Make us your home page

Clean sweep at top for Holland & Knight law firm

It's out with the old, in with the new at Holland & Knight.

In a clean sweep that may reflect a desire for change among its ranks, three top leadership positions at Florida's second-largest law firm have turned over in the past week:

• Martha Barnett, a Tallahassee lobbyist and former American Bar Association president who was Holland & Knight's first female partner, lost her bid for re-election as board chair, a position she had held since 2003. A majority of the policymaking committee's 24 members selected Boston trial lawyer Ralph Lepore over Barnett.

• Darrell Kelley, who left his job as chief executive of Enterprise Florida, the state's economic-development agency, in 2005 to join Holland & Knight as chief operating officer, told the firm's staff this week that he was resigning, effective today. A successor has not been named.

• Howell Melton Jr., who was elected to a five-year term as managing partner in 2003, disclosed last month that he would not seek re-election. Last week, the 1,150-lawyer firm's equity partners chose to replace him with Miami attorney Steven Sonberg, who ran unopposed.

"I certainly was willing to serve again this year, if a majority of the people had wanted me to," Barnett, 60, said in an interview Thursday. "But we changed our managing partner this year, and I think there were people who felt it would be appropriate to have a change in who chaired the directors' committee as well."

In unseating Barnett, who will remain a rank-and-file board member through at least 2008, Holland & Knight's directors removed one of the firm's most visible and respected partners. Thursday night she was to serve as emcee of a 500-person fundraiser in Tallahassee featuring Supreme Court gadfly Jeffrey Toobin. Asked how her vision for the firm's future differs from successor Lepore's, Barnett said she was unaware of any significant disagreements.

Two years ago, Holland & Knight's leaders endured significant embarrassment over allegations that a Tampa partner accused of sexual harassment had been lightly reprimanded and then elevated, by Melton, to the position of chief operating officer. That promotion was rescinded a day after the St. Petersburg Times reported it. More recently, the firm addressed frustration over low per-partner profits by squeezing out dozens of underperforming shareholders and adopting new, tougher standards for promoting associate lawyers to partner status. The changes led to significant gains for the remaining shareholders.

Although chief operating officer Kelley was unavailable for comment Thursday, spokeswoman Karen McBride said he told her he was leaving because Melton, who recruited him, would no longer need him as a top aide. McBride said that Kelley indicated he was considering "many interesting (job) opportunities" outside the firm.

Scott Barancik can be reached at or
(727) 893-8751.

Clean sweep at top for Holland & Knight law firm 03/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 3:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works


    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  2. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach


    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  3. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021


    TAMPA — Record rainfall in Los Angeles ultimately may end Tampa Bay's drought of hosting the Super Bowl.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 

Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)
  5. As St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit broadens its business, it shrinks its name to Jabil


    St. Petersburg's Fortune 500 company, Jabil Circuit, informally tossed aside the "Circuit" in its name some time ago. That's because circuit board manufacturing, the company's core business for decades, has been squeezed out by a broader business agenda ranging from consumer packaging to supply chain management.

    Jabil Circuit informally dropped "Circuit" from its marketing material and signage, like at its St. Petersburg headquarters, years ago. Now it's official.
[Times file photo]