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Former Freehills chairman Crean exits HSF for Jones Day after missing out on senior partner role

Deputy senior partner Mark Crean (pictured), who served as chairman of Freehills until its 2012 merger with Herbert Smith, has resigned from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) to join Jones Day.

Sydney-based Crean, who lost out to London-based corporate heavyweight James Palmer in the race to become senior partner in November last year, was influential in orchestrating one of law’s biggest mergers when City firm Herbert Smith combined with Australia’s Freehills in 2012.

In the aftermath of the senior partner election, the partnership council agreed to extend Crean’s time as deputy senior partner, a role he assumed post-merger in what was originally designed to be a temporary position to support integration. Crean was well-supported in the election to become senior partner following Jonathan Scott’s decision to retire from the firm, contesting Palmer for the role after the elimination of London head of litigation Tim Parkes and EMEA managing partner Allen Hanen.

Crean is currently on gardening leave and in negotiations with the firm about when he can join Jones Day. His vacated spot on the firm’s partnership council is open to all partners, with a partnership vote to take place at the start of July. The firm has yet to decide whether to continue the deputy senior partner role, which is said to be an informal position, but favoured by Palmer due to his heavy client commitments.

The former Freehills chairman leaves the firm after 24 years, having held a string of management positions. He headed Freehills’ corporate practice for six years prior to the merger and later chaired HSF’s risk management and audit committees. He held key clients relationships with Australian corporates at the firm, including real estate giant Lend Lease, where he stood in as group general counsel in 2006 following a request from the company’s chief executive.

Earlier this year Palmer brought in two non-executives to beef up the partnership council’s commercial awareness, appointing Commonwealth Bank of Australia director Jane Hemstritch and senior independent director at insurer RSA Johanna Waterous as the first external members on HSF’s main oversight body.

Jason Ricketts, Australia managing partner at HSF, said: ‘We can confirm that Mark Crean has made a decision to leave the firm. We thank him for the significant contribution he has made to the success of our firm and wish him well for the future.’

For more on HSF’s post-merger prospects see: Consumed – Can burning ambition from Down Under recast Herbert Smith for the global stage?