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Clifford Chance has kicked off the election process to find the replacement for current senior partner Stuart Popham.
So far only tax partner Jonathan Elman has formally announced that he will stand for the role, but other potential candidates are beginning to emerge.
London-based finance partner Malcolm Sweeting and Paris managing partner Yves Wehrli have been touted as early favourites for the job, with some in the firm suggesting that an overseas partner would be the ideal fit.
“There’s definitely scope for someone international to do it,” said one Clifford Chance partner. “You could say it’s a chance for the firm to become truly international.
“It would certainly fit with the timing. It would make people believe there’s growth potential in other markets.”
Other names mentioned as possible candidates include global head of finance Mark Campbell and litigation chief Jeremy Sandelson, although neither partner is understood to be keen to take on the senior partner position.
Popham, who was first elected to the role in 2002, will stand down at the end of the year.
“He’s a class act,” added the partner. He’s created this strong persona, which he’s grown into, where he’s fantastic at talking to people in the City, politicians and business leaders.”
Popham was last year made chair of financial services lobbying organisation TheCityUK. This week he has been accompanying prime minister David Cameron on a business trip to India, representing TheCityUk and the legal sector (27 July 2010).
Clifford Chance will now form a three-partner nomination committee, after which the final list of candidates will be presented to the partnership.
Voting is expected to take place in the early autumn.