Alston & Bird has announced its new managing partner more than a year in advance of his appointment.

Richard Hays, brother of Robert Hays, the chairman of rival Atlanta-based firm King & Spalding, will succeed incumbent Ben Johnson when Johnson steps down in 2008.

Johnson, 63, is obliged to retire by firm policy, which dictates that managing partners can not lead the firm past the age of 65. He has not confirmed whether he will retire from practice.

Hays, currently chair of the firm’s finance committee, will be deputy managing partner in the interim.

Hays joined Alston in 1986, after graduating from Vanderbilt University Law School. Brother Robert, appointed King & Spalding chairman in January, graduated from Vanderbilt the same year.

Frank Conner, managing partner of the Alston’s Washington office, is the new chair of its partners’ committee, replacing Todd David.