Freshfields ‘superhero’ O’Brien voted back into equity

Top M&A dealmaker Barry O’Brien is set to be voted back into the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer equity partnership two years after he decided to take up a consultancy position at the firm.

During his time as a consultant the firm stood by him throughout a conflict of interest case at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which centred on his role in Sir Philip Green’s bid for Marks & Spencer. The vote, which concluded last Friday (25 April), underlines O’Brien’s continued influence and status within Freshfields.

A Freshfields partner labelled him “a superhero.”

Despite having stepped down from the equity, O’Brien has continued to work full time at the firm and was recently appointed a member of the business management committee.

Another Freshfields partner commented: “He doesn’t want to make a big song and dance about it. Emotionally, for him and us, he’s never left.”

O’Brien, a former head of corporate at Freshfields, was among a number of partners who opted for consultant status in the course of the firm’s prolonged restructure of its partnership, dubbed ‘Size and Shape’. That restructuring also dealt with the reform of its controversial pension scheme, which triggered an age discrimination claim from former finance partner Peter Bloxham that the firm won.

Top equity partners on 50 points were given the opportunity to be rehired as consultants on the equivalent of 40 points, but with entitlement to a Schedule 2 pension. It is understood that O’Brien’s re-entry into the Freshfields equity on 50 points will mean that his pension arrangements will be on the same terms as his equity partner colleagues’.

O’Brien was unavailable for comment.