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‘An international guy’: Ouwehand wins Clifford Chance race to become first non-London senior partner

Clifford Chance has elected Amsterdam head Jeroen Ouwehand as its first ever senior partner based outside the City.

The news comes after Ouwehand, who also leads the firm’s continental European litigation and dispute resolution practice, was hotly tipped internally as being the successor to Malcolm Sweeting.

The first round of partnership voting last week saw two of the five hopefuls drop out – UK-based insurance head Katherine Coates and former capital markets chief David Dunnigan – leaving Ouwehand pitted against London head David Bickerton and ex-Europe chief Yves Wehrli.

Ouwehand has been office managing partner in CC’s Amsterdam office since 2015 and was a member of its partner selection group from 2010-2015.  He will take up his four-year term as senior partner on 1 January.

‘For an international firm like Clifford Chance to have never had a senior partner outside of London is surprising,’ one Clifford Chance partner told Legal Business. ‘Ouwehand is an international guy, and that’s seen as a positive.’

The election of Ouwehand also heralds another break with tradition, which has typically seen finance partners take up the role. Stuart Popham led the London banking practice before taking over as senior partner (previous senior partners Keith Clark and Michael Bray were also banking lawyers).

Sweeting commented: ‘Jeroen will make an excellent senior partner for the firm. During his career at Clifford Chance, he has demonstrated a deep commitment to our clients, a sharp understanding of how the world they operate in is changing, and what that means for our firm, our clients and our markets.  As we focus on our future, and how we realise our vision globally, this ability to integrate effectively an external perspective with the dynamics of our partnership and wider firm will be crucial.’

Ouwehand said: ‘This is a fantastic firm, with huge opportunities ahead of us.  I am greatly looking forward to working alongside my fellow partnership council members, with Matthew [Layton, managing partner], the partnership and all of our talented colleagues across the firm to ensure that we are constantly challenging ourselves to anticipate and respond to changing global and economic realities, to the march of technology and an increasingly complex legal landscape.’