Legal Business

New brooms for Travers Smith as partnership elects Gillen to senior partner

Travers Smith today (6 November) announced the election of Andrew Gillen as senior partner.

With a term commencing on 1 January 2024, Gillen will succeed acting senior partner Siân Keall, who has been in the role, first in a part-time capacity since January 2023, and then full-time since 30 June following Kathleen Russ’s decision to step down from the role. Keall will remain a member of the firm’s partnership board until the end of her final term in June 2024.

Legal 500 Hall of Famer in equity capital markets, Gillen is Travers’ head of corporate M&A and ECM and is credited with establishing cross-border M&A as a core focus of the firm’s strategy. Gillen also has experience sitting on the firm’s partnership board, having helped guide the firm through the pandemic lockdowns.

Additionally, Gillen heads the firm’s international board, having helped to formalise its approach to international work, including the establishment of an international secondment programme. He also led the introduction of Travers’s PRIME work-experience scheme.

Alongside Gillen’s appointment, the firm has named Heather Gagen as head of dispute resolution, succeeding Rob Fell, Tim Gilbert as head of employment, succeeding Ed Mills, and Susie Daykin as head of pensions, succeeding Daniel Gerring. The partners will start their terms on 1 January 2024.

Gillen said: ‘As senior partner, one of my first priorities will be to retain and enhance our position as a leading independent UK law firm operating internationally. We will continue to develop our core areas of international asset management, complex transactions and global disputes and investigations, whilst seeking to further develop our corporate and institutional client relationships. I look forward to working with all of our partners to further strengthen our business and in delivering outstanding results for our clients.’

It has been a turbulent year for Travers, which suffered disappointing financial results in July. Revenue rose a meagre 1% to £197.5m and PEP flatlined at £1.1m. The firm also saw a steady stream of partner departures earlier in the year. Respected head of private equity Ian Shawyer left for Cleary, while its head of M&A tax Jessica Kemp moved to White & Case. Travers also lost private equity secondaries specialists Ed Ford and Sacha Gofton-Salmond to Simpson Thacher. Meanwhile, respected private equity partner Genna Marten moved to Linklaters and Dechert poached Samuel Kay for its London financial services and investment management practice.

More recently Freshfields appointed leading environment and regulatory lawyer Doug Bryden to its global ESG and sustainability practice. Bryden was previously Travers Smith’s head of environment and operational regulatory and its co-head of ESG and impact.

Edmund Reed, Travers’s managing partner said: ‘Many congratulations to Andrew on his appointment as our next senior partner. We have known each other for a long time having worked closely as corporate partners and sat on the partnership board together. We have both spent a large portion of our careers at Travers Smith and share a joint passion for the firm’s values and culture, which continues to set us apart from our competitors.’

‘I am very much looking forward to working with Andrew to navigate the next stage of the firm’s evolution and push forwards with our plans for the future. I would also like to thank Siân for taking up the role of acting senior partner earlier this year – she has done an outstanding job. The firm is in a much stronger position as a result of her sage counsel and I’m grateful that she will continue as a member of our partnership board until next summer,’ Reed added.

Legal Business

Russ to step down as Travers Smith senior partner

Kathleen Russ has taken the decision to step down as senior partner of Travers Smith, following a leave of absence for ‘exceptional family reasons’.

Russ (pictured) will return to her role as senior partner in a part time capacity, sharing responsibilities with Siân Keall, who has been acting senior partner since January. Russ will stand down as a partner and senior partner on 30th June, after which she will remain as a consultant at Travers, focusing on areas of strategic importance such as ESG, D&I and client listening.

The firm will hold an election for a senior partner successor in the autumn, after the summer break. Keall will continue in the role of acting senior partner until the election.

Russ first took on the role of senior partner in July 2019, succeeding long term leader Chris Hale. She has been a tax partner at Travers since 2001, leading the tax team from July 2007 to January 2017. Russ was re-elected for a second term as senior partner in November 2022.

Keall is a partner in the firm’s employment department and a member of its diversity & inclusion board.

A spokesperson for Travers Smith said: ‘The partnership board recognises that Kathleen has made a significant contribution to Travers, and they are delighted that she will be continuing as a consultant.’

