erbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has re-elected James Palmer to a second term as the firm’s chair and senior partner until 2021.
He faced competition from Mark Shillito who stepped down from his position as UK/US head of disputes to challenge Palmer.
Shillito’s resignation as practice head came as a shock and opened the door for Damien Byrne Hill to step up to his former position.
The race was a markedly different contest from Palmer’s first time running. In 2014, four challengers rivalled him for the role with ex-HSF Australian deputy senior partner Mark Crean falling to Palmer at the final hurdle.
Crean left the firm one year later to join Jones Day as the firm’s head of M&A. Of the four who stood in the 2014 election, only Palmer remains at the firm.
Palmer said: “I look forward to working with all our colleagues and our leadership team in pursuing our strategy and ambitions. The firm continues to perform well in our markets globally and remains superbly placed to strengthen still further.”
Palmer’s reappointment will not be the only election at the firm in 2018.
HSF partners voted to overhaul its lockstep at the end of last year, though a vote will be held to expand its remuneration committee. An annual vote will also take place as the firm looks to fill up to four spots on its global council.
Palmer sits on the remuneration committee alongside HSF CEO Mark Rigotti who said changes to to the committee will be central to its strategic shift in focus toward Asia and EMEA.
On Palmer’s election win, Rigotti said: “The re-election of James will bring a degree of stability and continuity to the implementation of our strategy. I look forward to continuing to work closely with James in our vision to become a world class professional services business bringing together the very best people to achieve the best results for our clients.”
Since joining legacy Herbert Smith in 1986, Palmer has spent his entire career at the firm as a corporate lawyer. He was made up to partner in 1994, taking over as global head of corporate in 2010.
His key clients at the firm include FTSE100 heavyweights BP, British American Tobacco and National Grid.
The announcement follows quickly on from real estate partner Jeremy Walden taking over from Don Rowlands as head of the UK/EMEA practice.
He will work alongside David Sinn who heads up the Australia/Asia real estate team.