Legal Business

‘There needs to be education’ – raising awareness of infertility and baby loss in the legal sector

For International Women’s Day, Stephenson Harwood Europe private client partner Suzanne Johnston talks about creating inclusive fertility policies and educating staff on the sensitive issues at play.

What should firms do to support employees dealing with baby loss or fertility issues?

Unfortunately, for most businesses there isn’t a one-size-fits all-approach as everyone’s experience of fertility issues and baby loss is different. However, a good starting point is to have policies covering fertility and baby loss. Employees then know where they stand in terms of who to speak to at the business, the confidentiality basis, and whether they will get paid time off.

As everybody is different, it’s important for the policies to be fully inclusive, which can be quite challenging. I helped draft the Stephenson Harwood policies and it was difficult to make sure every scenario is covered because there’s are many different aspects to infertility and baby loss. People sometimes forget that fertility can be a male issue as well. Male factor infertility is one of the key causes of infertility. You also have same-sex couples who don’t have any choice but to go down the IVF road if they want to have a genetic baby of their own.

The other thing to think about is those people who come out of the other end of this, and there are many, without a child. They’re childless but not by choice, so the policies do need to consider them as well.

Policies are a good starting point but there’s no point having a policy if nobody knows about it. So, there also needs to be education around them. Managers need to know about the policies and firms should consider training sessions on these issues as well.

Does Stephenson Harwood have any policies or support networks in place to help employees facing such issues?

We were one of the first firms to have a fertility policy and a baby loss policy. One of the things that is really important about these policies is that they’re fully inclusive. We’re an international law firm and they apply across all our offices. So, no matter what the cultural differences are in different countries, everyone still has access to some basic rights under those policies.

The other thing Stephenson Harwood did particularly well when it launched the policies was to offer training sessions to educate people on those policies. Part of that was around what you shouldn’t say as well as what’s helpful to say. The list of what not to say is extensive. Even very basic questions like ‘when are you going to have a child?’ or ‘are you going to have another child?’ cut very deep when you’re going through all of this.  A well-meaning question like that when you’re on a knife edge can cause a complete breakdown. So, it’s very important to use the right language. Stephenson Harwood has done a good job of educating on that and allowing me a platform to talk about it. We hosted an event at Stephenson Harwood with Infertility in the City talking about fertility and baby loss related issues. It has been very supportive as a firm.

Please can you share your own experiences with these issues and how you navigated them alongside your career?

I’ve been pregnant five times and I have two living children. For me, it all started in January 2015. I got pregnant naturally but then I lost my baby at seven weeks. There was no heartbeat. My husband and I were completely clueless, we didn’t know what to expect. Then I had to have a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C). It was really devastating. Very quickly I needed to see a fertility specialist to conceive as I wasn’t ovulating.

I went to a fertility specialist who told me that not everybody was supposed to get pregnant and that maybe I should look at other options. So, I quickly went to a different doctor who gave me some medicine and injections to help me ovulate. I got pregnant again in 2015 and then I had my first baby in March 2016. She was born at 36 weeks by emergency C-section. I mention that here because another knock-on effect of fertility and recurrent pregnancy loss is that you have higher-risk pregnancies. This means that you often go into labour earlier and it also means that the actual pregnancy itself is incredibly stressful. People often think pregnancy is the end of the story but it’s really just the beginning. Often it means that you need to have bed rest and that has a direct impact on whether you can be in the office.

When I started trying for my second child, we did the same thing, but it didn’t work. I had three IUIs and two egg retrievals. I had to do those across Singapore and Malaysia because I kept having miscarriages, so I had to do genetic testing on my embryos. They don’t permit genetic testing in Singapore, so I had to do a new egg retrieval in Malaysia.  I had five frozen embryo transfers and four further miscarriages. Eventually we had my son in May 2020, and again he arrived at 36 weeks, and I had to have a c-section. That pregnancy was very traumatic for me after all of the losses I had suffered.

