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Candidates emerge as CMS gears up for autumn managing partner election

CMS Cameron McKenna is gearing up for its managing partner election this autumn as chief Duncan Weston prepares to stand down from the role after eight years, with potential successors across the firm’s corporate and disputes practices already coming to the fore.

The election process will start in October with a view to announcing a new leader in November, giving management a six-month transition period before the appointment takes effect in May 2016. Four names have emerged as popular candidates to succeed Weston: energy partner Stephen Millar, a key figure in driving merger negotiations with Scots firm Dundas & Wilson last year – though some see a drawback to having another energy partner at the top of the firm alongside senior partner Penelope Warne; international arbitration head Guy Pendell; consumer products head Louise Wallace; and corporate partner Charles Currier.

Both Pendell and Millar currently sit on Camerons’ practice group leadership board, while Wallace previously lost out to Warne’s predecessor Dick Tyler for the role of senior partner in a four-way election in 2011.

A former partner said of the line-up: ‘Louise is the most senior; in some ways I wouldn’t be surprised if she got it. If I were still at CMS, she would make a lot of sense because she has been around the longest and knows the firm inside out. The others are relatively young for that role. But these are four very strong candidates – if any of them were to go forward it would be good for the firm.’

Whoever takes the mantle next will be tasked with revising firm strategy alongside Warne as Weston’s current three-year plan comes to an end. Having first been appointed chief in 2008, Weston has seen the firm through significant change during his tenure, including focusing on a sector approach to enforce its position in energy, life sciences and financial services, and finding operational savings through the firm’s high-profile outsourcing deal with Integreon in 2010. He was re-elected unopposed in November 2011 after calling on Camerons’ board to collectively endorse him for a second term, arguing he would not stand if forced to go through an arduous campaign against rival candidates.

Weston now says he is unlikely to return to fee-earning but will seek a new management role within the firm. On his remaining time as managing partner, he said: ‘I would like to deliver on a budget that would see significant growth and profitability. CMS, I hope, can then get closer to meeting its strategic goals.’