Fair play goes amiss in SJ Berwin senior partner battle

The plot thickens in the battle to become SJ Berwin’s next senior partner. Whispers of discontent from within the partnership claim that incumbent senior partner David Harrell is ‘secretly’ backing head of private equity Jonathan Blake as his successor.

However, in order not to ruffle too many feathers, plans are underway to ensure Ralph Cohen (who has also thrown his hat into the senior-partner election ring) remains managing partner, with his role expanded to include ‘extra areas of authority’.

One commentator described the situation as “a stitch-up”, claiming that while Blake was not popular with many parts of the partnership, his appointment was almost a certainty.

A joint ticket of the Blake and Cohen management duo is expected to be the only option put forward during a secret ballot next month. This will leave the only other potential nominee, head of EU and competition Stephen Kon, well and truly out in the cold.

Evidence mounts for Shearman’s London woes

Cracks appear to be showing in Shearman & Sterling‘s London office. Rumours have been abounding for weeks about a number of partners being in discussions with competitors.

However, until last week’s announcement that US rival Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom had poached M&A rainmaker Adrian Knight, there was little to support the speculation.

Knight, who joined Shearman from Ashurst in 1999, was considered one of the office’s heavy-hitters, having most recently advised property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz and his T20 vehicle on its £202m acquisition of the Yates pub group. His loss leaves the office’s M&A capability significantly downgraded, despite claims from within Shearman that it is business as usual.

Shearman’s associates can’t be much happier either, having been told within days of Allen & Overy‘s 20 per cent pay hike last month that their pay reviews are instead to be pared down to a single annual review.

New QC recruitment process too tortuous

The long process of gathering references for potential new QCs has begun. Referees across the country are being contacted by the appointments secretariat and asked to give their opinions on the 443 applicants.

Everyone asked to give a reference will either be interviewed or will have to fill in a lengthy 19-page form. The form, compiled by executive search agency Odgers Ray & Berndtson, asks referees for their thoughts on such issues as whether the candidate “advances arguments in a way that reflects appropriate consideration of the perspective of everyone involved in the case”.

But referees are also being asked to rate potential QCs on the way they “establish a rapport with all others in court” and if they “demonstrate an understanding of diversity and cultural issues”. Quite what that has to do with the issue of whether they are outstanding advocates is unclear. Has the whole process gone too far down the HR route?