After everything it took to get there, being very frank, I was a complete nervous wreck during the entire pregnancy. I had a lot of bleeding, and I was on bed rest for much of the pregnancy. I was an in-house lawyer for most of the time, so I was very easily able to work from home. I was also very fortunate to have a very understanding boss. A male boss, in his early 50s, who is not necessarily the person who you would think would really get it, but he was absolutely wonderful.

When you’re going through fertility and baby loss issues you have a lot of procedures. I had to have three or four operations. I had to have two D&Cs after miscarrying, and I had to administer lots of injections and medications. Really, it’s a full-time job doing all of that and it’s very grueling on your body, mentally and physically. I remember when I was doing IVF, I had to do injections at random times during the day and I hadn’t told my employer that it was going on so I would hide them in the fridge in a lunch box and then I would go and hide in the toilet to give myself an injection. It is just so utterly depressing when you’re in that position. If there had been a room available for me to do that with a fridge in it would have been a nod to it being acceptable. So, I think on a very practical level, that’s something employers can do.

Do you think health issues traditionally considered to be ‘women’s health issues’, such as baby loss or menopause, have an impact on women’s career progression?

It’s had a massive impact on my career. I was in private practice as a senior associate when I had my first baby. When I started trying for my second, I was part-time, but it became increasingly difficult to juggle private practice with all the appointments.  So, I started to look for other jobs that would give me more flexibility. That’s why I ended up applying for a role in-house at a private bank. It was a full-time role, but instead of negotiating for more pay, I negotiated for a four-day week. Generally, it had a huge financial impact because IVF is very expensive, but in terms of work it has also meant I have not earned as much money, so it’s been a double hit.

I did find it easier to manage my timetable when I went in-house because you’re not client facing. In private practice if a client wants a meeting at 8am, it’s very difficult to decline unless you know them very well. In-house, your clients are your stakeholders, and you get to know them, you build up a rapport. So, I felt it took that weight off my shoulders.

For me the turning point was in February 2018. I had had an IUI, and I got a call from the clinic as I was dropping my daughter off at school. They said: ‘You’re pregnant, come in and do a blood test and we’ll see how everything is going.’ I skipped into the clinic, did the blood test, went to work, and then received a WhatsApp saying that my HCG levels had fallen and that my pregnancy wouldn’t continue. Half an hour later, I had to walk into a presentation at a client and it was the hardest thing mentally I’ve ever had to do. I still think I’m scarred by it. I shouldn’t have done it but because I hadn’t told anybody what was going on, I felt I had no way out. That’s one of the reasons I’m so vocal now because I don’t want anybody to ever put themselves through that.

When I finally got pregnant with my son, I needed constant reassurance scans. They call it ‘scanxiety’.  I would be scared of going to the loo because I was worried I would find blood – there is a name for it: ‘loo fear’! There is a real psychological impact, and it did have a massive impact on my career because it was the trigger for me changing jobs. I should add that the law firm I worked for in private practice was incredibly supportive when I told them. However, I like to give 110% and I didn’t feel like I could do that in private practice because of managing my fertility journey.

Legal Business

‘I want the firm to be more ambitious and more confident’: Stephenson Harwood rebounds with double-digit revenue growth

Stephenson Harwood has reported an 11% rise in turnover to £228m from £206m for 2022/23, the firm’s highest-ever revenue. It comes after the firm reported largely flat financials for the year 2021/22.

This time around, profit per equity partner (PEP) is up 6% to £725,000 from £685,000 in 2021/22. The firm has added 22 equity partners, with 11 lateral hires and 11 internal promotions over the last year, while four partners have retired from the partnership.

Speaking to Legal Business about the revenue increase and the firm’s ambitions Eifion Morris (pictured), the firm’s chief executive, highlighted its five-year strategy, which launched in May 2022 with the aim of doubling the firm’s turnover by 2027. Morris said: ‘We want growth, we want ambitious partners, and we want to grow in all sectors. If you want to double revenue in a short space of time, you need an active program of lateral hires. We have had a lot of radical change in a short period, and we are starting to see that pay off. This is not the endpoint but the start.’

