Eversheds Sutherland partners start voting in tight contest for chair role

Eversheds Sutherland has kicked off the election process to appoint a new international chair, following pitches to the firm’s partners by the three contenders in recent weeks.

Partners have been asked to decide between three candidates to succeed Paul Smith as chair of the firm’s operations outside of the US – UK financial services head Pamela Thompson and joint head of energy and infrastructure Robert Pitcher, both of who are based in London, and Manchester senior partner Michael Clavell-Bate.

The vote, which closes on Monday (4 December), is being run by the independent UK organisation Electoral Reform Services. It will use the single transferable vote (STV) system, a form of proportional representation where voters are asked to rank candidates in order of preference.

If no candidate wins an overall majority in the first round of voting, the one with the fewest votes will be eliminated. Under the STV model, the eliminated candidate’s second preference votes are then allocated to the remaining candidates and the winner is the candidate with the most votes.

The vote is anonymous and only the final winner will be announced. The total number of votes and the proportion gained by each individual will not be disclosed.

The three candidates have been touring the international firm’s network of offices in recent weeks, pitching to partners in a series of one-on-one meetings. In addition to visits to the firm’s UK regional offices, they have also met partners in continental Europe and have spoken over video link to partners in other regions such as Asia.

However, it is still unclear which of the three will clinch the role, as they all command support from sections of the partnership.

A former partner said: “They are all extremely good candidates, and I think they would have something different to offer. All of them are top drawer, with a lot of Eversheds experience.”

When asked this week who he would pick, one partner said he was divided between Thompson or Pitcher.

“It would be lovely to have Pamela [Thompson] – she is a proper City girl and we have always been run by Northern lads. Paul Smith was originally from Leeds and before that it was John Heaps, who was also from Leeds.

“My gut feeling is that it may go to Rob [Pitcher]; there will be a feeling you need a chair who will hold the executive to account and Rob will call a spade a spade – he is not your matey mate.”

The vote comes after former chief executive Bryan Hughes left the firm’s partnership earlier this month, having been succeeded by Lee Ranson after eight years in the role.

According to Eversheds partners, he has been working on a project looking at its consulting offering since stepping down as chief executive in May.

Eversheds declined to comment.