Ralph Baxter served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Orrick from 1990 through March 2013. Under Mr. Baxter’s leadership, Orrick expanded, diversified and extended its geographic reach, transforming from a domestic firm with California origins to its position today as one of the world’s most prominent global law firms, with more than 1,100 lawyers in 25 offices across the United States, Europe and Asia. Mr. Baxter also launched several transformative initiatives that more closely align Orrick with its clients, including non‑traditional talent and pricing models, distinguishing the firm as a bold innovator in the legal industry.
In 2013, The American Lawyer named Mr. Baxter one of the “Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years.” In naming Mr. Baxter among the “Most Innovative Managing Partners” for the second year in a row in 2012, Law360’s editors noted that Mr. Baxter “has left an indelible mark not only on [Orrick]… but also the larger practice by upending traditional career models, rejiggering payment structures and transforming the business of law in many other innovative ways.” Mr. Baxter led Orrick in establishing the first global insourcing center among law firms – Orrick’s Global Operations Center in Wheeling, West Virginia – which marked its 11th anniversary in 2013. Originally home to the firm’s administrative support functions, the GOC today supports the delivery of client service and other outward facing functions, employing approcimately 15% of Orrick's world wide workforce.
Recognized as one of America’s “100 Most Influential Lawyers” by The National Law Journal, Mr. Baxter is a frequent speaker on business leadership and the evolution of the legal profession. Mr. Baxter is the founder of the Law Firm Leaders Forum, one of the most significant gatherings of law firm leaders that annually examine the critical issues facing the legal profession. 2013 marked the 18th anniversary of the forum. He also serves on the advisory boards of Harvard Law School’s Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession, and Georgetown’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession.
Mr. Baxter has also led the firm’s efforts to contribute to the communities in which Orrick and its lawyers and staff work and live. He plays an active role in Orrick’s innovative Community Responsibility Program, which he helped create in 2001 to orchestrate the firm’s pro bono legal services, financial support and volunteer efforts. The program ensures that the firm’s resources are strategically organized and deployed to maximize both their community impact and the number of Orrick lawyers and staff who have a chance to participate directly in the firm’s sponsored activities.
Mr. Baxter is active in civic leadership and public interest organizations, particularly in West Virginia and California. In West Virginia, he co-chaired the Governor’s 21st Century Jobs Cabinet from 2006 to 2010 to help lead efforts to improve education and economic development in West Virginia. He also serves on the West Virginia Workforce Investment Council, the Board of Directors of The West Virginia Education Alliance, is a member of the West Virginia Roundtable and West Virginia Vision Shared, and is a board member of Imagine West Virginia.
In April 2009, Mr. Baxter was inducted into the June Harless Education Hall of Fame at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, in recognition of his leadership in educational issues.
In California, Mr. Baxter has served on the state Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth. He also served for many years on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Partnership, a group of business and government leaders dedicated to promoting economic growth and development in San Francisco. Mr. Baxter was a member of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Trade Mission to China in 2005 and a member of San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s Trade Mission to China in 1997.
Prior to his election as Chairman and CEO, Mr. Baxter practiced employment law and led Orrick’s Employment Law practice, which he founded in 1980. He was recognized as one of the “Nation’s Best Litigators in Employment Law” by The National Law Journal. During his years as a practicing lawyer, he lectured and wrote extensively on developments in the law, and testified on employment law issues before the California State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Prior to his career in the law, Mr. Baxter taught sixth grade at the Scott Montgomery Elementary School in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Baxter received his J.D. from the University of Virginia, where he served as an editor of The Virginia Law Review, in 1974; he received his M.A. in Education from the Catholic University of America in 1970; and he received his A.B. in History form Stanford University in 1968.