The Leader Column

Splendid. Trust Allen & Overy to try to outdo Clifford Chance. Just as the CC elections are tailing off, here&#39s A&O&#39s unexpected leadership vote &#45 and the politics involved are positively laced with kerosene.
As revealed in this week&#39s issue, there&#39s a lot more to John Rink&#39s early retirement than meets the eye. According to innumerable A&O partners, the friction between Rink and senior partner Guy Beringer prevented the management team functioning properly &#45 hence the deputation to Rink last year.
The managing partner election will spotlight two major fault lines running through A&O. Which is in the ascendant: will it be London or Europe? And will it be corporate or finance?
The London v Europe debate is relatively clear-cut. In the darkest place in their hearts, even the most globalised London partner will hesitate to vote for the two obvious Continental candidates &#45 Amsterdam senior partner Sietze Hepkema or Belgium managing partner Wim de Jongh. Quite apart from anything else, as laterals they simply haven&#39t been at the firm long enough, which reduces their political clout.
Corporate versus finance is a different matter. Corporate partner Richard Cranfield is touted by some as a potential managing partner, though the fact he was voted off the board earlier this year hardly gives him a headstart. Described as &#34a hawk&#34 and &#34Beringer&#39s corporate buddy&#34, Cranfield could be someone to take tough decisions in the downturn.
The favourite, should he stand, is one of A&O&#39s genuine stars &#45 David Morley. &#34Anything Dave wants, Dave will get,&#34 says one source, who&#39s obviously one of the legion who thinks Morley&#39s a major dude. &#34He&#39s got charisma,&#34 they inevitably add. For many, Morley is the obvious choice, though two wild card bets are Anne Baldock and Mark Welling, who has recently returned from Germany.
So, why should we be interested? There are two reasons why journalists habitually scrutinise leadership votes. First, because law firms &#45 as lawyers never cease saying &#45 are businesses. And when you get boardroom struggles in any multimillion pound business, it will have a direct effect on the way that business is run &#45 especially if the shareholders, or partners, actually get to vote on who they want to lead it.
Second, any law firm leadership election has lessons for other management teams. Virtually every City partner in a management role had a view on the CC election &#45 and you can bet they&#39re going to have a view on this one.