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Dewey & LeBoeuf's decision to scrap the London managing partner role has been greeted with surprise across the firm, effectively bringing an end to the post-merger honeymoon period.
As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (17 October), neither Dewey Ballantine London head Fred Gander nor his LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae counterpart Peter Sharp was handed the role at the merged firm.
Instead, firmwide chairman Steve Davis will divide his time between London and New York, which has been without an individual managing partner for a number of years, relying on non-lawyers for the bulk of the management's administrative tasks.
"The managing partner concept is something we've used in smaller offices, but because London has got bigger it imposes more of a time commitment," said Davis. "Given the current size and the future expectations of London we should look more towards managing the office at the practice group level."
Davis added that, with the combined firm's London office housing almost 200 fee-earners, the managing partner role had become a full-time job, allowing practically no scope for fee-earning.
Sharp and Gander both said they welcomed the opportunity to go back to full-time client work, in the insolvency and tax practices respectively.
"For some time I've been talking with Steve concerning the demands on my time as I hugely enjoy my client work," said Sharp. "This new approach will liberate me to become fully engaged in my practice again."
Gander said: "I've always done a full plate of fee-earning. It's a mistake for anyone to give up their client business."
Gander will maintain some management duties by leading the firm's Europe supervisory committee, which was inherited from the Dewey side.
"Three delegates from each European office are on that and the committee will include representatives from the offices gained from the LeBoeuf side," he said.
News of the management change is said to have been well received by the partnership, although one partner admitted that it had come as a shock to the firm.
Davis will spend two weeks out of every four in London.