Stephenson Harwood’s pensions partner quits

Stephenson Harwood’s pensions capability has suffered a severe blow as the department’s only pensions partner joins DLA


Michael Cowley, who advises corporate clients on pension issues and share scheme arrangements, will join DLA’s London office in May.

Crowley said that he is moving because DLA offers more opportunity and potential to expand his practice. He is expected to take clients, including KPMG and Vodafone, with him.

DLA has merged its pensions and employee benefits teams and is now growing its practice throughout the UK.

“Cowley fits in perfectly because he advises on both pensions and employee benefits”
David Wright, DLA

Head of pensions and employee benefits David Wright said that the growth is important because of the employee incentive issues that have arisen from the closure of a number of final salary schemes.

“There’s a lot of activity as schemes move towards money purchase models,” he said. “Employers need to look at reward packages as a whole. Cowley fits in perfectly because he advises on both pensions and employee benefits.”

DLA’s clients include the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the trustees of the Royal Insurance Group Pension Scheme, Novartis Pension Scheme, Ciba Specialty Pension Scheme and the trustees of BASF.

Stephenson Harwood told The Lawyer it intended to replace Cowley. Managing partner of the employment and benefits group Tom Flanagan said that the recruitment process is already someway down the line.

Although Cowley is the only pensions partner, there are four other partners in the group, which brings together pensions, employee benefits, tax, employment law and litigation.

Flanagan said: “We’ll need to build the pensions department on the back of this move, as it is a key element of the joint service we provide to our clients.” In the last three years, the group has tripled in size.