Alison Bond has been a partner at Pinsent Masons since 1994 and moved into a client relationship management role in 1996. Since 2012 Bond has been leading the team behind Pinsent Masons’ freelance network Vario, which launched in February 2013.
Bond runs Vario with a team of three dedicated staff and modestly credits them for much of the project’s success. In less than a year she has managed the recruitment of about 70 freelance lawyers, placed a significant number of them and has already seen the first seven placements extended.
Bond also finds time to fulfil her role as a trustee of the New Art Gallery Walsall and indulge her love of British art from the 1930s and 1940s.
For Neil Kinsella, the passing of the Legal Services Act was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to change the way consumer legal services work”. Few have grasped that opportunity as firmly as the UK head of Slater & Gordon, the Australian firm that acquired Russell Jones & Walker in 2012. As far back as 2007 Kinsella was revealing his UK domination plans to The Lawyer. His biggest contribution? Forging the Slater & Gordon identity over here.
“You need a certain scale to compete in this market as an independent and becoming part of a listed entity has given us the capital backing to turn that into a reality,” says Kinsella. “It’s been satisfying to take that platform and be a part of delivering it. And we’re ahead of schedule.”
Rivals, you have been warned.
King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin
A seasoned competition lawyer with ample experience in leading one of the top 20 City firms, Stephen Kon has many qualities that exemplify a well-recognised individual in the profession.
However, it was his unconventional vision coupled with his ability to execute the groundbreaking merger with Sino-Australian firm King & Wood Mallesons that ultimately made him a cut above the rest in 2013.
Under Kon’s leadership as senior partner, SJ Berwin combined with King & Wood Mallesons on 1 November 2013, creating a 2,230-lawyer, $1bn global firm headquartered in Asia. Kon was integral to the deal, persuading partners it was the way forward for SJ Berwin and negotiating with the merger partner.
Kon is now global co-deputy chairman of the combined firm, which has a Swiss Verein structure and will retain the SJ Berwin brand for a transitional period.
Clifford Chance global corporate head Matthew Layton has just beaten off stiff competition to be crowned the magic circle firm’s next managing partner. He will take over the high-profile spot this year, after 22 years at the firm.
Layton has spent the past five years at the helm of Clifford Chance’s largest practice area and is recognised within his firm as a natural leader and private equity heavyweight.
Layton has been instrumental in the firm’s current strategy and as the new managing partner looks set to continue a regional strategy with strong focus on Asia.
During his tenure he has earned respect for keeping a close eye on costs and being a strategic manager while juggling strong relationships with some of the firm’s biggest clients. Layton will now seek to transfer those skills to the bigger challenge of running one of the world’s biggest firms.
As Blackstone Chambers’ senior clerk, Gary Oliver is a key force behind the chambers’ phenomenal success.
He joined the clerking world aged 16, cutting his teeth at what was 1 Harcourt Buildings, before going on to join Blackstone in 1990 as first junior clerk.
At that time Dinah Rose QC was the most inexperienced tenant in the set and David Pannick QC, still only a junior, was on the cusp of a brilliant career.
He has been pivotal in moulding the careers of Rose, Pannick, Anthony Lester QC, Barbara Dohmann QC and Michael Beloff QC among many other stars of the bar.
Oliver is widely recognised as being fundamental to running the multimillion-pound business that is home to a top-notch team of staff.
Without Oliver, Blackstone just would not be the same.
As chief executive of Irwin Mitchell, John Pickering is at the vanguard of change in the UK legal sector. The firm was one of the first to convert to an alternative business structure in mid-2012, with then-managing partner Pickering becoming CEO.
Since then he has seen the firm through an astonishing period of growth. Last year Irwin Mitchell broke through the £200m turnover barrier for the first time and invested an eight-figure sum into HR, IT and infrastructure. Pickering says that the same level of investment will be made this year.
The investment saw Irwin Mitchell make several acquisitions, 28 lateral hires and 14 internal partner promotions.
Pickering’s leadership has been key to Irwin Mitchell’s success in the past few years. Expect him to continue to play a leading role as the UK market evolves even further.
Wragge & Co
The tail-end of 2013 was marked by a flurry of mergers, including that of Birmingham heavyweight Wragge & Co and London-headquartered mid-sizer Lawrence Graham. The truth is that this was a deal that first raised its head in 2009, coming back onto the larger firm’s radar in the year of consolidation that was 2013.
