Paul Smith
Paul Smith ()

National U.K. law firm Eversheds has elected litigation partner Paul Smith as its new chairman, the firm announced Tuesday.

Smith, who also specializes in environmental law, triumphed in a contested election over corporate partner and nuclear energy group head Robert Pitcher following a partner vote last week. He will formally begin a four-year term on May 1, 2014, replacing incumbent chair John Heaps, who did not stand for reelection.

Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes said in a statement that Smith’s “intimate knowledge of the firm, wide international experience and client relationship expertise” made him an ideal candidate for the role, while Heaps praised his replacement’s “deep experience” with the firm as well as in the international legal market.

Smith is perhaps best known for his role in establishing the firm’s trend-setting—and highly lucrative—“partnering and convergence” arrangements with clients such as industrial conglomerate DuPont and American security and fire company Tyco International, in which Eversheds agrees to discount its rates in return for a guarantee of a significant share of the company’s external legal work.

Smith’s successful pitch led Eversheds to become Tyco’s preferred adviser in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2007, resulting in more than 1,000 live matters across 34 jurisdictions being transferred to the firm—a caseload previously shared between 250 separate law firms. The initial two-year contract with Tyco, which has since been extended, was reported to have earned the U.K. firm more than $20 million in revenue.

(DuPont senior vice president and general counsel Thomas Sager was recently named by The American Lawyer as one of the legal market’s 50 top innovators of the past 50 years for his work in devising “The DuPont Legal Model”, which The Financial Post estimated had saved the company more than $175 million in legal costs as of 2010.)

Smith will take over a business that has endured a number of painful internal restructurings since the onset of the recession. The 1,250-lawyer firm in January announced its sixth batch of layoffs in the past five years, with 116 members of staff—including as many as 82 attorneys—cut across its 50 international offices and its Denmark base being closed entirely.

“Our view is that some markets in which we operate have undergone fundamental change, rendering our current structure unsustainable,” Hughes said in a statement at the time.

The firm’s financial performance was seemingly unaffected by the cuts, however. Eversheds’ revenue rose 2.7 percent, to £376 million ($596 million) in the fiscal year ended April 30, 2013, making it the world’s 62nd-largest law firm by that measure, according to The American Lawyer’s 2013 Global 100 survey.