FREEHILLS managing partner Peter Butler has resigned from the top post at the firm and has decided to "return to his roots as a commercial litigator", the firm's chief executive has announced.
In a firm-wide email yesterday, chief executive officer Gavin Bell told staff the news, saying that after five years at the helm, Butler would relocate to the litigation group, based in Sydney.
A Freehills spokesperson confirmed to The New Lawyer that Butler would not be replaced as managing partner, but that Bell himself, and Sydney managing partner Mark Rigotti, would absorb the work that falls on the role.
The work is substantially around people. "For example Gareth Bennett, the people and development director reported to [Butler], but will now report to [Bell]."
But Butler already has a vast amount of experience in litigation. He maintained his work as a litigator even as managing partner, but will now focus entirely on it.
Butler has previously said of combining litigation work with the managing partner role: "I think the role of managing partner is easier, not harder, when a hands on practice is maintained. It gives credibility to the role both internally and externally," he said.
Bell said Butler had been "a passionate champion of change" as managing partner. He was a key player in rebranding the firm from Freehill, Hollingdale & Page to Freehills. He helped build the firm's Resilience program in response to high rates of depression and anxiety in the legal profession.
Butler will remain chair of the Freehills Foundation, and chair of the firm's environment committee, as well as the Partnership Candidate Evaluation Panel.