22 Sep 2021

Slaughter and May elects first-ever managing partner

Litigation partner Deborah Finkler is set to take on the role starting in May 2022

Deborah Finkler

Slaughter and May has elected litigation partner Deborah Finkler to be the firm’s first-ever managing partner. 

Finkler’s election comes just a few months after the firm announced it would be shaking up its management structure, replacing the long-standing roles of executive partner and practice partner from next May. The move is intended to be a shift towards a more contemporary model as a response to a ‘growth in responsibilities’ of the executive function.  

Finkler will take up the role in May 2022, following the planned retirements of practice partner David Wittmann and executive partner Paul Stacey at the end of their respective seven and five year terms. She joins a number of other women to be awarded top leadership roles at promninent UK firms this year, including Karen Davies being elected as Ashurst's global chair and Linklaters naming Aedamar Comiskey as its senior partner

Slaughters' newly-created managing partner role will take on the functions of the practice partner position and the strategic elements of the executive partner role, while a chief operating officer (COO) sourced from outside the partnership will handle the operational aspects of the executive partner’s role. 

Finkler, who joined the firm in 1986 and became a partner in 1991, is a leading legal figure in the field of banking and commercial litigation, as well as domestic and cross-border regulatory investigation. She focuses her practice on commercial disputes and restructuring and insolvency matters and has acted for a wide range of clients, including Santander, JP Morgan and WPP. 

Finkler also served as head of Slaughters' disputes and investigations groups from 2013 to 2017 and sat on the firm’s partnership board from 2005 to 2008 and again from 2014 to 2017. 

As managing partner, Finkler will work closely with Wittmann, Stacey and senior partner Steve Cooke in the ongoing search for a COO, but will continue her fee earning work until early 2022. 

Finkler described the creation of the managing partner role as a “significant change” for the firm as it moves to modernise its leadership structure. 

Cooke added: “[Finkler’s] reputation as a practitioner is outstanding and she combines this experience with great knowledge of the firm from her time as head of our disputes and investigations group and as a previous member of the partnership board. These were roles to which she brought great drive and integrity and make her ideally equipped to be the firm’s first managing partner.” 

Despite the changes to its leadership model, Cooke’s role as senior partner is set to stay intact. 

Slaughters remains one of the few top US or UK law firms operating a pure lockstep structure, in which partner pay is based on seniority. 

Debate over the viability of the pure lockstep model was sparked by the departure of Slaughters partner Murray Cox for Weil Gotshal & Manges in February, a rare lateral hire out of the firm’s flagship corporate team.  

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