law library, 2011
“Hugh makes it his business to think and reflect on how to make White & Case better. And he is extremely good at it.”
Doug Peel
A strong proponent of the pro bono tradition at White & Case, Verrier has tried to extend that tradition to address issues of rule of law throughout the world. His sense of responsibility for future generations of international lawyers led him to found the first Russian national competition for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, the largest international moot court competition in the world. Later the Firm became the named sponsor of the International Rounds of the Jessup, and produced an acclaimed documentary about the Jessup,
. He has also worked closely with the Kingdom of Bhutan since 2008 to establish the first law school in that country, helping support its transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional democracy.
In a speech at the Trust Women Conference in 2015, Verrier said, “The global law firm is becoming a powerful weapon for good in the fight for a better world.”
A former partner, reflecting on his career at White & Case, once said in an interview with
The Lawyer
that if you wanted to work in another office at the Firm, it was “dangerous to raise your hand—because you could find yourself in Ankara, Jakarta or a lot of other places.” Verrier smiles: “Yes, I was a guy who raised his hand. And this is a place where raising your hand can open a world of opportunities.”