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‘Not a decision I’ve taken lightly’: Burns vacates senior partner role as he targets US business for Clyde & Co

Clyde & Co senior partner James Burns is to step down as senior partner to take on a new board-level role at the firm, becoming head of the Americas on 1 November.

A successor for Burns, who has held the senior partner role since November 2013, will be announced next month following an election. A partner at the firm told Legal Business head of insurance and global board member Simon Konsta was a frontrunner and the firm was waiting to see whether anyone else would stand against him.

Elected on a three-year term, Burns has opted vacate the post and take up the new position, which will see him based in the US and responsible for overseeing the further expansion and integration of Clyde & Co’s business in Canada, the US and Latin America.

Burns told Legal Business that stepping down from the senior partner role was ‘not a decision I’ve taken lightly but something I’ve been reflecting on over the summer’, adding: ‘This new board-level role reflects our ambitions for the region and also the greater level of responsibility we are giving to our global regions.’

As head of the Americas, Burns will continue to serve on the global management board and play a significant role in the management of the firm. He will also continue to lead a number of global projects and act as a relationship partner for some of the firm’s largest clients. In addition to Burns’ new role, the firm’s chief strategy officer William Isaac will also relocate to the US.

In a statement, the firm said the Americas is one of its fastest-growing regions and a target for growth for many of its largest clients. In addition to six offices in the US, as well as two in Canada, it also has offices in Venezuela and Brazil. Last year the firm’s operation in the region grew by 19% and contributed 15% of firm’s £447.1m global revenues.

Chief executive Peter Hasson said: ‘James has been an inspirational senior partner and the management board and firm are grateful for his leadership over the last three years. At the same time, having James as head of Americas, a region that offers significant prospects for growth, is an exciting development. He has long been one of the architects of our approach to the Americas and having him full time on the ground demonstrates our commitment and ambition for the region at a time when clients increasingly want their advisors to demonstrate not only international connectivity but real strength at the local and regional level.’

Clyde & Co’s development has been dramatic over the last five years and Burns has been central to this success. Replacing the popular and long-serving leader Michael Payton in 2013 was never going to be easy, especially as the firm’s 2011 merger with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert had left the firm on a stronger footing strategically and financially.

Year-on-year financial performance has been impressive, geographic expansion has been noteworthy and Burns is widely considered to have delivered well, and was named Management Partner of the Year at this year’s Legal Business Awards. During Burns’ tenure, the firm has added a flurry of new offices including in the US, Australia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as a significant tie-up in Scotland with Simpson & Marwick, but Burns has ensured that the firm hasn’t grown too rapidly at significant cost to the bottom line. During 2015/16, while revenues grew 13%, the firm still bolstered PEP by 8% year-on-year to £649,000.