Sara Luder (scroll down for video interview) is one of three female practice chiefs at Slaughter and May – four when Deborah Finkler becomes head of disputes next year after Richard Clark steps up to executive partner – and one of the City’s top tax lawyers.
She is the lead tax partner for many of the firm’s key clients, including Aegis Group, Diageo (alongside tax legend Steve Edge), Old Mutual and Unilever, and in 2012 guided the tax advice to Aegis on its takeover by Japan’s Dentsu and Diageo on two deals – its failed attempt to acquire tequila brand Jose Cuervo and its purchase of India’s United Spirits.
Her practice is spread across transactional and contentious work, with the tax head successfully defending Nationwide against HMRC over the tax treatment of a structured finance transaction in which a Cayman Islands-based company paid a dividend out of share premium. Luder’s team obtained a fourth judgment in its favour in the Court of Appeal in March 2012 after three previous decisions at lower levels.
Luder doesn’t see her status as a female practice head as anything worth writing home about, describing the Slaughters environment as meritocratic. Nonetheless, she has held a position made famous by firm mainstay Edge, a previous head of tax, since 2011.
There’s also her skill as an outdoor swimmer, swimming between continents for charity. As you do.