The strategy will focus the business on five key sectors to increase profitable growth: decarbonisation, life sciences, private capital and funds, technology, and transportation and trade. These were identified by the firm as sectors which will see strong growth and development over the next few years.

Stephenson Harwood also intends to maintain its 50-50 litigation-transactional balance. 50% of the firm’s revenue currently comes from disputes, which has always been a notable strength of the firm and several of its contentious practices are ranked in The Legal 500. This includes commodities disputes and pensions dispute resolution, which receive a top-tier ranking; commercial litigation: premium, and contentious trusts and probate, which are ranked tier two; and banking litigation: investment and retail, property litigation, and intellectual property patents (contentious) which are ranked in tier three.

The current revenue breakdown across the firm’s practice areas is finance 24%, commercial litigation 28%, corporate 21%, marine and international trade 12%, employment, pensions and private wealth 10% and real estate and projects 6%.

‘At the heart of our strategy is maintaining and leveraging the 50-50 litigation-transactional balance of the firm. This has been very important for maintaining growth, and we are a very well-hedged business,’ Morris said.

The firm has also been bedding in a new global leadership team as part of its ambitions moving forward. The team is 50% male and 50% female. Morris highlighted the importance of this: ‘With the new global leadership team, I wanted to encourage diversity of background so that the team would bring different ideas and life experience to the table. The team formed during Covid, and we have had to deal with a lot of difficult decisions, but this meant we formed a very strong team.’

Stephenson Harwood highlighted several key mandates for the year across its life sciences, dispute resolution, rail and road, and corporate practices, including advising Bicycle Therapeutics on its radiopharmaceuticals deal with Novartis to develop several oncology radioligand therapies. It also represented Trafigura in the Trafigura v Gupta case and advised on Abellio UK and Nederlandse Spoorwegen management buyout.

Other highlights include advising WindAcre Partnership on its part of the acquisition of Nielsen Holdings, valued at over $16bn and LXi REIT on its £773m debt refinancing.

Looking forward, Morris is committed to raising the firm’s profile. ‘I want the firm to be more ambitious, and more confident. One of our best clients told us that we were “the best law firm you’ve never heard of”. That is something I want to change,’ he said.



Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood blames transition for underwhelming results as Stevens & Bolton celebrates twelfth year of growth

Stephenson Harwood has reported flat financials for financial year 2021/22, after a correction to last year’s results.

Revenue remained at £206m with profit per equity partner (PEP) of £685,000. This would have amounted to a drop in revenue from £209m first reported for financial year 2020/21, had the firm not adjusted last year’s financials after it settled claim regarding £3m of unpaid fees between announcing and closing its accounts. This adjustment marks a 3% drop in revenue and 6% dip in PEP from 2020.

The firm attributed the static results to a transitional period and change of strategy, said chief executive Eifion Morris (pictured): ‘This was always going to be a period of change for the firm, irrespective of Covid. I took over in October 2019 and in the last year we launched our new strategy, which went live in May. It’s a very different strategy than we had before. While one part is that we are going to maintain the 50/50 split of litigation and transactional work, which is quite unusual for a firm of our size, we have also identified five areas of sectoral focus for the firm.’

Going forward the firm intends to double-down on the decarbonisation, life sciences, private capital and funds, technology, and transportation and trade sectors. The firm is particularly optimistic about its expertise in the decarbonisation and private capital spaces, with recent work including advising Jericho Energy Ventures on its equity investment into hydrogen technology company Supercritical Solutions and on the proposed merger of property trusts LXi REIT and Secure Income REIT.

Morris has an optimistic outlook for the coming year, as it beds in the new approach: ‘I’m very excited about the new strategy and I think we’re going to grow from here. We’re looking at revitalising our key client program, which will be based on clients within our areas of focus and the goal is to be working with clients across as many practice areas and offices as possible.’

Elsewhere, LB100 firm Stevens & Bolton has reported significant double-digit growth across the board. The independent UK firm saw a 24% revenue hike to £36.1m, while net profit reached £14m, up 22% from last year. It has reported equally auspicious PEP with an increase of 36% to £346,000.

