Peter Cornell's decision to stand down as Clifford Chance managing partner has kicked off fevered speculation within the global firm.
Cornell's successor is widely expected to be chief operating officer (COO) and former global head of corporate David Childs. He has masterminded a £40m cost-cutting programme, which is set to boost profit per plateau partner from £710,000 to £850,000.
However, while partners are asking who will take over the COO role, senior sources indicate that it may be brought back into the managing partner's remit.
Speculation also surrounds Paris managing partner Yves Wehrli, who is regarded as the key contender outside London. He declined to comment on his plans, but said: "If a law firm were to have a managing partner from outside the centre, it would be Clifford Chance."
Cliff McAuley, who led the lockstep review group, is also thought to be interested in an enhanced management role.