Contenders ready

Three candidates have emerged in the race to succeed David Childs as Clifford Chance managing partner. Hustings are due to begin next month.

The contenders for the top job at Clifford Chance have emerged, with global corporate head Matthew Layton, Paris chief Yves Wehrli and new entrant, real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie, all bidding to win the partnership vote next month.

It wasn’t too long ago that five partners were in the frame to succeed David Childs as managing partner when he stands down in May next year. Added to the three partners who have declared their intentions to compete, Middle East managing partner David Bickerton and banking head Mark Campbell were also thought to been close to entering the race.

The nominations process is now complete with a vote likely to take place at the end of November.

The next stage of the process will kick off next month when the hustings start, involving presentations from the candidates across the firm’s jurisdictions.

Layton stands out as the front runner, many suggest. The global corporate head was re-elected last year in an uncontested appointment and his strong reputation in London looks set to push him to the top of the pile (19 October 2012).

Another insider, however, contends that the vote is no dead cert, with Wehrli also being favoured.

Despite mutterings earlier this year about corporate partner Wehrli’s difficulties in winning over the London base, one source said he was “definitely a viable candidate” to take the helm of the 16-person management committee.

This is not a view that is commonly held. Another partner suggests that Wehrli has been keeping a low profile and is yet to make his presence felt.

Nevertheless, Wehrli has a seat on the management committee, which is monitored by the recently revamped partnership council where he is the magic circle firm’s strategy as continental Europe representative.

The new name to the competition is London real estate head Andrew Carnegie, the only candidate who does not sit on either the management committee or partnership council.

However he is now on the formal shortlist to be voted on by partners to fill Childs’ shoes. As for the nature of those shoes? According to one source Childs is “very focused, he gets on with what he needs to do and he’s effective at delegating to practice areas to execute tasks”.

The managing partner has been at the helm for eight years, having been re-elected at the end of 2009 (3 December 2009), but will stand down next year to give way to a new generation.

Childs steered Clifford Chance through the recession and his will be big shoes to fill. The challenge for the contenders now is to prove they have what it takes to deal with pushing the firm ahead on the global stage.