McDermott Will & Emery is gearing up a leadership election to select the next chairman of the US firm.

Three partner candidates are standing to replace current chairman Harvey Freishtat. They are New York-based partner Peter Sacripanti, Washington DC partner Bobby Burchfield and Chicago-based head of litigation Jeff Stone.

The firm’s 21-strong management committee will vote on Freishtat’s replacement, who will take up the role in 2010.

A source close to the firm said: “All three are litigators which is a sign of the times. The committee will be selecting from the practice group that will be busiest over the next few years.”

In 2003, The Lawyer reported that Freishtat beat competing partner Michael Fayhee in a contested election to take up the role of chairman. He replaced Larry Gerber, who was chairman of McDermott for 13 years.

The election comes at a time of great turbulence for the firm. Earlier this year The Lawyer reported that the firm had laid off 60 associate and 89 support staff due to dwindling work flows (3 Feb 2009).

McDermott was unavailable for comment.