Hammonds senior partner Richard Burns is stepping down from his role at the end of the current financial year, just one disastrous year into his second three-year term of office.
Meanwhile, Hammonds sources revealed that former managing partner Chris Jones is negotiating his departure from the firm.
Burns announced his resignation at a partnership meeting on Thursday 21 July, when partners were given results for the last financial year and told that auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers had recommended changes to the draft accounts for 2003-04.
Partners are now facing having to repay a net £8.1m revenue shortfall from that financial year, in addition to the repayment of drawings from last year.
In November 2002, Burns and Jones pledged to push average profit per equity partner (PEP) to £400,000 by April 2003, but their strategy was a failure and average PEP plummeted to this year’s low of £204,000.
Jones stepped down after nine years as managing partner when Burns was re-elected. He was replaced by litigation head Peter Crossley.
In a statement given to The Lawyer, Burns said: “For the remainder of this financial year, the firm must focus on its current performance and the strategy review. However, at the end of this financial year it will be entirely appropriate for the partners to have the opportunity to make a choice as to who will lead the firm into the future.”
Burns added that he intends to return to full-time fee-earning. Jones did not return calls for comment.
Crossley said: “The announcement by Richard regarding his position prevents any uncertainty arising about the leadership of the firm through this important period.”
He was optimistic about the firm’s future, saying: “We’re on budget for the first three months of the year.”