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Winston & Strawn elects corporate partner Ashcroft as London board member as Madden steps down from global executive

US firm Winston & Strawn has shaken up its global executive committee, and replaced London board member and disputes partner Michael Madden with corporate partner Zoe Ashcroft, signalling a shift in focus for the global 100 firm.

Madden is understood to have stepped down from the 26-partner committee, which handles strategy and governance, in recent weeks but will continue to serve as the managing partner of the firm’s London office.

Ashcroft, who is one of the founding partners of London office, currently heads the firm’s UK and cross border business & finance practice. Ashcroft and Paris managing partner Gilles Bigot are the only European members of the executive committee.

The firm shuffles its executive committee every three years with a nominating committee that assesses a range of candidates. Managing partner Tom Fitzgerald recently told Legal Business the firm was looking to ‘grow and commit resources’ to its City office, as recently evidenced by the hire of project finance partner James Simpson from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in March.

Having primarily focused on disputes, the firm is seeking to diversify its offering and Fitzgerald said: ‘We need a larger London office. I don’t believe our clients will allow us to grow our London office, like New York right now is 200 people, we don’t have the client base to grow London to that number but clearly the office has to get bigger just to serve our existing client base.’

Other managerial changes saw the firm elect litigation partner Jeffrey Kessler as co-chair alongside long serving head Dan Webb. Kessler, who recently represented New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his successful challenge of a National Football League imposed four-game suspension, will serve a three-year term until September 2018 with Webb, who has been leading the firm on his own for the last decade.

Constituting the firm’s first chair from the New York office, which has grown rapidly during 2015, Kessler will serve in other management positions including sitting on the executive committee as chair of the antitrust/competition practice, and as co-chair of the sports law practice.

On his election, Kessler said: ‘Dan and Tom Fitzgerald have led the firm to great global renown during the past decade, and I look forward to working with them to continue building upon this record of outstanding achievement and success.’