Freshfields Germany revolts over elections

Dozens of Frankfurt partners voice protest over democracy in management vote

A cabal of German partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has staged an unprecedented protest over proposals for the selection of the firm’s senior partners.

The Lawyer can reveal that up to 35 German partners added their names to a paper that was handed to management. The paper pushed for pro-democratic amendments to management proposals that will change the way the firm selects its senior partners.

Following a consultation period, an amended proposal to introduce a committee system to handle senior partner nominations was ultimately voted through last Friday (9 May). However, as part of the firmwide consultation, some Frankfurt partners made their concerns abundantly clear to management last month.

The Frankfurt-based partners who were involved held a raft of different views on how the committee system should work.

On the basis that Freshfields is too large to rely on the traditional partner soundings for nominations, senior partner Anthony Salz suggested a system whereby a firmwide committee identifies candidates and sounds out the partnership on their merits in advance of a formal vote.

It is not thought that the German contingent objected to Salz personally. Its main concern seems to be that committee members are selected as democratically as possible.

Salz said the Frankfurt letter was a normal part of the consultation process. He told The Lawyer: “I quite like it when people get involved with these proposals. It shows they care.”

The changes to Fresh-fields’ constitution come in the run-up to next year’s senior partner elections. Sources at the firm said Salz has not yet decided whether to stand. Many London partners consider it inconceivable that he would not win if he chose to stand.

However, as an incumbent, Salz will not want to run for the post if he does not feel assured of victory. The right candidate for the German senior partner position would be given a massive boost if they were perceived to be running on Salz’s ticket.