Jarrett-Kerr stand-down ignites Bevan Ashford quest for new chief executive

City and regional offices to take on new corporate executive board; firm likely to seek replacement CEO externally

Bevan Ashford is overhauling its management structure and is poised to appoint a new chief executive officer [CEO] from outside the firm. The move follows Nick Jarrett-Kerr's announcement of his decision to step down after eight years in the post.
Bevan Ashford has created a new, streamlined corporate-style executive board for its Bristol, Birmingham and London offices, which represent 70 per cent of the firm's practice.
The new board comprises four elected partners plus the chief executive and replaces the old six-partner board, which was appointed by Jarrett-Kerr.
The new members are projects head Stephen Hughes and commercial litigation head Patricia Mitchell from Bristol, and employment head David Widdowson and clinical negligence head Christian Dingwall from London.
Jarrett-Kerr said: “The new board is much more executive in focus. It's strategic, not consultative. We're trying to move away from a culture where anything major has to be widely consulted around the partnership before being implemented, to a situation where day-to-day decisionmaking is done by the CEO and the board together. The essence is to speed up the decision-making process.
“The challenge will be to maintain communication and consensus between the board and the rest of the partnership without losing our fleetness of foot.”
Jarrett-Kerr said the board will work more closely with the firm's six-partner West Country board, which as yet remains unchanged.
“Their size on that side of the business means they can operate more on a consensus basis, rather than being a corporate-style board,” said Jarrett-Kerr.
The decision coincides with plans to integrate these two profit centres, to be completed in the financial year 2002-2003. It is hoped that integration will defuse possible tensions when the two centres want to act on opposite sides of a transaction.
“That is easier to sort out in an integrated model,” said Jarrett-Kerr. “Obviously, when you are two separate profit centres, there is the occasional border dispute, but they've never been serious enough to move integration up our list of priorities. We're looking at it now for positive reasons.
“Inter-profit centre disputes are now much less common than they were in the past.”
Candidates to replace Jarrett-Kerr are currently being assessed. It is understood that the new CEO is unlikely to be a lawyer.
Jarrett-Kerr is expected to stay on as chairman. “We're working on it; there will be a role,” he said.