Hogan Lovells CEO Stephen Immelt remembers a bike ride years ago with J. Warren Gorrell Jr.
He and Gorrell, Immelt’s predecessor as leader of the Global 100 firm, were climbing the French Alps. At mile 90, Gorrell stopped and felt ill.
“He said ‘You guys go ahead. Maybe I’ll see you or maybe I won’t,’” Immelt recalled. Immelt and a third rider, Hogan Lovells partner Dennis Tracey III, crossed the finish line. The two then turned around to look for Gorrell.
A mile from the top of the hill, there he was.
“He had powered his way up—I couldn’t believe it,” Immelt said. “I got a picture of the three of us. I look at that picture and remember that day, and I remember his determination and will. Warren likes to finish what he starts.”
Gorrell’s legal career has been at full speed for almost four decades. The longtime real estate transactional lawyer plans to cross his career finish line on the last day of 2016. At 62, Gorrell will formally retire from his $50 million-a-year practice after years of planning to step back from both firm leadership and deal work.
Hogan Lovells announced Gorrell’s official retirement Wednesday morning. Looking back on his career, Gorrell’s peers say he was one of most influential lawyers in Washington, D.C.’s legal industry.
Gorrell’s ascension to the partnership 30 years ago at what was once Hogan & Hartson reinvented how effective a junior partner could be, as he competed with other top lawyers to usher in new kinds of investment in real estate. His work as a rainmaker lifted a regulatory-focused firm in the nation’s capital into a more sprawling institution, one that became a player in global securities work.
Then, years later as leader of the firm, Gorrell added to the post-recession era of global legal expansion by leading Hogan & Hartson through its transatlantic merger with British firm Lovells.
“I don’t think you could possibly overstate his influence on Hogan & Hartson,” said Jeffrey Lowe, a former Hogan & Hartson partner and leader of the law firm group at legal recruiting giant Major, Lindsey & Africa. “All the rules were rewritten because of him and his ability to develop business. He was phenomenally influential in the growth of that firm.”