US firm McDermott Will & Emery is breaking new ground by taking on a senior tax partner from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The appointment of Guy Madewell is believed to be the first time that an accountant has joined a law firm in the City as a senior member of a tax department. While he cannot be a partner at the firm, Madewell will be a senior director with partner status. On that basis, he will be the third partner in McDermotts' London tax practice. He joins founding partner Peter Nias, who was previously head of tax at Simmons & Simmons, and Tim Sanders, who formerly held the same role at Theodore Goddard. The firm claims that the move creates the first truly multidisciplinary tax practice in the City. While some law firms have employed accountants in their groups, it is believed that this is the first time one has been taken on in such a senior role. And although the accountancy-tied law firms may have employed tax lawyers, Madewell says they are still only brought in on work when the accountants call them. It was Madewell who approached McDermotts to consider taking him on. He said: "There was clearly a meeting of minds that the legal profession is in competition with a wide range of other advisers and needs to become multidisciplinary in its profile. "Both tax lawyers and tax accountants practise the same canon of law and we cover a huge amount of common territory. You have the accountants who have a numerate background and arguably have a broader perspective on business, whereas the lawyers tend to take a very legalistic analysis, which is their strength." While at PwC, Madewell spent time in the international debt and structuring department with a focus on treasury options. He also boasts a substantial client portfolio working on corporate acquisitions, disposals, restructurings and litigation. His work included advising Unigate on litigation and dealing with the tax structuring of the merger of the Beecham Group with SmithKline Beckman.
"There was clearly a meeting of minds that the legal profession needs to become multidisciplinary in its profile" Guy Madewell, McDermott Will & Emery
McDermotts will benefit from introductions to Made-well's client base and will be able to offer its own clients a team that includes high-level accountancy and legal capability right from the start. Normally, accountants are the first people brought in to structure tax aspects of deals, and then the lawyers are called in to deal with implementation. Nias said: "The accountants are often in first giving tax advice, advising on strategic thinking, with the lawyers then coming in at a transactional stage. I don't believe anyone has thought to integrate both so you can have both in the room and deliver both advisers to you now. "What we are doing is actually going out to clients and bringing them ideas we can develop using the accountant's skills and the lawyer's skills," he said.