Clifford Chance gears up for senior partner battle

Six candidates vie for top spot; Gasteyer the only non-UK partner in the running

Clifford Chance is bracing itself for the closest elections in the merged firm's two-year history as six candidates put themselves forward for senior partner.
At close of play on Friday (30 August), the following partners had declared their interest: arbitration partner John Beechey; banking partner Michael Bray; finance partner John East; corporate partner Thomas Gasteyer; banking partner Richard Pettit; and banking partner Stuart Popham.
Frankfurt-based Gasteyer, one of the architects of the merger with Pünder, is the only candidate outside London. US partners are conspicuous by their absence.
On Friday the firm's management emailed all partners warning them not to speak to the press about the upcoming election, but sources close to Clifford Chance told The Lawyer that the race promises to be wide open. Not only are Clifford Chance elections notoriously unpredictable, but each candidate must be supported by five other partners for nominations. This means that some partners who have not declared themselves would still be able to be nominated for election by their peers.
The vote will take place between 9 and 18 September.
Beyond indicating a willingness to stand, none of the candidates is allowed to electioneer for the post. One Clifford Chance partner said: “Trying to build a consensus in a firm this big without being allowed to go off and caucus [will be] quite difficult for them.”
The job of senior partner at the world's largest law firm is, however, relatively undefined. There was some speculation following the governance review carried out by managing partner Peter Cornell that the role might be abolished altogether.