Herbert Smith Freehills names Leydecker and Rigotti as joint CEOs

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has confirmed the appointment of global head of disputes Sonya Leydecker and former legacy Freehills managing partner Mark Rigotti as joint chief executive officers.

The appointments will take effect from 1 May 2014 for a term of three years.

Both Leydecker and Rigotti are executive board members and senior figures with HSF. For the past nine years Leydecker has been head of disputes at legacy Herbert Smith and the global head of the practice group while Rigotti led the Australian banking and finance and corporate groups at Freehills. Most recently he was also the Australian managing partner for clients and industries in the merged firm. 

Sonya Leydecker
Sonya Leydecker

Senior partner Jonathan Scott commented: “Appointing new leaders represents a further important post-merger milestone, and in Sonya and Mark we’re fortunate to have two partners who will bring to the role a powerful combination of management skills, leadership ability and practice experience. These strengths will provide a strong platform on which to carry out their responsibilities and help deliver our strategy.”

The appointments follow a recommendation by the firm’s governance body, known as the council, and the subsequent ratification by partners of this recommendation. 

The pair take over the reins from former joint CEOs David Willis and Gavin Bell, both of whom are retiring from the firm.

The appointments come as HSF moves to implement a new partner remuneration system, with legacy Herbert Smith abandoning its former rigid eight-year lockstep in favour of a global merit-based pay system (9 December 2013). The merged firm’s plans to move to a single profit-sharing system were first revealed by The Lawyer last summer (21 June 2012). Overseeing the implementation of the new system is likely to be one of Leydecker and Rigotti’s primary tasks during their first term as joint CEOs.

Herbert Smith and Australian firm Freehills merged on 1 October 2012 (1 October 2012). The Lawyer first reported that Herbert Smith was considering a merger in Australia in May 2011 (16 May 2011).