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Herbert Smith Freehills shakes off post-merger politics in favour of sole global corporate head as Ferraro takes over

Setting aside the notoriously difficult post-merger politics of selecting one partner to run a core practice area, Herbert Smith Freehills today (15 April) announced that former Freehills joint global head of corporate Mike Ferraro will take over as sole head.

Former Herbert Smith partner and co-head Patrick Mitchell will, after four years as head of corporate, take up a new role as head of the firm’s infrastructure practice in both the UK and EMEA. Mitchell will work closely with Andrew Clark, head of projects for Australia and Asia, in the continued development of what the top 10 firm describes as ‘this strategically important practice.’ Mitchell will also maintain his role in developing the firm’s presence in Germany.

The appointment marks a shift from the post-merger dual global management team put in place in the summer of 2012, and the reshuffle is said to have come after the firm recognised the need for a single head to achieve its longstanding corporate ambitions. Sonya Leydecker, who takes over as joint CEO with former Freehills managing partner Mark Rigotti on 1 May, told Legal Business: ‘It is important to have one person to look over the whole thing.’

The firm has also appointed corporate partner Alvaro Sainz to the newly-created role of regional head of practice (RHoP) for EMEA. Sainz will work alongside Ferraro and fellow corporate RHoPs, Austin Sweeney in Asia, Andrew Pike out of Australia and senior partner of funds Scott Cochrane in the UK.

Global head of M&A Stephen Wilkinson will also be taking on an enhanced role to focus on driving growth in the M&A practice across the UK, Europe and the US.

In his former role, Melbourne-based corporate partner Ferraro managed the London and Australian corporate teams after Herbert Smith combined with Freehills. Before joining Freehills, Ferraro was chief legal counsel at BHP Billiton. He will continue to be based in Melbourne for his new role, which takes effect on 1 May 2014.

The statement from the firm said: ‘Mike has been joint global head of corporate with overall responsibility for the London and Australian corporate teams since the merger of Herbert Smith and Freehills, and in that time has made a major contribution to the performance of those regions.’

Leydecker added: ‘The global corporate practice is of huge importance to the future success of the firm. These management changes will allow for greater join up across our network as we continue to compete successfully for the top cross-border deals. With Mike as global head supported by a strong team around him we are confident of achieving these objectives.’

In a sign of what can be expected further down the line, the post-merger dual UK-US leadership of Hogan Lovells recently came to an end with joint chief executives Warren Gorrell and David Harris set to stand down from their respective roles in June 2014, when Washington DC-based partner Stephen Immelt takes over as sole CEO, while London-based partner David Hudd will become deputy CEO.