Legal Business Blogs

Martyr closes in on 20 years at helm as Norton Rose Fulbright chief gets a sixth term

Having already been one of the longest-serving leaders at a major City law firm, Peter Martyr looks to be taking a crack at the industry’s record books after having been re-appointed for a sixth term as chief executive of Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF).

A spokesperson confirmed that Martyr will begin his new three-year term in January 2018, taking him until the end of 2020, by which point he will have had approaching 20 years at the head of the firm.

Partners were told of the appointment at a meeting in June but NRF has been unusually coy about the mechanics of the process, refusing to say if there was a vote for the new term. Martyr was formally elected to his fifth term in 2014.

Martyr was first appointed at the head of legacy Norton Rose in 2002 , becoming the architect behind the transformation of the City firm from ailing Magic Circle challenger into global giant via a series of mergers in the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa. The 4,000-lawyer firm last year turned over $1.685bn.

While Martyr is given huge credit for re-inventing the 220-year old institution, his long leadership has garnered some criticism from partners regarding lack of consultation and transparency… claims that will be fuelled by caginess over his re-appointment.

NRF has nevertheless been active again globally this year, securing mergers in the US with a takeover of Chadbourne & Parke and Australia’s Henry Davis York, giving the combined firm 160 partners in the country.

The firm deploys a verein structure which means that operates as a series of globally separate profit centres rather than a fully integrated partnership.

Martyr’s re-appointment means he will fully oversee the implementation of its 2020 strategy, which includes a focus on the implementation of a cutting edge practice management system from SAP and moves to re-engineer its business for global clients.

Speaking to Legal Business in July, Martyr said the firm was in a ‘transitional phase, a time of transformation and structural changes. A lot of what we are doing has been designed to drive efficiency and flexibility. It will take about five years for the strategy to be fully implemented. We are now in year two.’

For more analysis of Martyr’s leadership, see ‘On the bus – Inside the Norton Rose Fulbright masterplan’ (£)