After 20 years as chairman and chief executive officer at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Scott Jolliffe is stepping down and Peter Lukasiewicz is taking over the helm.
Lukasiewicz, who’s currently the firm’s external managing partner, will take over as chief executive officer effective Jan. 1. He’ll also serve as a representative on the global board of Gowling WLG, the new international legal practice created by the merger of Gowlings and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. announced in July.
Lukasiewicz was the managing partner of the Toronto office of Gowlings for 15 years. He took on the external managing partner two years ago.
Jolliffe told the firm’s partners more than a year ago he wouldn’t be seeking a renewed term.
“I felt it was time to build for the future with a new CEO,” says Jolliffe.
The firm launched an internal nomination process and the nominating committee recommended Lukasiewicz. The firm’s partners voted on that recommendation in July.
Lukasiewicz, a commercial litigator, has been at Gowlings for his entire legal career.
Jolliffe isn’t leaving the firm. He’ll take on a new role as one of Gowlings’ three representatives on the global board of Gowling WLG.
“That board is being launched Jan. 18 and it’s important to me it gets off to a really good start and that we continue to grow our firm in a global, international sense. I will take a very active role in that aspect of the combined firm,” he says.
In a rapidly changing legal market, Jolliffe says the firm has been working in various areas to achieve greater efficiencies.
“We’ve been developing and implementing systems to project manage our larger deals and litigation files and we’ve designed special software to take over processes that are people intensive in order to automate them and make them more efficient and cheaper but more effective in terms of results,” he adds.
As external managing partner, Lukasiewicz has been focused on client relationships, the rapidity of change taking place in the legal market, and the need to innovate and “continually do so more quickly than we have ever done before.”
“For me, a priority is our Canadian business and to continue to consolidate and solidify that business and expand it in the areas in which we excel,” he says, noting that with the expansion with Wragge Lawrence & Graham, the firm will now attract clients that may not have not previously considered Gowlings.
Lukasiewicz says the firm doesn’t have a plan to go into the U.S. market.
“That is not our strategy as a global legal practice,” he says.
Jolliffe says alternative competition in the marketplace is inevitable and the firm needs to be ready to manage the disaggregation of legal services and parcel out pieces of work to offshore or near-shore alternatives.
“There is no sense fighting what in-house counsel feel is best for their business. We have to be in tune with that and adaptable to deal with it,” says Jolliffe.
Jolliffe says it was a “whirlwind” in the early 1990s to early 2000s when Gowlings grew from a regional firm to a national firm.
“For me, my mandate was to grow Gowlings to be a dominant national firm and that’s what I did,” he says.