Pugh - Freshfields
Pugh – Freshfields ()

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer co-managing partner Chris Pugh has stepped down after little more than 18 months in the role, as the firm overhauls its management structure.

Pugh will return to his practice in the disputes group, with current co-managing partner Stephan Eilers set to continue as sole managing partner, working alongside senior partner Edward Braham.

Pugh’s return to fee earning means the firm’s management team is half the size it was when it was first put together.

“As part of a focus on streamlining and reducing the number of hours spent on management activities, we are moving from having two managing partners to one,” Braham said in a statement. “Chris Pugh will return to our disputes practice, where his varied skills and experience are much in demand by many of the firm’s clients across the world, and Stephan Eilers will continue as sole managing partner.

“We are seen by our clients as a firm that, unlike many of our competitors, is equally strong on both the contentious and non-contentious side of our practice. Our contentious practice continues to perform exceptionally well—Chris re-joining the team reinforces this strength. Stephan and I would like, both for ourselves and on behalf of the entire firm, to thank Chris for his significant achievements as joint managing partner.”

The firm’s current executive team was elected in June 2015, with corporate partner Braham taking the senior partner role over from Will Lawes and Pugh and Eilers named as co-managing partners, replacing David Aitman.

Braham then appointed disputes partner Michael Lacovara as executive partner.

Lacovara left to join Latham & Watkins in New York just six months into his stint on the firm’s four-person management team and was not replaced. It means that the four-person management team who took up their posts in January 2016 has halved in size within little more than 18 months.

Pugh has been with the firm since 1991. Between 2009 and 2015 he led the firm’s disputes practice before stepping up to the managing partner role.

Freshfields recently announced disappointing results for 2016-17, with revenue almost static at £1.33 billion, while net profit fell by just under 1 percent to £612 million.

The results mean magic circle rival Linklaters has edged ahead by revenue as well as PPP after reporting strong financial results for 2016-17, with revenue climbing by almost 10 percent to £1.44 billion and PPP climbing by 7.8 percent to £1.57 million.