Edmund Reed, managing partner of Travers, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Kath back after her leave of absence for exceptional family reasons and the inevitable impact of those circumstances on Kath. We prioritise the wellbeing of our people ahead of anything else, and enabling Kath to share the responsibilities of the senior partner role with Siân Keall will allow her to balance her personal situation at home with the time-pressures that can come from performing the senior partner role, at a leading city law firm.’

Legal Business

Stopping the bleeding at Travers will require hard-won loyalty and a pay overhaul

Looking at the recent wave of departures from Travers Smith brings to mind fears expressed by peers when we last did a major analysis of the firm back in 2019.

Four years ago, harbingers of doom were quick to jump on the perceived threat to such a UK-centric firm amid Britain’s exit from the European Union. Noted one corporate partner at a US firm at the time: ‘If profit starts to fall post-Brexit, what do you do with Paul Dolman? If Paul left, it would be a killer blow. He is talismanic.’

Legal Business

Shearman and Travers hit with losses as recruitment turns to restructuring and leveraged finance

Ongoing talk of a merger with Hogan Lovells has prompted an exodus from Shearman & Sterling, with the departure of EMEA and Asia M&A head Philip Cheveley to Sidley Austin one of the headline moves in the London market in recent weeks.

The blow to Shearman will be even more keenly felt since the move represents a reversal for one of its stated ambitions to focus on corporate, and because Cheveley only joined from Travers Smith less than two years ago, in March 2021.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Travers and Shearman exodus continues as US firms pick up the talent

Once a rare phenomenon, exits from Travers Smith have picked up pace in recent weeks, with the latest departures announced this week being those of Ed Ford and Sacha Gofton-Salmond to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Partners at Travers since July 2021 and July 2022, respectively, Ford and Gofton-Salmond will bring to Simpson Thacher with capabilities in the private equity secondaries market.

Jason Glover, managing partner of Simpson Thacher’s London office and head of its European funds team commented: ‘Simpson Thacher has a multifaceted private funds practice in Europe and the addition of Ed and Sacha will further enhance our ability to provide clients with the flexibility needed to meet an evolving market.’

Glover also signalled the firm’s confidence in the continued expansion of the secondaries market, after total transactions reached a new record of $57bn in 2022, according to Jefferies’ global secondary market review. ‘Secondaries have grown in popularity in recent years’, he said, ‘and we expect that their use will continue to grow in a wide variety of private equity strategies.’

The two moves mark another gain for the firm from Travers after Stephanie Biggs came over to co-lead the European financial services and funds regulatory team earlier this month.

At Shearman & Sterling, meanwhile, the absence of any fresh news on the much-speculated upon merger with Hogan Lovells did not stem the outward flow of lawyers, as insolvency and restructuring partner Helena Potts left for Paul Hastings.

Potts is the third partner to join the firm’s London office so far this year, following the hires of former Linklaters infrastructure co-heads Jessamy Gallagher and Stuart Rowson in January. She pointed to this growth as a reason for her move. ‘Paul Hastings has been making a lot of high-profile lateral hires, and has brought over a lot of smart people in the restructuring space, both in London and in the US’, Potts told Legal Business. ‘That makes this an incredible platform for me to continue growing my practice.’

Potts also noted that her hire came amid expectations of a boom in the sector. ‘Restructuring has been quite quiet for the last couple of years. But the market looks set to turn, given the macroeconomic headwinds that we’re facing globally.’

Elsewhere, Dechert announced its hire of four antitrust partners and one counsel from Orrick. Douglas Lahnborg joined the London office with Saira Henry, who was a senior associate at Orrick, while John Jurata joined in Washington DC and Russell Cohen and counsel Howard Ullman joined in San Francisco.

With these hires, Dechert has established a dedicated London-based competition offering for the first time, with Lahnborg and Henry set to work closely with lawyers in the United States and across Europe, as well as with others in London who handle antitrust work arising from areas such as white-collar defence and investigations. ‘We’re meeting a strategic need’, global antitrust and competition group co-chair Mike Cowie explained to Legal Business. ‘Brexit has made UK antitrust enforcement far more important – you need more than just Brussels. You need a strong presence in London, you need depth. And Saira and Douglas bring that.’

