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Fantastic platform: TLT managing partner Pester to stand down after 19 years

Long-standing TLT managing partner David Pester is to be replaced by corporate head John Wood (pictured) after 19 years in the top role.

The Bristol-based LB100 firm said today (1 October) Wood, who has been at TLT since 2000 and head of corporate since 2003, will take over from April next year. Pester will remain at the firm in a strategic role to be specified later.

The firm’s partners were made aware of Pester’s intention to step down after his sixth term as managing partner more than two years ago, resulting in a recent four-week contested election from which Wood received a clear mandate.

‘This is something we’ve been planning for quite a long time,’ Pester told Legal Business. ‘It all seems incredibly natural to me.’

Wood told Legal Business his manifesto was built around continuing and accelerating the firm’s growth. In July, TLT announced its revenue for the 2018/19 financial year was up 7% to £87.6m: 48% higher than in 2014 and more than double its 2012 turnover.

‘This isn’t going to be a major pivot or change in direction,’ Wood said. ‘A change like this can be a stimulus and accelerant to the business. We want to continue to grow with a renewed confidence in what we can achieve.’

Wood, who was already on TLT’s executive board, will work with Pester over the next six months to transition into the new role, after which he will step away from client work. A big feature of the strategy will be building on the firm’s creation of a £500,000 investment fund last year to help test technology and other ideas more quickly before providing them to clients, in an initiative called Future Law which is led by digital sector head James Touzel.

‘The beauty of a transition period is it doesn’t start with a slam on the brakes,’ Wood said. ‘Six months feels like a really long time, the leader of the free world gets less, but when the incumbent’s been in place for 19 years, ensuring that smooth transition for clients, the team and the business means it’s probably about the right time.’

Pester was the firm’s first managing partner when he was elected in 2001, and during his tenure revenue has grown from just £8m, opened six new offices and increased in size to more than 1,000 people.

He said the first half of the firm’s financial year was on track although the market was becoming more volatile.

‘One of the things I’ve learned over 19 years is whenever you go through the different trading cycles there’s always opportunity,’ he commented. ‘I’ve been making sure the TLT balance sheet is as strong as possible to take advantage of difficulties others may face in the market if it becomes more uncertain. John’s got a fantastic platform to work from.’