Coudert US partners stage boardroom coup

First British chairman Beharrell quits executive as New York tightens its grip.

The former chairman of Coudert Brothers Steven Beharrell has resigned from the firm’s executive board, prompting fears that US partners are once more poised to dominate the firm.

Beharrell’s move is understood to be in protest at being voted out as chairman by two New York members of the executive board. It has caused consternation in the partnership, where he has widespread popularity, not least in his native UK.

Historically, Coudert’s chairmen are re-elected several times, and sources say the decision not to do the same with Beharrell was weighted with politics. New York partner David Huebner is the new chairman.

Beharrell resigned from the board soon after he was voted to remain on it by the global partnership. Sources say this was a protest move, but Dean Poster, managing partner of Coudert’s London office, denied this, saying Beharrell was keen to return to full-time practice without administrative burdens.

US dominance of the firm was underlined last year when two extra places were added to the management committee, ostensibly to reflect the different international regions. However, the two new places have since gone to Americans.

On Beharrell’s failure to regain the chairman’s position, Poster told The Lawyer: “It’s fair to say he’d have liked to have continued as chairman. We don’t think he did a bad job. I don’t think [the reasons for him being voted out] is a political issue about having Americans on board. We respect Beharrell and hope he returns to the London practice.”

It was regarded as a considerable achievement for Beharrell to have assumed the chairmanship, being the first non-American in the firm to do so, as well as the fact that London is one of the firm’s smallest offices.

Beharrell did not return calls for comment.