Olswang governance review leads to management rejig

Olswang has followed the re-election of David Stewart as chief executive officer (8 April 2013) with a wholesale overhaul of its governance structure that will see a new eight-person executive committee run the firm from 1 May.

David Stewart

The media and technology-focused firm has moved from a single broad management board to a dual structure that features one elected board handling stakeholder oversight and an executive decision-making committee chaired by CEO Stewart.

The changes are the result of a five-month governance review overseen by partners at Olswang in collaboration with Deloitte partner Richard Punt.

Along with Stewart, the firm’s new executive committee features corporate head Fabrizio Carpanini and litigation group head Richard Bamforth in the UK along with Spanish managing partner Javier Vasserot in Madrid and German managing partner Christian Schede in Berlin.

The new board also features three non-lawyer executives: COO Simon Glynn, global director HR Ffion Griffith and Olswang general counsel Simon Callander, who led the review.

Stewart said the firm’s previous governance structure had increasingly become unwieldy as the firm grew internationally, with the board itself getting too big.

“It included the managing partners of each office as well as the practice group heads, and increasingly there was a lack of clarity about the board’s role,” said Stewart. “We now have 110 partners across eight offices and six countries and we’re aiming to grow more. Governance was taking a lot of time, we felt there was a need for clarity and separation between the ExCom and the supervisory function. We felt we’d reached the natural limit of the previous governance regime.”

The review has also resulted in changes to several key management positions including a number of practice group heads, which will now be appointed by the CEO and ratified by the board rather than elected.

Head of commercial Rob Bratby moved to Singapore last year to become the firm’s Asia managing partner and Iain Stansfield has now replaced him as the new head.

Finance practice group head Moni Mannings has stepped down in favour of Charles Kerrigan while Paul Stevens has taken over from Mike Burdon as head of IP. Burden has returned to full-time fee earning while real estate head Gary Watson has retired, with Jonathan Lewis taking up the reins as the new real estate practice group leader.

Bamforth and Carpanini both continue in their roles as heads of litigation and corporate respectively.

Callander said: “One of the most pleasing things about the governance review was how quickly the partnership bought into moving to a more modern governance structure and how constructively and positively the partnership as a whole has participated in and endorsed the outcome of the review.”