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Slaughters’ outgoing senior partner Cooke to follow fellow grandees in post-retirement pivot

Slaughter and May’s eminent senior partner Steve Cooke has become the latest law firm leader to embrace a change of direction post-retirement with the news that he is to join PR agency Brunswick Group.

Cooke (pictured) will finish his term as Slaughters’ senior partner on 30 April 2024 after which he will join Brunswick as a partner, tasked with advising clients on matters including M&A, crisis, disputes and litigation.

Cooke will join John Davies, previously a partner in Freshfields’ antitrust, competition and trade group, who moved to Brunswick in 2019 as a senior adviser. Senior lawyers pivoting their careers has become something of a trend in recent years, accelerated by the pandemic. In 2021, Charlie Jacobs, Linklaters’ former senior partner moved to JP Morgan as its co-head of investment banking in 2021. His colleague Sarah Wiggins, formerly Linklaters’ London corporate head, also made the move to banking, joining HSBC as vice chair for global banking in 2022.

Also in 2022, Gideon Moore, Linklaters’ erstwhile global managing partner, became chief legal officer and general counsel of NatWest, as well as taking on a non-executive director role at new law scale-up, nexa.

For its part, M&G plc in February 2022 announced that Edward Braham, Freshfields’ former senior partner, was to join the listed UK investment manager as its chair on 14 March 2022.

Elsewhere, former executive chairman of Freshfields William Lawes, joined financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard as a managing director in 2017, while former Clifford Chance managing partner Matthew Layton joined FTI Consulting in January 2023 as a senior adviser.

The succession of Cooke on 1 May 2024 by Roland Turnill, head of the firm’s M&A practice and co-head of the financial institutions group, was announced in September 2021, an unusually long lead-in time for a City stalwart.

Cooke said in a statement: ‘I have worked closely with Brunswick since its inception on a range of matters and have always been impressed by the breadth and depth of the firm’s expertise on issues that really matter to clients.

‘I am excited to join at a time when the firm is growing strongly and enhancing its capabilities – and the value it delivers to clients – all the time. I look forward to working with Brunswick colleagues and clients in the UK and globally,’ he added.

Cooke joined Slaughter and May as a trainee in 1982, becoming a partner in 1991. He was appointed as senior partner in 2016, having headed the firm’s M&A practice from 2001 to 2016.

His client book includes FTSE 100 clients such as Aviva, Barratt Developments, BAT, Centrica, Diageo, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, International Airlines Group, Reckitt Benckiser, Rolls-Royce and WPP. He is also a non-executive director of Young & Co’s Brewery and will become its chair in July 2024.

Slaughter and May managing partner Deborah Finkler said: ‘We have worked successfully alongside Brunswick for many years, and this is a great opportunity for Steve. We look forward to continuing to work with Brunswick and with Steve when he takes up his new role next year.’

Neal Wolin, chief executive officer at Brunswick said: ‘Steve is a truly world-class adviser and an outstanding addition to our firm. His clients have turned to him for many years for deep expertise and trusted counsel. He brings to Brunswick unrivalled experience in M&A and a broader set of critical issues facing companies globally. I am delighted he is joining the firm, where he will add meaningful value to the leaders of our clients around the world.’