Survival of the fittest: Darwin wins race to replace Picon as DLA Piper International senior partner

DLA Piper has elected London corporate partner Andrew Darwin as the new senior partner of its business outside the US, in the wake of former post-holder Juan Picon resigning to join Latham & Watkins in Madrid.

Darwin saw off competition from seven other contenders to secure the leadership role through a partnership vote that closed on Friday evening (8 February).

The two-tier election process saw Darwin defeat London based international corporate head Bob Bishop and City corporate partner Jon Hayes in the second  – and final – round of voting.

He will now be nominated to take on Picon’s other former role, as DLA Piper’s global co-chair, an appointment that will need to be ratified by the board.

Brussels competition lawyer and board member Bertold Baer-Bouyssiere; Paris employment partner Bijan Eghbal; Madrid corporate partner Inigo Gomez-Jordana; London finance partner Charles Morrison; and London intellectual property head Bonella Ramsay were all eliminated in the first round of the election process.

Darwin will formally succeed  Janet Legrand, who has been filling both the International senior partner and global co-chair posts on an interim basis since Picon quit in November, in one of the biggest lateral moves of 2017.

Darwin said: “I have spent my whole working career at the firm and I am very proud to have played a key role in the development of the global law firm it is today. DLA Piper has a remarkable past but we are firmly focused on our future and as senior partner I am committed to continuing to build on the unique strength of our diverse culture.”

Darwin is a DLA lifer who has been a key part of the management of the firm for many years. His current role is managing director for developing markets, but he has previously held roles including chief operating officer of the International arm, Australia head, head of corporate and UK managing partner.

He joined the firm in 1981 and made partner in 1987. Partners say that he was very close to former DLA chief Sir Nigel Knowles, with one partner describing him as “Nigel’s right hand”.

He has played a key troubleshooting role at the firm in the past – entrusted with tasks including leading the response to last year’s cyberattack, turning around the firm’s then-struggling Australia operation, and overseeing a swathe of UK support staff cuts and the launch of a support centre in Warsaw.

Global co-CEO Simon Levine said: “Andrew’s dedication to, and belief in, DLA Piper is unquestionable and it is only fitting that his career has culminated in being appointed as senior partner. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Andrew for many years, including in a number of roles on my executive committee, and know that he is absolutely the right person for this important role and will represent our partners and chair the board with fairness and integrity.”

Levine’s term as co-CEO is set to conclude at the end of 2018, which could lead to another contested election this year if a challenger emerges. DLA Piper’s US arm is managed by global co-chair and Americas co-chair Roger Meltzer and co-global CEO Cameron Jay Rains.