Philadelphia's largest law firms are experiencing a sea change, as the era of "charismatic leaders" comes to a close and a new era of "pragmatic technicians" as leaders is ushered in.

For the past three decades, high-profile lawyers with big books of business and outsize personalities such as the late Arthur Makadon at Ballard Spahr, Bart Winokur at Dechert, and Barry Abelson at Pepper Hamilton led these firms with an eye toward growth and expanding the geographic footprint. The new generation of leadership at major Philadelphia firms now consists largely of managers who happen to be lawyers instead of lawyers who happened to be managers. They are generally more low key, more concerned with boosting demand for legal services during the downturn, and less oriented toward expansion.

Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart, Mr. Makadon's successor, cited the recent selection of Jami Keon, a rainmaker but not particularly recognizable outside of her firm, to succeed Morgan Lewis's Francis Milone, who is stepping down as Chair next year. Mr. Stewart told the Business Journal: "What high-profile lawyer was there that wasn’t selected that would make you think ‘that’s a surprise.’ You don’t have a face of Morgan Lewis or any other big firm." He added, "I don’t think my partners in our 13 other offices care if the chairman has a high profile in Philadelphia."

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Mark Stewart