SJ Berwin senior partner Jonathan Blake has decided not to stand for re-election, with competition head Stephen Kon tipped as his replacement.
The firm has informed staff that Blake will not be vying for a third term and will instead focus on his role as international head of the funds practice.
The outcome of the senior partner vote will be announced in April, with the new chief taking over at the end of that month in line with the close of the financial year.
The firm has started the voting process, which takes place every three years as is required by its partnership agreement.
Sources suggested Kon had thrown his hat into the ring and is seen as the most likely successor for the role, but it is understood that other partners could be in contention.
Kon, one of the biggest-hitting partners at the City firm, surprised the market last year when he resigned from the firm to join Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, only for SJ Berwin to persuade him to stay put (4 July 2011).
Kon is already seen as one of the senior figures at the firm and is understood to have been closely involved in negotiations over the firm’s failed merger with Proskauer Rose (21 November 2010).
He had been widely tipped as a future senior partner and, if successful, would follow in the footsteps of Herbert Smith senior partner Jonathan Scott as a competition partner at the helm of a top 20 UK firm.
Funds partner Blake founded the firm’s private equity and private funds practices and subsequently headed the corporate team. He now leads the global funds team, which is run in the UK by London practice head Michael Halford.
A firm spokesperson said in a statement: “The partners of SJ Berwin thank Jonathan for his time and energy leading the firm over the last six years.”