Wilson Sonsini Shakes Up Leadership Structure

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has elected Katharine “Katie” Martin to head its board in a shake-up of the firm’s leadership with named partner Larry Sonsini stepping down as chairman.

Martin has served on the firm’s 10-member board since 2007 and was elected for a three-year term as chair.

Sonsini has been a legend in the Silicon Valley for decades and will remain active as a senior partner and a member of the board.

He was involved in Apple’s 1980 IPO, has advised Hewlett-Packard and other tech giants, and served as a board member of the New York Stock Exchange. He was chairman of Wilson Sonsini for more than 35 years, according to the firm.

Sonsini joined the firm in 1966 and previously served as CEO. As the firm grew and opened new offices, Sonsini’s leadership role changed, according to Martin. She said the structural change announced this week is simply the final step in an ongoing evolution.

“I think we’re evolving to a structure that is more team and collaborative oriented,” Martin told Big Law Business. “It involves a lot of different partners having a handle on practice groups and developing the strategies of those practice groups.”

Wilson Sonsini’s leadership shake-up follows several high-level attorney departures, including seven corporate partners who decamped to Cooley. Michael Rubin, former co-chair of Wilson’s privacy and data protection practice, moved to Latham & Watkins in September, and a team of IP litigators left for Morrison & Foerster in June.

Wilson Sonsini also has made lateral hires, including former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland in May and privacy and data protection attorney Beth George, formerly of the Department of Defense. On Wednesday, the firm announced it had hired Stephen Heifetz, former Steptoe partner, for its national security regulatory practice in Washington.   

Martin said the leadership changes, which have been in the works for years, are unrelated to the partner moves.

“This leadership changes is really an evolution,” she said. “We’ve been focused on leadership development and future governance structure for the firm. It doesn’t have anything to do with any of the departures.”

As chair of Wilson Sonsini’s board, Martin will work closely with managing partner Doug Clark to carry out the firm’s strategic and operational goals, according to the firm.

Martin, a corporate and securities partner in the firm’s Palo Alto headquarters since 1999, previously served on Wilson Sonsini’s policy committee and as the leader of its business law department, according to the firm.

Her work has included advising LinkedIn on its $352.8 million IPO, representing Twitter in its $2.1 billion IPO, and, most recently, helping Lyft raise $1 billion in financing in a round led by one of Alphabet Inc’s investment funds. 

News of the management change was earlier reported by The Recorder.


Contact the reporter responsible for this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft at srussellkraft@gmail.com.

Contact the editors responsible for this story: Casey Sullivan at csullivan@bloomberglaw.com and Tom Taylor at ttaylor@bna.com.