Ahead of the publication of the Hot 100 2018 next week, The Lawyer has caught up with leading lawyers in last year’s list to find out how their lives changed.

Karen Davies
Karen Davies

As scores of Ashurst partners left the London office in 2016, Davies stayed to put the firm’s corporate team in the headlines for good reasons.

She won mandates on headline-grabbing deals for Xchanging, Johnston Press and Alberta Investment Management, as well as scored roles for banks such as Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley. It was business as usual for Davies amid her firm’s inner turmoil.

Davies says her appearance for the Hot 100 was not only good for her therefore, but for the firm as a whole.

“I got hundreds of emails from people across the globe, from private practice lawyers to barristers, to people from business and people inside the partnership,” she explains.

“The industry goes through the Hot 100 list in detail, so it personally made a big difference to me and was good publicity for Ashurst.”

The Hot 100 also paved the way for Davies’ appointment last summer on the firm’s global board in the first major line-up shift since the firm’s Australian merger.

The corporate partner won a contested election for the only LLP place up for grabs, while there were two additional places open for Australian candidates only.

The board has shrunk by four spots post-merger in an attempt to improve efficiency, making Davies one of an influential team of 10 who hold the reins on strategic direction, remuneration strategy and overall governance.

The group also has the power to appoint the firm’s chief financial officer and managing partner, although this is unlikely to affect Davies’ three-year term on the board with Paul Jenkins being appointed to the top job in 2016.

Ashurst’s board meets three to four times a year meaning Davies still has more than enough time to balance her new leadership commitments with fee-earning.

“I love fee-earning so it had to be something I could do alongside my corporate practice.”

Being able to juggle the two was particularly necessary over the summer as Davies led the way on Aveva’s £3bn sale to French industrial group Schneider; a deal the latter had tried to pull off three times since 2015.

“The Aveva deal took five months of my year and was the most complicated deal I’ve ever done,” she says.

“It involved 37 different countries, and was both an acquisition of a business as well as an ECM deal that saw Aveva issue shares to Schneider. It was a fantastic deal for our firm to be on as it used all the overseas offices too.”

Aveva is a client that has stayed with Davies throughout multiple merger opportunities, although new additions to the corporate partner’s client base include technology company RWS Holdings which announced its $320m acquisition of Czech-based Moravia last year.

Just as she was in 2016, Davies was non-stop on the deals front over 2017 finishing off the year with a financing mandate for Lazard in Blackstone’s €260m offer for Taliesin Property Fund. On many of the UK’s biggest-listed deals, Ashurst’s Davies is likely to have won a role advising the banks; last year she was involved in FirstRand’s £1.1bn offer for Aldermore Group, Vantiv’s £9.3bn merger with Worldpay, Axis’ offer for Novae and Fiserv’s approach for Monitise.

Davies’ corporate practice has truly gained momentum in the last two years and it shows no sign of slowing down.

Hot 100 2017: Karen Davies, Ashurst

Former Clifford Chance associate Karen Davies quickly became one of Ashurst’s busiest corporate players last year. Having acted for services provider Xchanging while at her former firm, Davies saw the company through a highly-publicised bidding war in 2016 between Capita and eventual winner CSC.

Davies has been actively building on relationships across the board, strengthening Ashurst’s links to Morgan Stanley by advising it as co-sponsor to Sainsbury’s on its £1.2bn purchase of Home Retail Group. She was also a key adviser to Alberta Investment Management Corporation as it acquired London City Airport, picking up a further role on the equity raise of Enquest in one of the largest-ever restructurings of a European oil company.

Having made it onto Ashurst’s 10-strong admissions committee to identify new laterals and promoted partners, Davies has been pinpointed as one of the strongest emerging female leaders in the City.

Read the entire Hot 100 2017 here and watch out for the Hot 100 2018, published on 29 January.