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The Washington law firm Arent Fox said Monday that it has named longtime partner Mark M. Katz as its new chairman, a leadership change that comes as the legal sector copes with an economic downturn that has curtailed business and prompted layoffs.

Katz, 52, succeeds Marc L. Fleischaker, who served as chairman of the firm's executive committee for 14 years. Fleischaker will remain at the firm, concentrating on antitrust and civil rights cases.

Like many of its counterparts, Arent Fox has faced declining revenue as corporate clients cut back on legal work, particularly in commercial real estate and finance, Katz said Monday in an interview. Although the firm cut 13 associates and 15 staff members and is in the early stages of restructuring how it bills clients, Katz said Arent Fox wasn't hurt as deeply by the recession because it decided to grow more cautiously during the boom.

"Some of the firms that grew very rapidly and worked on a mega-international platform seem to be running into difficulties," he said. "We've grown on a patient pace, and that's helped us."

As of 2008, the latest year for which statistics from the economic development group Greater Washington Initiative are available, more than 40,000 lawyers worked in the Washington region, second only to the New York area. Nearly 64,000 people work in the legal profession in the Washington region, which employs more people in that sector on a per-capita basis than any U.S. metropolitan area.

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