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National law firm DLA has appointed a new London managing partner to succeed Paul Nicholls, who died suddenly last October.
Catherine Usher is the first woman to be appointed by DLA to head an office.
The firm's overall strategy is set by an elected board, and Usher's role will be to coordinate and implement that strategy in the London office.
Usher, a senior property partner, says that a managing partner should ensure the smooth delivery of services. But she claims that all office managers bring something different to the role.
Usher says: "Paul enthused and motivated everyone at a difficult time when four London offices were being brought under one roof. But he was not a nuts and bolts man."
Managing partner Nigel Knowles agrees that Usher and Nicholls possess very different skills.
"Paul was right for bringing together our four London offices, but now we need Catherine to concentrate on client services. She's very good at getting the fundamentals right," he says. "We need to have a well-organised, client-orientated office, where all the facilities and services are focused on our clients. It's easy to have the raw materials, but now they need to be used properly."
Usher says the firm's strategy is clear. Commercial, banking, TMT and projects are the areas that need to be expanded. "But our prime push at the moment is D&P [the firm's European alliance]," she says. "The City office is an important component because it's seen as a jumping-off point, particularly by the Americans."
Paul Nicholls was regional partner for London from the end of 1998 until his death on 16 October 2000.
Richard Crossfield will take over Usher's previous role as location head of real estate for the London office from 1 May 2001.
DLA's London office has more than 600 staff, including 86 partners. Last year it relocated to new premises on Noble Street in the City.