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Slaughters’ leadership race starts as senior partner Chris Saul confirms plans to stand down and retire

Part of a wider changing of the guard, Slaughter and May is preparing to elect a new senior partner following partners being informed that incumbent Chris Saul (pictured) is to step down from the position and retire from the Magic Circle firm.

After eight years at the helm, Saul will retire from Slaughters once his term as senior partner comes to an end on 30 April 2016. He will step down after nearly four decades at the firm, having joined as an articled clerk in 1977, and three decades as a partner after being made up in 1986.

Saul told Legal Business: ‘My term ends at the end of April next year and so next spring there will be another senior partner. My mission, as always, is to keep the firm moving forwards by keeping relationships as fresh as possible, developing new relationships and winning all the mandates that we can. In due course a [succession] process will unfold with internal timelines.’

Having made his name handling corporate, M&A, private equity and securities work, Saul took on a five-year term as senior partner in 2008 and was handed a three-year extension in 2013.

Saul’s successor is set to inherit a 700-lawyer firm which is the most profitable in the City. While the firm has stuck to its traditions in an age when rivals have sought to globalise, instead setting up a best friends network of law firms to cover cross-border work, Saul has looked to internationalise the firm’s client base and expand in Hong Kong during his time as senior partner.

His replacement will be the third leader of the firm in 15 years, with Saul’s predecessor Tim Clark having served a seven-year term starting in 2001. The firm’s next senior partner will be handed a five-year term with a partnership vote expected to take place in early 2016.

Saul’s retirement follows that of elder statesman Paul Olney as practice partner at the end of 2014 and Graham White as executive partner in 2013. Then disputes head Richard Clark was elected as White’s replacement, while David Wittmann, who was just finishing the firm’s trainee programme in 1990 when Olney was made a partner, became practice partner at the start of 2015.

Saul added: ‘It was a five-year term and the firm graciously extended me for three years so that’s a decent slug of time and it’s been great. I’ve been an incredibly lucky person and I’m actively thinking about what I’ll do next.’