Wragges senior partner Quentin Poole, a canny businessman who had always considered Lawrence Graham an undervalued stock, was instrumental in finally convincing his more cautious partners that the time was right for the Midlands elite outfit to secure a decent City presence. A new £170m UK player, snappily entitled Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co, was born.
And Poole? The Wragges man continues as senior partner, a telling sign of his continuing influence if ever there was one.
It’s been a year like no other for legacy Penningtons chief executive David Raine, who by the close of 2013 found himself running a firm that had 265 more employees and 46 more partners than it had the year before.
Penningtons acquired Manches in October 2013, a move facilitated by a pre-pack administration deal. Partners on both sides were said to be uneasy when the merger talks started just a few weeks before, but those close to the situation have praised Raine’s management style for turning things around.
He provided the necessary hands-on approach, sitting partners down individually to discuss the plans before they went ahead and welcoming Manches partners in a two-day ‘roadshow’.
With Raine at the reins of Penningtons Manches, 2014 looks set to be a much brighter year.
Claire Rowe has been on the board at Shoosmiths since 2000 and chief executive since 2009. Under her leadership the firm has undergone a steady transformation from aspiring regional to successful national with a network of 10 offices.
Rowe repositioned the firm’s private client offering to be less dependent on high-volume personal injury work and oversaw the merger with Scottish firm Archibald Campbell & Harley on 1 October 2012. The move, creating ACH Shoosmiths, was the firm’s first foray north of the border.
Alongside all this she co-ordinated the firm’s conversion
to an LLP and oversaw a major rebranding and restructuring exercise, aligning the firm’s culture and helping to attract a number of high-profile lateral hires and team acquisitions.
Understated, but plainly not shy, Matrix Chambers’ chief executive Lindsay Scott is the fizz in the set’s champagne.
Widely respected within the set by barristers and clerks alike, Scott is credited with underpinning Matrix’ phenomenal success since she joined in 2006.
In the past year she has helped Matrix attract three standout media juniors from rival Doughty Street, contributed to the set’s plans for overseas growth with an office launch in Geneva and helped push annual revenues to £24m, an almost 20 per cent increase over the previous year. Not bad for a set that was only launched in 2000.
Plain-speaking and with a penchant for excellent shoes, Scott has a lust for chambers life and has shown she can produce the results to go with it.
It has been a year of changes for Ashurst, which secured a full financial merger with Ashurst Australia alongside a global management revamp.
However, the biggest surprise was litigator Ben Tidswell being elected to the firm’s newly established chairman position.
Having waited in the wings, playing a role on Ashurst’s board since 2007, Tidswell’s loyal band of supporters voted for him in October, ousting former senior partner Charlie Geffen from management in the process.
Tidswell’s plans include winning Ashurst a spot in the so-called ‘global elite’, becoming the pre-eminent firm Down Under, and further entrenching its sector focus.
Perhaps when he’s mountain biking on the South Downs on a rare day off he will also be mulling over those rumours about a future US merger.
Under managing partner Jonathan Watmough’s leadership RPC has become one of the most vibrant and best-run firms in the mid-market.
After Lehman, when most other firms were battening down the hatches, Watmough committed to an ambitious five-year growth strategy. In that time the firm has rebalanced itself away from a heavy reliance on insurance and committed itself to international expansion in Hong Kong and Singapore, while adhering to an all-equity partnership.
Last year’s financial results were stellar; revenues were up by 20 per cent and net profit rose by 16 per cent.
Watmough’s insistence on a coll-egiate performance culture has meant a modernisation of the firm’s reward structure that culminated in the bold abolition of the flat-rate NQ salary. Once again, the market sat up and took notice.
Joanna Worby, who became Brachers’ first female managing partner when she was appointed in May 2013, is also the former head of the firm’s HR and employment team.
So it should come as no surprise that she has the goal of improving career opportunities for Brachers’ fee-earners and staff firmly in her sights.
“I’m passionate about people and ensuring everyone is given the best chance to excel,” says Worby. “That means embracing diversity, flexible working and taking everything good about the culture of this firm and making it better.”
So far, Worby’s lateral thinking has extended to moving one partner who wanted to work more flexibly from a management to a client care role, handing another partner a larger team and giving another the chance to head Brachers’ new office in Discovery Park. Expect much more in 2014.