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‘A choice to live up to your values’ – Seward and Rowey to take the helm of A&O’s US practice

Allen & Overy’s global litigation co-head Karen Seward (pictured) and project finance and infrastructure partner Kent Rowey have been appointed to co-chair US operations.

The pair will succeed US senior partner Tim House, the well-regarded litigator who has led the Magic Circle firm’s US practice since 2017. Seward and Rowey will take on their new roles on 1 May 2023 and will continue their client work alongside leadership responsibilities.

The highly-rated Seward threw her hat in the ring to succeed Andrew Ballheimer as London managing partner in 2020 but was pipped to the post by global head of projects and energy, Gareth Price.

She will bring to the job more than three decades of experience practicing employment law, crisis management and litigation. Having worked out of A&O’s City office for more than 20 years, she recently spent a year in California to support the growth of the firm’s West Coast offering.

Seward discussed with Legal Business the challenges, strategies and what she hopes to achieve with the mandate: ‘There is a lot to do and it is going to require a level of personal resilience to achieve. As you build and recruit at the US end of a global firm you want to make sure to create a great experience so that people choose to join us, rather than a US-focused firm. You have to unite diverse cultures across global boundaries, especially now that clients increasingly want global solutions.

‘You also need to focus on kindness, empathy and getting people together in a positive way. Integration of laterals is the key to success – they need to join up global products and work together with the partners who are already there. Making this successful is going to be a big challenge and I will continue to be heavily involved in the recruitment side of things.’

Seward concluded: ‘One of my priorities is engaging with the amazing talent that is available to the firm that want leadership around them to engage their abilities. Leadership is not a position; it is a choice to live up to your values, and the engagement part of leadership is becoming increasingly important.’

Meanwhile, former Freshfields attorney Rowey has been a member of A&O’s projects, energy, natural resources and infrastructure practice since 2012, based in both the Los Angeles and New York offices. Rowey was a driving force behind establishing the Los Angeles office and its 19-strong project finance and renewables team in 2021.

The news of the pair’s appointment follows a significant push to expand A&O’s US offering, which saw the opening of new offices in Silicon Valley, Boston and San Francisco with the recruitment of laterals from competitors White & Case and Goodwin over the past two years. These new offices are in addition to those already established in New York and Washington DC.

For more on Karen Seward and what makes her tick, read Legal Business’ 2022 Life during Law profile