Clifford Chance’s electoral stroll

Clifford Chance‘s electoral stroll

He’s only been in the job five minutes, but new Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs is already putting his stamp on the magic circle firm’s management. Since Childs’ appointment there have been two new departmental heads in London. As first reported on (14 March), Mark Stewart has taken over the finance practice and now Nick Sherwin has been appointed as the new head of the tax, pensions and employment practice. Of course, these are elected posts, but these elections are of the type that George W Bush dreams about. There’s only one candidate. It’s democracy Jim, but not as we know it.

And Childs hasn’t finished carving out a team in his own image. The vacant chief operating officer job has been split into two executive partner roles, one in finance and one as a general counsel. Partners had until Friday (17 March) to suggest who should stand for the roles, with a vote taking place this week. However, with Childs suggesting that existing general counsel Chris Perrin should stay in his role and that tax partner David Harkness should take up the finance role, The Lawyer doubts that the ‘elections’ will throw up any surprises.

You win some, you lose some

The final figures are in for the British Energy restructuring fees and it turns out Slaughter and May did rather nicely out of the deal. The firm was paid £7m by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for its advice.

Not bad going, particularly as it emerged that the firm picked up the work as an extension of advice it was already giving to the department. The National Audit Office last week criticised the DTI for not launching a competitive tender process for advisers on British Energy. The DTI took advantage of an EU exemption that allows member states to get out of advertising contracts involving “work of a secretive or urgent nature or work involving legal services”.

Slaughters did miss out later on, when it was excluded from the DTI’s tendering process for advice over the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The eventual winner, Herbert Smith, was paid £10m over two years – surely galling information for Slaughters.

Seven-year switch

So farewell Kirk Stephenson, managing director at Freshfields. The Kiwi-born MD had lasted at Freshfields for seven years and saw the firm through two mergers. But he won’t make it for the third – that elusive US merger sought by new senior partner Guy Morton.

Stephenson’s star was most on the ascendant during the era of former Freshfields boss Alan Peck. A couple of years ago he was seriously being talked of as the next chief executive, with a promotion from finance director to MD.

But this is a new era: with Ted Burke as chief executive – a man more comfortable with a spreadsheet than most of the partners – Stephenson’s role was looking pretty redundant. Burke will now take on Stephenson’s remit, while his predecessor Hugh Crisp goes part time to adopt what is being termed “an HR-related role”. That means being the nice guy during the next partner cull, we presume.