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DJ Freeman has taken the unusual step of appointing a legal executive to head its planning practice following the departure of the department's head in June.
Karen Howard joins from Ashurst Morris Crisp, where she specialised in large regeneration schemes and provided strategic planning advice to a major retail client. Her arrival at DJ Freeman follows the departure of leading planning lawyer Richard Max, who left to join Olswang. Howard spent 18 months at Ashursts after 12 years at Berwin Leighton (now Berwin Leighton Paisner). She was previously at Denton Hall (now Denton Wilde Sapte) and started her career as a local authority legal executive. Howard has gained partner status on joining DJ Freeman, although she is not yet qualified and is only now doing her finals. She said she had always found it difficult to find the time to qualify. She described her move to DJ Freeman as a "phenomenal" opportunity. She continued: "It has happened a couple of times in the City, but it's very innovative for them to move in this direction. "I've been doing the work of any other solicitor but haven't achieved the qualifications firms look for to give partnership. "I don't think it's the only quality you need to head a department. I've always had a good head for business and for knowing what people want. One of the nice things at Berwin Leighton was that I had many assistants that I helped out and who reported to me. You build on your strengths. It's not just what you know about the law. "I'm really looking forward to working with the fantastic client base that DJ Freeman has." Howard will be working with planning assistant Jo Demetrius. DJ Freeman chief executive Laurence Harris said that Howard's status was not an issue at the firm. "All over the City you'll find very experienced people in law firms who are in the same position," he said. "Karen wouldn't have achieved the profile she has in the industry and in directories if there was any doubt about her ability." DJ Freeman has also expanded its media and communications department with the hire of a senior company and commercial partner. Martin Smith was previously head of company and commercial at Harvey Ingram Owston. He brings experience in corporate finance, venture capital fundraising, acquisitions and joint ventures for new media companies.