Legal Business

Sponsored Q&A: Nicholas Blake-Knox – partner and head of Walkers’ asset management and investment funds group in Ireland

Can you tell us a little bit about your career and how you ended up at Walkers?

When I graduated from University College Dublin in 2001 with a business and law degree I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. A friend in university had started working in a finance role within a fund administrator and he told me that if I joined and stayed for three months that he would get a €500 referral bonus. I joined. He got the referral bonus (which he didn’t share with me incidentally) and subsequently left to become a primary school teacher. Ironically, I have remained in the funds industry ever since. My legal career began a couple of years later with one of the leading domestic firms in Dublin, where I was earmarked for their investment funds group when I finished my traineeship. In 2011, I moved to London and joined the global asset management firm, PIMCO. I stayed in London with PIMCO for almost seven years before returning to Ireland in 2018 when I joined Walkers. During my time in London I completed an MBA at London Business School and briefly considered the idea of moving out of a legal role but ultimately stuck with a career in the legal profession. I feel that I have made the right choice and enjoy working in the funds industry in Ireland. Last year, I was elected to the Council of Irish Funds (the asset management and investment funds industry association here) and recently have been appointed to the role of vice chair of the association and consequently will assume the role of chair next year.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: The challenges and opportunities facing the aviation sector

The commercial aviation sector has proved to be remarkably resilient, having weathered monumental periods of disruption in close succession with the grounding of the Max, and then the worldwide fleet as a result of the pandemic as well as the ongoing Ukrainian conflict. The effects of these crises are still with us, but air traffic numbers have been recovering quicker than many predicted, with airlines struggling to cope with passenger demand over the summer (something readers in Dublin will be all too familiar with).

However, there are undoubtedly additional headwinds facing the industry with rising interest rates, increasing fuel prices, the impact of inflation and recessionary fears likely to erode demand for travel this winter. These were some of the themes discussed at the Airline Economics Growth Frontiers London conference this September where I chaired the Banking Panel to discuss challenges, opportunities and risks for aviation banks in the current market.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Macfarlanes continues lateral hiring spree as DWF and Walkers make key appointments


As Macfarlanes’ tightly focused business model goes from strength to strength amid testing market conditions, its rate of lateral hires has increased considerably. The firm’s latest recruit is in fact a re-hire, with Michael Parkinson re-joining Macfarlanes in October after four years as private client group partner at West End firm Russell-Cooke.

Parkinson trained and qualified at Macfarlanes before joining Russell-Cooke in 2009. His experience comprises advising high-net-worth individuals on private client wealth management issues including capital gains tax and inheritance tax matters, landed estates and heritage property and trust law.

Charles Martin, senior partner at Macfarlanes said: ‘He is an excellent addition to the practice, adding further depth to our capability and helping us to meet growing client demand domestically and globally, both in established and emerging markets.’

Parkinson is the second former Macfarlanes private client lawyer to re-join the firm as a partner in this summer. Charles Gothard, who was head of international private client at Speechly Bircham, returned to Macfarlanes in May. The firm has been on an impressive hiring spree of late, taking on Ashurst’s former head of construction, Anne Minogue, and Shearman & Sterling real estate partner Clare Breeze in recent weeks. Breeze’s arrival reverses the trend of large US practices recruiting from City firms and followed the hire of Akin Gump London investment funds partner Simon Thomas in February.

The hires come as the firm looks to seize opportunities on the back of yet another impressive year financially, posting a 12% increase in revenues for 2012/2013 from £102.2m to £114.2m. Profits per equity partner (PEP) were up 9% £985,000, while profit per lawyer at the firm stands at £158,000 – a rise of 7%.

Meanwhile, DWF has continued its highly acquisitive year by recruiting Wragge & Co partner Toby Askin to head its real estate team in London and Birmingham. The appointment will see Askin also take on the role of head of investment and funds with a specific focus on shopping centres and retail development.

Askin was promoted to Wragge’s partnership in 2008 and his experience involves the development, investment and funding of real estate projects within retail and the public sector as well as representing private equity funds.

His hire adds further real estate strength to DWF, which significantly enhanced its national capability after taking on 419 staff from stricken Cobbetts earlier in the year. The firm has embarked on a flurry of five mergers in just 18 months, increased its 2012/13 revenues by 85% to £188.2m and putting it in the top 25 firms in the UK.

Nic Crocker, national head of real estate at DWF said: ‘Over his career, Toby has worked on a large number of prestigious real estate projects – from the development of shopping centres and retail parks to acting for private equity funds on investment projects. His varied expertise means he is a key addition and well placed to lead our teams in London and Birmingham.’

Finally, in a rare lateral move between global offshore giants, investment funds specialist Dawn Howe has left Maples and Calder to joins Walkers as a partner in its global investment funds group. Howe will initially be based in Walkers’ London office, after which she will relocate to the firm’s headquarters in the Cayman Islands. Previously, she worked across Maples and Calder’s offices in both London and the Cayman Islands where she advised on the structuring of both hedge funds and private equity funds as well as related corporate transactional and regulatory work.

Her new team in London will be led by managing partner Jack Boldarin who relocated from Walkers’ Jersey office earlier this year. She will work alongside London-based investment funds partners, Jasmine Amaria, Anne Forbes-Harper and Hughie Wong, as well as investment funds specialist David Brennand, who recently joined from Sidley Austin in June.