With the partnership votes on the three-way merger between CMS, Nabarro and Olswang understood to be imminent one of the major questions is who would lead the new firm?
The usual strategy tends to see the leadership of the largest business take up the reins of the new firm, with a few prominent roles divided between the other high profile partners.
In a three-way merger matters become more complex, especially when you consider that each of the three firms have made interesting changes to their senior management teams over the last year.
CMS is by far the largest firm by both headcount and revenue. Globally the firm employed 4,754 staff over the last financial year and generated £735.1m of revenue.
But the international conglomerate that is CMS is an interesting beast made up of multiple fiefdoms across the world.
In the UK the firm is known as CMS Cameron McKenna, while in Germany the business operates as CMS Hasche Siegel. It is unknown whether the merger will just involve the UK operation or CMS as a whole.
If the merger involves the whole of the CMS network it is likely that former UK managing partner Duncan Weston will take up the helm. Weston stepped down from his role as managing partner in February in order to take a promotion as the firm’s first ever executive partner for global development.
In his new role Weston is responsible for CMS’s international expansion and firmwide strategy. The Nabarro/Olswang merger would be seen as an impressive start to his new job.
The other leadership contenders would be Weston’s replacement as CMS Cameron McKenna managing partner Stephen Miller and senior partner Penelope Warne. Miller is understood to have played an integral role in orchestrating CMS’s recent merger with Dundas & Wilson but he has limited experience on the international stage.
Warne was elected as senior partner in 2013 and is well known within the firm for wanting to grow CMS into one of the UK’s top five law firms. Pulling off the merger would be a feather in her cap.
Andrew Inkester has been leading Nabarro as the firm’s managing partner since 2011, when he was appointed by the firm’s board. Three years later he was successfully re-elected during the firm’s first election in 15 years.
Apart from Inkester, Nabarro has a relatively new leadership team. Senior partner Ciaran Carvalho was elected to the position in March and continues to lead Nabarro’s real estate practice. With the firm’s major focus being real estate Carvalho could take the lead on the billion-dollar firm’s property practice.
While the other managing partners and senior partners could be contenders for the top jobs, Olswang’s leadership is less convincing.
The management team was completely overhauled in September 2015 after suffering a flurry of exits. Head of strategic development Nigel Rea left to join Lexis Nexis as a director; marketing director Michelle Elstein left to join Morrison & Foerster’s London office; and general counsel Simon Callendar left to join Addleshaw Goddard as the firm’s first general counsel.
The changes took place after months of allegations of tension between the Olswang’s partners and former CEO David Stewart’s management team. After Stewart left the firm the partnership elected IP head Paul Stevens as its new CEO in August last year.
With a year under his belt in charge of the firm Stevens may not be the first choice to leader the new multinational firm post-merger. He could however, be remembered as the man who saved Olswang and its troubled partnership.