IN WHAT COULD be labelled the most significant partner move of the year, Baker & McKenzie’s national managing partner, David Nathan, has announced that he will not seek to renew his contract at the end of this year.
After six years in the top job, he announced this week that he feels it is time to confront a new role in a new environment. “I would like to take on a new role, a leadership role, in an organisation where its success is centred around the success of the people,” Nathan told Lawyers Weekly.
Pressed as to whether Baker & McKenzie did not offer this opportunity, he said that his decision has been a difficult one. “But at the end of the day I’ll have been here for six years at the end of the year and I feel it is time to take on a challenge in a new environment.”
Unlike in recent cases of senior partners leaving large firms, Nathan said he has no plans to take on a role in a boutique firm, in which the pressures may be less extreme. “I don’t subscribe personally to that issue,” he said.
“I don’t see myself leading a small organisation, whatever it might be, in the law or professional services arena or corporate sphere.”
However, he has not decided what he will do and is keeping an “open mind”. “I’m in the starting stall, looking for the next adventure,” he said.
Nathan, who joined Baker & McKenzie in 2000, said his time with the firm has been both professionally and personally rewarding “beyond my expectations”. Australian chairman of the firm, David Jacobs, said Nathan’s leadership has seen the firm enjoy an unprecedented strengthening of its client base, the quality of work and its profitability.
“The firm’s success was also recognised through winning a series of prestigious industry awards including the 2004 Employer of Choice Award at the 2004 Australian Law Awards,” said Jacobs.
Nathan’s contract runs until the end of December, and the firm will soon begin a search for a new managing partner. Nathan said when the firm decides who will succeed him there will be a period of transition before he leaves.
“We will be looking for someone with strong leadership and management abilities coupled with strong communication and marketing skills to cement Baker & McKenzie as the premier law firm in Australia,” said Jacobs.