Clyde & Co appoints North America head as first woman senior partner

Canada-based Carolena Gordon is also first leader stationed outside the UK

Clyde & Co has appointed Montreal-based litigation specialist Carolena Gordon as its new senior partner – the first woman to take charge of the firm and its first leader stationed outside the UK. 

Gordon will begin her term in July, filling the vacant seat left by former senior partner Peter Hirst, who stepped down in December, just a year after taking over the role from Simon Konsta. 

Gordon has been with the firm for a little over a decade, joining as part of Clyde’s merger with Canadian practice Nicholl Paskell-Mede in 2011. 

The appointment ushers in the London-based insurance giant's fifth senior partner in nine years, as Konsta replaced James Burns in 2016, who succeeded longtime leader Michael Payton back in 2013.

In January, it emerged that bullying allegations against Hirst had been the subject of an external investigation with the firm stating that ‘none of the complaints were upheld’.

The firm said it had refrained from rushing the selection of its new leader thanks to its “strong performance and stability” shown throughout the pandemic-ridden year. 

Gordon was elected by the firm’s partnership, defeating global insurance chair James Cooper and Manchester insurance partner Chris Murray in the race for the top seat. 

A seasoned litigator in all aspects of dispute resolution and risk management, Gordon has steered Clyde’s US and Canadian strategy as chair of its North American board as well as its dedicated Canadian management board, positions she has held since 2019 and 2018 respectively. 

Gordon played a key role in the firm’s strong expansion push in the North American market, leading its recent office openings in Vancouver, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver

As senior partner, Gordon will pass on her existing management roles and join Clyde & Co’s global management board, working in tandem with its regional boards and global practice groups alongside CEO Matthew Kelsall to deliver on the firm’s strategic agenda while maintaining her practice in Montreal. 

“I look forward to working closely with Carolena, someone I’ve known, worked with and respected for many years,” Kelsall said. “She takes on her role at an exciting time for Clyde & Co as we continue to deliver our strategic agenda, which is focused on the continued sector-focused growth, development and modernisation of our firm.”

Peter Kasanda, partner and member of Clyde’s management board, added that the choice to elect a non-UK lawyer as senior partner reflected the “truly global” direction the firm has been trending towards in recent years. 

With Gordon’s appointment, Clyde & Co joins a number of UK firms recently electing women to senior roles. In May, Ashurst named its UK head of corporate Karen Davies as global chair, while Linklaters last month elected global corporate head Aedamar Comiskey as its first female senior partner in its almost 200-year history. 

In so doing it became the second magic circle firm to elect a woman leader after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer named Asia managing partner Georgina Dawson as its next senior partner back in September.

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