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Corporate trumps disputes again as Palmer wins second term as HSF senior partner

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) lifer and incumbent James Palmer has seen off a challenge from disputes partner Mark Shillito to be re-elected as senior partner and chair of the firm.

After successfully winning approval from over 50% of the partnership  – although the firm could not confirm how many votes he received – Palmer will begin his second term of three years on 1 May. 

Palmer said: ‘I am delighted and greatly honoured to be taking on a second term as senior partner…I look forward to working with all our colleagues and our leadership team in pursuing our strategy and ambitions. The firm continues to perform well in our markets globally and remains superbly placed to strengthen still further.’

The result will come as little surprise after both internal and external observers roundly backed Palmer as the safe bet. One HSF partner told Legal Business when the nominees were announced: ‘our current senior partner is a very good person to be in the role.’

Shillito was billed as a symbolic challenger when news that he was running for leadership came last month. As head of disputes, his standing against corporate partner Palmer further fanned the flames of a persistent and long-running rift between HSF’s heavyweight transactional and contentious branches.

Palmer has been with HSF since joining as a trainee in 1986. After being made partner in 1994, he acted as the firm’s global head of corporate between 2010 and 2012.

In November 2014, Palmer triumphed over Sydney-based partner Mark Crean, London litigation head Tim Parkes and EMEA managing partner Allen Hanen to win the senior partner role.

Going forward, Palmer will continue fee-earning. Major clients on his books include BP, BAT, National Grid and the Weir Group.

HSF chief executive Mark Rigotti said: ‘The re-election of James will bring a degree of stability and continuity to the implementation of our strategy.’