Hogan Lovells’ senior management has begun discussions over whether to retain the firm’s dual US-UK chief executive (CEO) structure or continue with a single head if UK CEO David Harris steps down as expected next year.
Harris and US counterpart Warren Gorrell have opened the discussion on succession plans with the transatlantic firm’s board, which in turn will canvass the appetite of partners to move to a single leader now the merger of UK firm Lovells and Washington DC’s Hogan & Hartson is three years down the line.
The ten-strong board includes longstanding legacy Lovells City partners Nicholas Cheffings, who also acts as global chair, and finance partner Emily Reid. US members include new appointees Cole Finegan (Denver) and Dan González (Miami), who replaced New York-based Marc Gottridge and Hamburg-based Andreas Meyer respectively in May.
Over the past three years the firm has phased out some dual US-UK senior positions, with London real estate litigator Cheffings becoming sole chair for a three-year term in February 2012, replacing co-chairs Claudette Christian and the retiring John Young.
However, while there appears to be little doubt in the firm that the dual CEO role will eventually be subsumed into one, it remains a highly divisive issue, with more conservative London partners fearful of US dominance under Gorrell’s watch. Tensions have also emerged following the implementation of a new partner pay model for the legacy Lovells.
One City partner said: ‘David has been with Lovells for years, [and] people trust him. Warren has been around for three. There’s a fear if no one was to stand, he would take over on his own. To be fair, there’s enough fear on both sides that people would prefer two chairs than one.’
A European partner disagreed: ‘[Dual management] was one of those things we thought was a bit odd. It was down to the particular personalities of Warren and David.
‘As time goes on, we should move towards a single management structure. Whether that time is now, or in two to three years’ time, it definitely will [happen]. It’s a natural progression. The dual management structure can’t go on forever.’