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Leadership: Freshfields veterans Braham and Pugh set to go head-to-head in senior partner elections

A contest between the firm’s disputes and corporate partners is set as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s former disputes and corporate heads are expected to be the frontrunners among those campaigning for the senior partner role as the firm kicks off its election process.

The nominations for the firm’s new generation of leadership, which is overseen by its partnership council, were already underway as Legal Business went to press and were expected to close in early April.

The running to lead one of the world’s largest and most powerful law firms is set to see former disputes head Chris Pugh (pictured) stand for senior partner against previous head of corporate Edward Braham, as current leader Will Lawes gets ready to stand down from the role at the end of the year.

While at least two other senior equity partners are also expected to be nominated – one each from the US and Germany offices – the real battle is likely to be between veterans Braham and Pugh, creating a contest between the firm’s corporate and disputes practices.

Both Braham and Pugh have already had a taste of leadership and would enjoy strong backing in London having recently stepped down from their practice head roles at the end of 2014.

‘Edward is smart, has charisma and is charming, whereas Chris has a strict discipline and is a vigorous lawyer,’ says one Freshfields partner. ‘Both are strong candidates and would make a great team together.’

Pugh was previously cited as standing for the firm’s managing partner role, which is also up for grabs, with this year being current head David Aitman’s final as global managing partner. Incumbent Lawes secured the senior partner role in 2010 in a contest against chief executive Ted Burke. Burke was subsequently named managing partner, though he stood down from his role in 2013, with competition veteran Aitman stepping in.

In typical Freshfields fashion, the senior partner has traditionally appointed the central leadership team, which comprises the managing partner and executive partner, directly. It was unclear at the time of press who will be in the running to take on the managing partner role, and German-based current executive partner Stephan Eilers’, position. One partner tells Legal Business: ‘Nominees are not mentioning who their teams are. At this stage, people seem to be open-minded and are looking at the options.’

Candidates will make their hustings at the firm’s partner conference in Paris at the end of May, where the nominees will pitch their teams to the partnership. All runners require a minimum of a 5% partnership vote before becoming an official nominee. Both leadership roles will be finalised by the end of September. In October, the management handover period will begin, which will last three months.