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Kerr to hit 26 years at 2Birds’ helm as Addleshaws re-appoints Penney as senior partner

Bird & Bird’s long-standing chief executive David Kerr (pictured) is set to lead the firm until 2022 after standing unopposed in the firm’s latest election.

Addleshaw Goddard will also stick to its leadership after Charles Penney saw off a challenge by the firm’s employment group head Michael Leftley to secure a second term as senior partner.

Already one of the longest standing leaders ever of a City law firm, Kerr first took the helm of 2Birds in 1996 and oversaw its growth from 70 lawyers in three offices to over 1,300 across 29.

Kerr told Legal Business: ‘No-one can be in a job forever. My role is about making sure we have sufficient depth in our leadership groups so that partners have a wide choice when I do step down. My appointment is not really about me: it’s about building up the leadership team within the firm.’

He added: ‘The governance processes we have are very clear: there are lots of opportunities for contested processes if people want that. The partnership clearly didn’t want that this time around.’

The firm has grown turnover for 27 consecutive years off the back of its international expansion, hitting €382.3m in 2017/18.

The latest steps in the firm’s growth saw it open its first US outpost in San Francisco and sign a co-operation agreement with Chinese firm AllBright Law Offices, as well as adding the Budapest office of Weil Gotshal & Manges.

‘We have done a big strategic push in the US and China over the last couple of years and we want to continue that.’

While he stood unopposed this time around, Kerr ran against long-standing partner and head of IT consultancy Baseline Dominic Cook in 2016.

Although Kerr won that election, less than half of the partnership voted for him three years ago as almost 30% of partners abstained while Cook received around a third of the vote. Cook left the firm in August that year.

Meanwhile, corporate lawyer Penney’s second term as Addleshaws’ senior partner will start in May and run until April 2023.

A former secretary of the UK Takeover Panel, Penney joined the firm in 2005 from legacy Lovells (now Hogan Lovells). His client work focuses on public takeovers, IPOs and joint ventures.

He first took over from former senior partner Monica Burch in May 2016.