Now in its 12th year of consecutive growth, the firm credits its commercial litigation and financial restructuring and insolvency practices for its strong year, as well as an increase in international client work, which made up more than 20% of revenue.

Following its success, the firm boosted median pay by 11.5% for all lawyers while all staff will receive bonuses during the year equivalent to 6% of salary.

James Waddell, who succeeded Richard King as managing partner in May, said: ‘We are delighted with the sustained growth of our firm over a number of years, supporting our independent and international strategy.  We will continue our focus on finding new and better ways to help deliver our clients’ objectives, while also providing a platform for our people to thrive in their careers.’

Legal Business

Comment: A personality crisis and the great WFH salary cut brouhaha

Hasn’t what I’m snappily calling ‘Stephenson Harwood WFH pay cut-gate’ caused a furore?

In case you’ve missed it, the RollOnFriday report that the City firm is offering staff the option to work from home full time – but with a 20% salary reduction – has sparked righteous indignation, the level  of which has not been seen since… forever.

For the record, fair play to the management of Stephenson Harwood for having the guts to make a decision on the thorny issue of post-lockdown working, albeit that it has opened the door to much derision.

Getting people comfortable with going back to the office was always going to be a political minefield. On a recent visit to one City firm, the party line being spun was that everyone has embraced office life again with open arms. This message was not borne out by the pin I heard drop in reception, followed by the tumbleweed I saw wheel by the meeting room.

I am especially alive to the benefits of working from home after a recent train journey featuring a fellow passenger clipping her fingernails in the seat behind me. The public transport that most of us rely on is jam-packed with people we’ve managed to avoid for two years. People can be awful.

But then again, I thought I heard it said that law is a people business? We are already facing a personality crisis in the industry more generally. Law firm ‘characters’ – the bon viveurs, the raconteurs – are already in short supply these days and have been since the tacit decision was taken to professionalise and turn firms into businesses. I’m not saying we go back to the days of non-stop boozy lunches and parties – and with it some unacceptable behaviour at times – but there was a lot to be said for the normal human connections forged in less formal surroundings in the past.

Lockdown has created a workforce ill equipped to tolerate other people’s foibles as they were once obliged to do and worse – exacerbated a diminishing of social skills and reluctance to engage beyond absolutely necessary communication. The technical training conundrum and the career progression dilemma are well-worn arguments but no one really talks about the far greater threat to personality development.

Anyone would think from the severity of the backlash that Stephenson Harwood had delivered an ultimatum – either work full time in the office or at home. That doesn’t appear to be the case, since full salaries will still be taken home by those working three days a week in the office.

Everyone knows that staff are as productive, if not more so, at home – wherever home happens to be. There’s always been a London weighting on salaries for the simple fact it costs more to live here, not to mention the added anxiety of a Dante-esque commute. Not to sound like a snowflake-basher, but is this petulance over making any compromise whatsoever in the pursuit of an extremely lucrative career not the last word in selfish entitlement? One might also question the stance taken by the anti-pay cut camp that their whole career raison d’etre seems only to be racking up as many billable hours without leaving the house. Sartre famously said that hell is other people and he wasn’t wrong.

Legal Business

Disputes perspectives: Sue Millar

I was always naturally argumentative. But I didn’t have any role model at all, nobody that I knew was involved in law.

I was either going to be a journalist or a lawyer. What swayed me? I grew up in the 1980s and you start to get politically awakened in your teens. This was at a time when Margaret Thatcher was in government and everything was extremely political. I realised that I would probably have to write in accordance with the political wishes of the editor and I didn’t think I could do that.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: The Quincecare duty: when shouldn’t you follow instructions?

Stephenson Harwood considers the current scope of the Quincecare duty and some of the practical issues of which banks need to be aware following the latest judgment from the Court of Appeal

Legal Business

Stephenson Harwood re-elects Foord for fourth senior partner term

Roland Foord’s long-standing tenure as senior partner of Stephenson Harwood has been extended with his election to a fourth two-year term, starting 1 May 2022.