Lahnborg and Henry bring particular expertise in the tech sector, including in cutting-edge areas such as cloud computing and AI. Lahnborg highlighted this aspect of his practice in conversation with Legal Business. ‘With this team, we’re particularly focused on technology. A lot of the enforcement activity we see in the US, in Brussels, and increasingly in the UK, is around tech. It just keeps generating market studies and investigations.’

In another departure from Orrick, European syndicated lending and direct lending specialist Anthony Kay moved to Baker McKenzie. Made up to the partnership at Orrick in 2020, Kay brings additional breadth to Baker McKenzie’s leveraged finance offering.

‘We add Anthony to a strong bench of banking and finance partners’, New York and London-based capital markets partner Rob Mathews told Legal Business. ‘His hire plays well into our broader complementary private equity and leveraged finance strategies. He’s perfect for us. He worked at Latham & Watkins and Orrick, so he’s known in the market, and he has both the syndicated lending piece and the direct lending piece. He has client contacts in both of those areas, so he’s kind of a double whammy.’

Away from restructuring and private equity, insurance was a focus for CMS, which expanded its practice with the hire of Anna Walsh. Most recently a partner at Capsticks, Walsh focuses on the healthcare sector. Insurance and reinsurance group head Ed Foss stressed this expertise as a reason for Walsh’s hire. ‘Having Anna come over, who has that experience from a healthcare perspective, really fits our broader strategy to meet complex insurance needs across sectors.’

Walsh expanded on this point, noting ‘huge growth in the private healthcare market in the last few years’, and increasing client demand for advice in growth areas including digital health and AI.

Legal Business

Continuity in turbulent times: Travers re-elects Kath Russ to second senior partner term

Travers Smith today (16 November) confirmed Kathleen Russ has been re-elected as senior partner for a second term, starting 1 July 2023.

Russ first took on the role in July 2019 when she succeeded long term leader Chris Hale. She has been a tax partner since 2001 and led the tax team from July 2007 to January 2017. Russ also contributed to firm strategy as a member of Travers’ partnership board.

She will be at the helm for another two years, alongside Edmund Reed, who has been managing partner since 2021, at a challenging time for the firm. For the financial year 2021/22, it recorded a slowdown in revenue and 9% drop in PEP from £1.22m to £1.105m which Reed attributed to the impact of economic volatility, exacerbated by its later financial year end of 30 June. This followed its recovery in 2021 from an 11% slump in net profit and 20% fall in profit per equity partner which accompanied its 1% revenue drop in 2019/20.

Russ (pictured) said: ‘The last few years have thrown up a number of challenges no one could have anticipated, and as we move beyond the pandemic, but into increasingly uncertain economic times, it is more important than ever that we focus on investing in our future and our people, and driving forwards our acceleration in our three core areas of focus: in the international alternative asset management sector, in cross-border mergers and acquisitions and in our global disputes and investigations work.

‘I have a deep-seated belief in the power of the team, the power of effective collaboration and in the power of harnessing and nurturing talent and I believe we do all these things exceptionally well at Travers Smith – this is our culture and this is what makes the firm truly great, and a wonderful place to work.’

Despite the economic headwinds, the firm has continued to attract impressive volumes of transactional work. Since 2020, the firm has acted in more than 130 private and public M&A transactions and over 30 equity capital markets transactions. It also handled over 160 private equity backed transactions since 2020, including Inflexion’s sale of Medivet to CVC which resulted in the firm’s recent recognition of Private Equity Team of the Year at Legal Business’ 2022 awards.

In fact, Travers – for the second year in a row – picked up two wins at this year’s awards. The second was in the prestigious Commercial Litigation category for its ‘substantially successful’ representation of HP in protracted fraud claims against Mike Lynch and Sushovan Hussain arising out of HP’s acquisition of Autonomy, a FTSE100 software company, in 2011.

The firm also promoted a record 11 new partners in July 2022 with the majority across the three core areas of focus highlighted by Russ.

