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Natural selection: Darwin’s evolution to DLA Piper senior partner ‘only fitting’

DLA Piper has elected firm veteran Andrew Darwin its new senior partner after last year’s surprise departure of Juan Picón sparked the firm’s first contested senior partner election in a decade.

Darwin has been at DLA his entire career since joining in 1981, and previously held management roles within the firm including chief operating officer, head of corporate, and managing partner in the UK and Australia. He beat London-based international corporate head Bob Bishop and corporate partner John Hayes to the role following 10 days of hustings by the three finalists .

Darwin (pictured), who was seen as the frontrunner throughout the election process, said he was focused on the future of the firm and ensuring it built on its platform: ‘It is a great honour for me to be elected senior partner. I have spent my whole working career at the firm and I am very proud to have played a key role in the development of the global law firm it is today.’

DLA co-chief executive Simon Levine said Darwin was ‘absolutely the right person’ for the role: ‘Andrew’s dedication to, and belief in, DLA Piper is unquestionable and it is only fitting that his career has culminated in being appointed as senior partner.’

Darwin’s term is effective immediately, replacing interim senior partner Janet Legrand. He is also nominated as co-chairman for the global board. The firm held a two-stage senior partner election process, which initially had eight candidates, following Picón’s departure for Latham & Watkins less than two years into his term. Darwin’s experience and knowledge was seen as a suitable counter to the relative instability caused by Picón’s resignation.

The other five candidates were Brussels competition partner Bertold Bär-Bouyssiere, Paris employment partner Bijan Eghbal, Madrid corporate partner Iñigo Gomez-Jordana, London’s finance partner Charles Morrison and Iife sciences co-chair Bonella Ramsay.

Picón, who first joined DLA in 2006 from Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, had been elected senior partner in March 2016 after running uncontested. He replaced long-time leader Sir Nigel Knowles , who last year joined DWF to become its chair.

Picón was one of DLA’s biggest billers and during his time he strengthened the firm’s relationship with Vodafone after being instructed on its €7.2bn acquisition of Spanish broadband company Ono. His move to the highest-grossing firm in the world, Latham, from the one that used to hold that position was fuelled by his desire to spend more time in his native Spain.