Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh will take over leadership of the law firm Pepper Hamilton L.L.P. later this month, replacing Nina Gussack, the firm announced Tuesday.

Freeh, who last year completed a blistering report on the failure of Pennsylvania State University officials to report sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, merged his Wilmington-based firm with Pepper Hamilton last year.

He said he expects to expand the firm's white-collar defense practice while further developing the in-house investigative and consulting work that was a forte of the firm he merged with Pepper Hamilton.

"This is a really interesting new model," Freeh said.

Gussack, who served two three-year terms as chair and who has been one of the few women in the nation to lead a major U.S. law firm, will continue her health-care litigation practice. She has been one of the firm's most productive partners in terms of billings even as she served as chair.

Freeh, a former federal judge who was FBI director under President Bill Clinton, formed his own firm in 2006 and has headed numerous internal-corruption and compliance probes.

As FBI director from 1993 to 2001, he had a reputation as a tough-minded law-enforcement official who occasionally clashed with Clinton and members of his administration on matters of policy and the law.

After leaving the FBI, Freeh served for a time as vice chair and general counsel of MBNA America Bank in Wilmington.

Pepper Hamilton has made a series of high-profile moves. A year ago, it announced that it had selected Scott Green, a non-lawyer and Harvard-trained M.B.A., to serve as CEO, with responsibility for both daily operations and strategic planning. Both practice group chairs and the heads of non-legal departments report to Green.

The move was seen in the legal world, where leadership almost exclusively is composed of lawyers, as not only non-traditional, but even daring.

Freeh said that the use of in-house consulting and investigative services by a law firm was unusual, as well, and that he expected it, along with other practice areas, to drive growth at the firm.

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