Foord’s re-election will push his leadership stint to well over a decade, having initially been appointed senior partner after he stood uncontested in 2012. A firm stalwart, Foord joined Stephenson Harwood’s litigation team in 1985 before being made up to partner in 1989. At the time of his first election, Foord also led the firm’s professional services and art law teams.

Chief executive Eifon Morris, who succeeded veteran leader Sharon White in 2019, commented: ‘Roland’s experience during a decade in which the firm grew significantly, will be an important attribute as we look to realise our ambitious plans for the next five years. His commitment to the firm – and the regard in which he’s held by everyone at Stephenson Harwood – is reflected by his re-election.’

Following a stall in revenue growth in 2019/20, revenue dropped 2% in 2020/21. Since then, the firm has bolstered its London practice, most recently this month (February 2022) with the additions of commodities trade finance specialist Philip Prowse from HFW and commercial technology partner Simon Bollans who, having trained at the firm, rejoined from Osborne Clarke.

Legal Business

‘An element of the exceptional’: Simmons latest to post striking pandemic financials with double-digit revenue growth and soaring profits

Simmons & Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland said there was ‘an element of the exceptional’ in the firm’s financial results announced today (16 July), with revenue growing 12% to £437m and profits shooting up 35% to £171m.

There was also a steep increase in profit per equity partner, growing 30% to reach £980k. Overall, this year’s results far outstrip the unremarkable 4% revenue growth and 6% profit increase from last year , as Hoyland explained that the firm benefited from a significant boom in instructions due to the pandemic.

He insisted that the revenue came purely from client work, with costs actually up on the previous year. This was thanks to increased salaries and growing headcount, despite savings on travel and entertainment due to enforced home working. Hoyland (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We advised clients pro-actively, but they also came to us for solutions and significant mandates at a time of crisis. All of our offices grew in revenue, with the UK having a particularly strong year.’

He accepted that the firm ‘would not grow by 12% again’ next year, recognising the one-off nature of the current results: ‘One of the benefits of being a lawyer is that people come to you in the bad times as well as the good – it has always had that countercyclical nature. There’s an element of the exceptional in the results, but if you look back at our last four or five years of results there is something of a trajectory.’

There was a significant increase of work in the firm’s ESG, asset management and TMT practices in the past year. But there was also considerable growth from Simmons’ flexible resourcing platform, Adaptive, which increased income by 30% during the year. Hoyland added: ‘It’s partner-led, in a way some competitors aren’t. We will certainly be looking to internationalise the business soon.’

Other highlights include the firm making 23 lateral partner appointments, and promoting 13 lawyers to the partnership. Six of the newly-promoted partners were women, exceeding the firm’s target of 40% female partner promotions per year.

In other results announced this week, there were mixed fortunes at Stephenson Harwood as the firm unveiled a 2% slump in revenue, slipping from £213m to £209m. However chief executive Eifion Morris was optimistic, reporting that the firm had actually finished 8% higher than budgeted, and profitability increased 13%.

However Taylor Wessing joined Simmons and Herbert Smith Freehills  in posting impressive figures this week, announcing a 12% uptick in UK revenue to £175.5m and a 23% increase in UK profits to £71m.

Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Lawyer of the Year

After reviewing the evidence for dozens of candidates, we are delighted to reveal our Lawyer of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

This award acknowledges a truly exceptional individual contribution to the profession during 2019 by private practitioners, in-house counsel and barristers. Judges were looking for evidence of exceptional performance in any area that makes the chosen lawyer stand out from their peers.



Sponsored by


Winner – James Libson, Mishcon de Reya

While managing partner James Libson has played a central role in the dynamic growth of Mishcon de Reya over the last 20 years, his recent work in using the law to counter discrimination in the Labour Party and his role in the Miller prorogation case gave him the edge in this category.

2019 saw him defend high-profile politicians, including Margaret Hodge and Luciana Berger who were the victims of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, as well as representing the Jewish Labour Movement in its referral of the Labour Party to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – a strategy Libson conceived and executed.

