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Ober|Kaler announces new CEO, president

Steve Lash//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//March 19, 2015

Ober|Kaler announces new CEO, president

By Steve Lash

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//March 19, 2015

Darlene R. Davis, left, and S. Craig Holden. (submitted photo)
Darlene R. Davis, left, and S. Craig Holden. (submitted photo)

Ober|Kaler, the Baltimore-based law firm that traces its history back to 1903, has elected a new chair and chief executive officer as well as a new president and chief operating officer.

S. Craig Holden, a partner and co-chair in the firm’s health law group, assumed the chairmanship and CEO post on March 1. He will be responsible for the strategic aspects of the law firm’s management, Ober|Kaler stated.

Holden, 60, succeeds John A. Wolf, who served as chair for 10 years and will return to the full-time practice of law in the firm’s construction and litigation groups, Ober|Kaler said.

Darlene R. Davis, co-chair of the firm’s finance group, became president and COO on March 1. She now has day-to-day management responsibilities at the firm.

Davis succeeds Holden, who had served in the post for the past decade and who said he looks forward to helping the firm face major challenges within the legal industry — most notably competition among firms in attracting and retaining an increasingly sophisticated clientele concerned about costs.

Changing environment

“The environment for law firms is changing rapidly,” Holden said. “Our greatest challenge is adapting to this changing marketplace.”

Holden cited health care law, his specialty, as well as commercial finance and construction litigation as legal areas that can serve as Ober|Kaler’s “springboard into flourishing in this new environment.”

At the same time, the law firm must focus on keeping its expenses down, he said.

Currently, the law firm is at an appropriate size with “a very good breadth and depth of expertise,” Holden said. The firm has 110 attorneys and has offices in Washington and Falls Church, Va., as well as Baltimore.

“We look to grow, but we’re growing judiciously,” he added. “We’re looking for judicious growth.”

Davis, 52, said she expects her duties will include greater involvement with the internal operations of the firm and resolving internal disputes should they arise. She added these responsibilities are part of her job to “make sure things go in the right direction,” much as she has tried to do on a smaller scale in her senior role in the finance group.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” Davis said.

Both attorneys said their new, additional duties will not interfere with their ethical obligation to zealously represent their clients.

‘Balancing act’

“It’s a balancing act that I’ve been doing for the past 10 years” as president and COO, said Holden. “I have been able to balance that with a fairly active practice. One has to do a lot of balancing.”

Davis said she will “continue to manage” her client load. “Will I get a little less sleep? Probably,” she added.

Davis’ legal practice includes advising clients on the structuring, negotiation and closing of loans, leases and other financing arrangements, according to her law firm biography. She is a long-time board member of the South Baltimore Learning Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the self-sufficiency of educationally disadvantaged adults, and she also serves on the board of the Charles Street Development Corp.

Holden, a member of the American Health Lawyers Association’s board, litigated Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services before joining the law firm 28 years ago. He is a prolific speaker on healthcare law before bar and medical associations, according to his law firm biography.

The veteran attorney said his responsibilities as chairman will include mentoring the firm’s young attorneys to ensure a smooth generational change “from the current one to the up and coming one.”

This story will be updated.

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