Bryan Cave, the international law firm with about 1,100 attorneys across 30 offices, has appointed its first female chair, Washington-based securities lawyer Therese Pritchard, the firm announced Wednesday.

Pritchard is slated to assume the role October 2014, replacing Don Lents, who has led the firm since 2004. It is the first time in the firm’s 140-year history that its top leader will be based in Washington instead of the firm’s headquarters in St. Louis.

Pritchard’s background is in white collar and securities enforcement law, representing companies being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

She is the latest female partner to rise to the top of a major U.S. law firm: Akin Gump’s first female chair Kim Koopersmith took over earlier this year, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius announced in October that Jami Wintz McKeon would take over as chair in 2014.

Women have long been underrepresented at the partner level in law firms, making up just 15 percent of equity partners at major law firms, according to 2012 statistics from the National Association of Women Lawyers, which tracks the retention and promotion of women at the nation’s 200 largest law firms. And only 4 percent of law firms have women in the top management position.

Therese Pritchard (Courtesy of Bryan Cave)

Pritchard said that is changing because women are getting more opportunities to take on leadership roles.

“The playing field is beginning to level out.” she said. “Firms now have the opportunity to select leaders from a more diverse talent pool. More of us have been around a longer time and been given opportunities to demonstrate our management and leadership skills. . .I certainly believe that firms are not choosing their new chairs based on gender but based on talent, and I look forward to the day it’s not such big news that a woman is becoming the chair of a law firm.”