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Clayton Utz leadership in question ahead of December board vote

Two familiar faces are set to go head-to-head to become the firm’s next chief executive partner, Lawyers Weekly can reveal.

user iconEmma Musgrave 14 November 2022 Big Law
Clayton Utz leadership in question ahead of December board vote
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The Clayton Utz board will meet next month to determine who will take (or retain) the reins as the law firm’s chief executive partner in 2023.

Bruce Cooper, who currently serves as chief executive partner at Clayton Utz, is understood to be going for the title again.

Mr Cooper, who was appointed to the top role in 2019, has been at Clayton Utz since 2010.


During his time as chief executive partner, he has led the firm through the pandemic and rolled out some distinct policy framework, including Clayton Utz’s expanded paid parental leave, which was upped to 26 weeks recently.

Lawyers Weekly understands that Mr Cooper will be challenged by Emma Covacevich, who currently serves as Clayton Utz’s deputy chief executive partner – clients.

The Brisbane-based executive has been a partner at the firm since 2007 and specialises in the energy sector.

Throughout her career, Ms Covacevich has led Clayton Utz in numerous high-profile deals and guided the firm towards Australia’s net zero target.

The fate of the pair will be determined at a board vote in December. If tradition is anything to go by, the vote will be held towards the first half of the month. Whoever is elected will be given a three-year term that will officially kick off on 1 July 2023.

If Mr Cooper is not re-elected, he will become the second chief executive partner since the early 2000s to complete just one term.

His predecessor Rob Cutler served two terms. Before that, Darryl McDonough served a term, taking over the helm from David Fagan, who was at the top from 2001 to mid-2010.

If Ms Covacevich is elected, she will become Clayton Utz’s first female chief executive partner.

Lawyers Weekly reached out to Clayton Utz for comment; however, the firm declined to comment.

Talk of who will take the reins of chief executive partner at Clayton Utz follows other BigLaw movements recently.

Earlier this month, Gilbert + Tobin unveiled a new leadership model, effective July 2023, that will see managing partner Danny Gilbert transition from managing partner to chairman. Sam Nickless — a partner and chief operating officer at the firm — will become its chief executive.

In addition, Baker McKenzie has named a new APAC chair; in October, Clyde & Co named a new Australian managing partner, as did HopgoodGanim, while Dentons reappointed its chair for a third term, and Holman Webb named a new chair in the same month; in September, McCullough Robertson appointed its first female chair; and earlier this year, MinterEllison named a new chair, as did Australian Family Lawyers and also IPH.