On the ESG front, the firm hired its first pro bono partners and rolled out the Mindful Business Charter commitments during Russ’ first term. She also chair’s the diversity and inclusion board.

Reed added: ‘Kath has done a fantastic job as senior partner over the last few years and I am delighted she has been re-appointed for a second term. Her re-election signals the stability and continuity of the firm’s leadership and the confidence of the partnership in the firm’s direction, particularly reassuring in the turbulent times we are all living through. I am excited to continue working closely on the ambitious projects and initiatives we have already embarked upon together.’

Legal Business

Financials 2021/22: Travers’ PEP takes a hit as revenue growth slows

Travers Smith has today (26 August) reported a modest 5% rise in revenue to £195m from £185.7m. This represents a slowdown from the firm’s 15% hike last year as it is impacted by the war in Ukraine and resulting macroeconomic challenges.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) fell 9% to £1.105m from £1.22m in 2021. Meanwhile, equity partner numbers stayed broadly flat with 58, one more than last year.

The firm’s later year end of June 30 meant that it was hit heavier in its final third than other firms by the economic disruption caused by the outbreak of the war and the subsequent rising costs globally.

This is not the first time the firm’s growth has been thwarted by economic volatility. Its 2020 setback of a 1% revenue drop, a 11% slump in net profit and a 20% fall in PEP was attributed to the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by its later financial year end.

Edmund Reed (pictured), who assumed the role of managing partner in 2021, is optimistic despite the challenging backdrop. He said of his first year at the helm: ‘It has been an extraordinary year. Who would have thought we would have ended up here, with all the things happening at the moment and what we read in the news? Against that we have had a pretty resilient set of results. We continue to be confident in our model and have continued to invest appropriately in the things we think we will drive profitability over the coming years.’

In the past year, the firm promoted 11 to the partnership and in August 2021 announced the relocation of its City HQ to Stonecutter Court planned for 2025. It also launched several legal technology projects, developed by the firm’s in-house team, including automated eSigning service TSSign.

Among the firm’s headline achievements, it won a protracted $5bn civil fraud claim brought by Hewlett Packard Enterprise relating to the $11bn acquisition of Autonomy. Other contentious highlights included defending a European truck manufacturer in damages claims arising from the European Commission’s Trucks cartel decision and conducted an investigation and cultural review following allegations of sexual misconduct against senior executives at a FTSE 250 company.

Elsewhere, its asset management team advised Nest on its £600m move into private equity with its partnership with Schroders Capital. M&A transactions to note included advising Brewin Dolphin on its recommended £1.6bn takeover by RCB Wealth Management, and assisting Ancala Partners with its acquisition of aerial emergency services businesses from Babcock International in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Mozambique.

Looking forward, Reed predicts continued growth across the corporate and M&A, asset management and disputes and investigations practices, but remains alive to the challenging realties of the coming year:

‘It is incumbent on all businesses to be as agile and nimble as possible. We’re a world away from where we were two months ago, let alone the two months before that, so it makes it a very difficult environment in which to make very confident predictions. Having said that, the strategy remains to focus on and to drive heavily towards those three areas. We will continue to invest appropriately and develop our business to be well placed in the short, medium and long-term.’

Legal Business

The ESG report – Event: Advising and acting for clients on ESG-related risks

ESG imperatives have never been more at the fore for partners, general counsel (GCs), or indeed any professional with exposure to related reputational risk. A webinar, hosted by Legal Business and sponsored by Travers Smith brought together partners, experts from in-house, the Bar and a crisis-management guru for a diverse and challenging debate on the ESG-related risks – and rewards – at the top of the agenda.


Nathalie Tidman, Legal Business: What are the main ESG risks that corporates are facing right now?

Legal Business

Disputes perspectives: Rob Fell

I was one of those children who spent a lot of time arguing with parents and siblings over the dinner table. They must have thought I was a natural advocate, even if I didn’t. I fell into law, frankly; I studied history at university.

Legal Business

The business of saving lives

‘Every week two women are killed by their partners and three commit suicide due to domestic abuse.’

With such a chilling opening line, it is no wonder that Travers Smith’s submission for CSR Programme of the Year at the 2021 Legal Business Awards stopped the judges in their tracks.