Bird & Bird chief executive David Kerr received support from less than half the firm’s partnership as almost 30% of partners abstained from voting during the firm’s last leadership election in March, Legal Business can reveal.
Long-standing partner Dominic Cook launched a leadership challenge to Kerr (pictured) receiving around a third of the vote, held earlier this year. Kerr secured a majority of those that voted which gave him another term.
Legal Business revealed in August that Cook departed the firm, leaving his role as head of Bird & Bird’s IT consultancy Baseline.
A current partner told Legal Business: ‘David has a continuing mandate. There wasn’t anything particularly different in the platforms, but it’s good to have a conversation in this situation. For example, there is discussion of whether Theresa May has much of a mandate without an election. I always think having a vote if you can gives the opportunity for discussion and ensures the winning person has a proper mandate.’
However one rival managing partner said: ‘What I’d heard was Cook was just a put up candidate. But if he was a put up candidate, why would he leave? It doesn’t stack up if he then left.’
Cook is also understood to have stood against former chair Michael Frie during the firm’s 2013 election for chairman. Frie stood down in 2016, with Italian partner Massimilano Mostardini taking on the role this year.
Earlier this month, the firm announced that Edoardo Monopoli had been appointed as the new CEO of Baseline. Monopoli joins from Valeocon Management Consulting, where he remains a partner and leader of the UK team. Bird & Bird also landed former Nokia litigation head Richard Vary as a partner in its intellectual property (IP) and tech & communications group however it saw the exit of co-head of disputes Steven Baker to Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft at the beginning of September.
Kerr’s re-election saw him continue an unbroken 20-year tenure as chief executive, having first taken on the role in 1996. In that time Kerr has overseen the firm’s expansion from 70 lawyers in three offices to 1,100 fee earners across 28 offices around the globe.
During his time at Bird & Bird Cook worked with major clients such as BT which he advised on its multi-billion pound IT contract for the NHS.
Bird & Bird declined to comment on the election result.