Spencer Stuart Retained by Dentons to Lead CEO Search

April 2, 2024 – Spencer Stuart has been retained by global law firm Dentons to lead in its search for a new CEO. Elliott Portnoy recently announced that the 5,900-attorney law firm would maintain its aggressive international growth strategy when he leaves his post as global CEO in November, promising business as usual. “A new global CEO will have to be all-in on globalization,” Mr. Portnoy said. “That is the differentiation between Dentons and everyone else.”

Speaking to Financial News, Mr. Portnoy said both external and internal candidates will be considered for the job, including non-lawyers. He notes that it was “entirely possible” an external candidate would land the role. “It’s equally possible that it will be one of our great internal existing leaders,” he said.

“But for that internal candidate to be embraced and be successful, I believe she or he would benefit from being benchmarked against the very most outstanding potential candidate from the outside, whether that’s the CEO of another professional services organization,” said Mr. Portnoy. He anticipates that Spencer Stuart would have found his successor by June at the latest, giving enough time for a “smooth and rigorous transition process.”

Across over 80 countries, Dentons helps grow, protect, operate and finance organizations by providing global and local legal solutions. The firm is polycentric, purpose-driven and committed to inclusion, diversity, equity, and sustainability.

Privately held since 1956, Spencer Stuart focuses on delivering knowledge, insight, and results through the collaborative efforts of a team of search professionals — now spanning 56 offices, 30 countries, and more than 50 practice specialties. The firm helps boards and leaders address their leadership needs in areas such as senior-level executive search, board recruitment, board effectiveness, succession planning, in-depth senior management assessment and many other facets of organizational effectiveness.

Insider or Outsider?

Recruiters focused on finding talent for the C-suite say that at least half of all job openings are filled by internal candidates before the positions are introduced to the public job market. This may suggest that companies have relatively reliable bench strength even though leadership development is seen as stagnating at many companies. The main reason given: Companies prefer to promote from within.

Related: Spencer Stuart Recruits President for the National Outdoor Leadership School

For those searches that go to recruiters, with a clear mandate to look wide and deep both inside and outside a client organization, internal candidates still surface more often and get the job about 80 percent of the time.

Recruiters say clients generally like to be seen as making bold moves but in the end many remain risk averse when it comes to hiring elite executives, especially into their highly protected upper leadership ranks. They look at insiders as safer bets. Knowing this mindset going in, recruiters say they advise their clients that when they have an inside candidate who is 70 percent as strong as an outside choice to hire the insider. Fit and culture seem to be the deciding factor.

“There is a greater risk when you bring somebody in from the outside that it won’t work out,” said Kathleen Yazbak, founder of Boston-based Viewcrest Advisors, a boutique search firm focused on finding leadership talent for mission-driven and high-performing companies, social enterprises, and philanthropies.

Internal candidates know the business model, organization goals, and inside cultures, say recruiters, and oftentimes they have the requisite skills. They know the customers, clients, and co-workers. They have also established relationships with colleagues and their organization’s leaders. But, more importantly, they have already shown their potential. They can, therefore, assimilate faster and will likely be more satisfied in their new roles than outside hires.

Related: Spencer Stuart Assists St. Louis Fed with CEO Search

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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