James L. Shea, the chair of Venable LLP since 2006, will step down from the position in February, the firm announced Wednesday.
Shea, who will become chair emeritus Feb. 1, will be succeeded by Stuart P. Ingis, one of the leaders of the firm’s privacy and data security practice group.
Before serving as chair, Shea was Venable’s managing partner for 11 years. During his time as a leader at Venable, the firm saw growth in annual revenue from about $65 million to about $500 million, as well as an increase in its attorney roster from about 300 lawyers to around 650 today, he said.
“It’s a good time now because we are doing well and the foreseeable future looks good,” Shea said of the change in leadership. “It’s always better to make changes moving ahead, as opposed to trying to solve problems with changes.”
Ingis, who joined the firm in 2006 and has served as partner-in-charge of the firm’s Washington office, said he expects the measured growth he has seen during his first decade at the firm to continue under his tenure.
“We certainly are going to continue to evolve and change and grow just as we have,” Ingis said. “We’ve been very deliberate in our growth — we’re not trying to be in every city throughout the world. In today’s market, you don’t need to be. I think we will continue to grow, but it’ll be steady growth and smart growth. We will continue to look for the right opportunities for our partners, as well as listening to where our clients would like us to be.”
In the “relatively near term,” Shea added that it would be reasonable to expect the firm to grow to include 700 or 800 lawyers. At that level of growth, he said, the firm would not yet encounter problems that plague larger firms, such as conflicts or difficulty maintaining a coherent culture.
From a law firm leader’s perspective, Shea said the biggest challenge in leading the firm involves the need to adapt quickly to changes.
“The world, including the legal profession — maybe even particularly the legal profession — is changing rapidly, and the pace of change is accelerating,” Shea said. “The biggest challenge is to be ready for the unexpected. When you know what the problems are going to be, they’re much easier to solve than the ones you can’t foresee, and you usually can’t foresee the toughest ones.”
Ingis, who represents companies in the media, communications, information services, advertising and retail industries before Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and other federal and state agencies, said the firm will play a central role in many of those changes.
“As the world is changing, be it hospitality, be it entertainment, all this revolution going on with the Internet and technology — we’re in the center of a lot of those developments from a legal and policy perspective, and I expect that to continue,” he said.
Ingis will continue to practice while serving as chair and will still be based out of the firm’s Washington office, although both his own law practice and his duties as chair will require frequent travel to Venable’s other offices, he said. The firm has nine offices across the country, including New York and Los Angeles.
But both Shea and Ingis emphasized that the change in leadership does not mean the firm is turning away from its roots in Baltimore.
“We will continue to really be the leading and largest firm in Maryland and in Baltimore,” Ingis said. “We fully intend to continue that 100 years of strength in legal services. Many of our lawyers are pillars of the community there, and that’s going to continue. …I’m looking forward to being a good caretaker and working more closely with a broader set of partners to continue our long history of success and participation in the communities where we work.”