Lovells managing partner Lesley MacDonagh is to hand over the reins a year earlier than planned.
The surprise decision was communicated to partners by email last Friday morning (9 July).
MacDonagh is regarded as having transformed the firm and was elected unopposed to the managing partner role three times in succession.
It comes just 10 weeks after John Young succeeded litigator Andrew Walker as senior partner. Lovells partners believe tensions between MacDonagh and Young have contributed to her decision; MacDonagh supported Young’s rival Hugh Nineham in the senior partner race.
However, a source close to MacDonagh said that although she and Young are different people they have a decent working relationship.
The announcement will kickstart the race to find MacDonagh’s replacement, who will be elected in November.
MacDonagh will work with the newly elected managing partner for a year, from April 2005 onwards, and then leave. However, it will be MacDonagh’s replacement who will assume responsibility for the firm’s strategic direction.
MacDonagh announced she would not stand again before the senior partner elections last August, also rejecting an approach by a group of partners to cut her managing partner term short to stand for the senior partner job.
Campaigning for the managing partner election is likely to start immediately, with a shortlist of three expected by October. Early favourites include head of finance David Harris and head of litigation Patrick Sherrington.
MacDonagh said: “It was the best thing I could do for the firm to have the most productive handover possible.”