Libson has acted for whistleblowers in the health, financial services and political sectors since the legislation was introduced in 1998 and also defended several of the whistleblowers under attack from the Labour Party.

He also led the solicitor team that represented Gina Miller in her case against of the government’s decision to trigger Article 50 without a vote of parliament and more recently was instructed by Miller again in relation to the proroguing of parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to bypass a vote in parliament to achieve a no-deal Brexit.

In this second historic victory, the Supreme Court held: ‘The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.’

Mishcon said Libson’s work was characterised by acting almost always on behalf of clients at the epicentre of hostile, extreme (and often violent in its discourse) attention. Outside the law, Libson is noted for being extremely active in the charity sector, in particular in causes addressing the needs of refugees.

Highly Commended – Tammy Samuel, Stephenson Harwood

Head of the rail sector group and recently promoted to global head of Stephenson Harwood’s finance practice, Samuel combines a market-leading practice for clients such as TfL and the Department of Transport with her role as mentor and spokesperson for gender and sexual orientation diversity within the profession.

As well as balancing her impressive career, Samuel has four children, is an ex-England and Saracens rugby player and coaches and sponsors a girls’ rugby team. Her contribution to promoting women in rail and law, as well as her commitment to wider diversity, is outstanding.

Samuel regularly represents Stephenson Harwood at Aspiring Solicitors events that seek to improve access to the profession and in March 2019 she helped launch the firm’s LGBT+ network by interviewing rugby player and activist Gareth Thomas at a launch event.

Recent mandates include advising TfL on Crossrail and the Department of Transport on a variety of matters. She has also given evidence to the UK House of Commons Transport Select Committee as part of its inquiry into rail infrastructure investment.

Other nominations

Emilie Cole, Irwin Mitchell

Cole represented district judge Claire Gilham in a landmark victory in the Supreme Court, convincing the court that she should be granted the same legal protections as other whistleblowers under her European human rights and securing protection for all UK statutory office holders.

Andrew Lidbetter, Herbert Smith Freehills

Leading HSF’s London public law practice, Lidbetter had an outstanding 2019 during which he handled judicial review, public inquiry and other regulatory work across a range of commercial sectors and pro bono for NGOs. This has resulted in him having three successful judgments intervening for clients at Supreme Court level, including in the parliament prorogation case in September.

Joanne Wicks QC, Wilberforce Chambers

A leading light at the property Bar, in the past 12 months Wicks QC has appeared in the Supreme Court twice (in S Franses v The Cavendish Hotel and Dr Julia Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent) and the Court of Appeal (in Churston Golf Club v Haddock). Furthermore, she appeared in Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency, one of the most high-profile property cases of 2019.

Legal Business

Revenue growth stalls at Stephenson Harwood as firm remains quiet on profits

Stephenson Harwood saw revenue growth grind to a halt over the last financial year, the firm’s latest financial results show, while key profit figures are undisclosed.

Revenues remained at £213m over 2019/20, the figure hit last year after a pacey 12% growth. Meanwhile, the firm did not disclose its profit per equity partner figure, which rose 9% to £727,000 last year after two consecutive years of decline. The firm’s net profit figure – which last year stood at £68.2m – was also witheld.  The firm chose not to provide comment or a statement on its muted financial performance.

Litigation and arbitration produced the lion’s share of the turnover, contributing 43% of the figure after a modest rise. Corporate and finance followed, producing 26% and 23% of revenue respectively.

It has been a period of change for Stephenson Harwood, with longstanding chief executive Sharon White giving way to new leader Eifion Morris (pictured), who took the helm last October. Morris takes over an institution much changed from Stephenson Harwood circa 2009. Over the last decade, revenues have grown 150% and the partnership has doubled to approximately 171.

Part of that story has been the expansion of the firm’s corporate practice, which has increased its headcount by more than a third over the five years to 2018/19, while revenue has more than doubled in the same period. However, the firm has been less aggressive than some of its peers in pursuing profitability.

For more on Stephenson Harwood, read ‘Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?’