The Lawyer UK 200 Rank35

Travers Smith is a familiar name in London’s legal market, having graced the City with its presence for more than 150 years. Though it is known to have had a number of merger offers from other firms it has demonstrated a strong desire to remain independent. It maintains a mid-size office in London, and a Paris office remains its only international outpost (a small German office, opened in 2001, lasted five years before closing). Despite its small size the Paris office

Travers Smith is a familiar name in London’s legal market, having graced the City with its presence for more than 150 years. Though it is known to have had a number of merger offers from other firms it has demonstrated a strong desire to remain independent. It maintains a mid-size office in London, and a Paris office remains its only international outpost (a small German office, opened in 2001, lasted five years before closing). Despite its small size the Paris office has been a source of influential partners, including current managing partner David Patient, who set up the office in 1999.

The firm’s disputes head Stephen Pearson moved to be in-house head of litigation at RBS in the early 2000s which became a nice relationship for the firm, but corporate has always been the biggest revenue generator, accounting for a good half of the practice. The size of the deals it is able to take on puts it firmly in the profession’s silver circle, alongside Macfarlanes, a firm with which it shares a number of similarities.

The 1990s produced some unpleasantness when one of its partners was hauled over the coals for its involvement in a failed hostile bid for the Cooperative Wholesale Society. The partner in question ended up resigning from the firm, though he was eventually exonerated.

Travers Smith doesn’t hold leadership elections; instead it takes soundings. Scottish tax lawyer Alasdair Douglas was managing partner for the second half of the 1990s and under his tenure Travers did a lot of marketing to US firms for referrals: it had good relations with Willkie Farr and Akin Gump around this time. It was also around this time that Latham & Watkins approached the firm for a merger.

The private equity practice was successful during the 2000s but the firm kept doing good public M&A work, led by head of corporate Spencer Summerfield. However, over the years the focus has shifted to City-based financial intermediaries as the firm’s core client base: private equity houses, financial advisers and the like. A new generation of corporate partners came to prominence after the departure of private equity star Charles Barter to Bridgepoint in 2008, including Andy Gillen and Phil Sanderson (now at Ropes & Gray).

Chris Carroll took over from Douglas as managing partner in 2001 but the big generational change was the ascension of Andrew Lilley to the role in 2010: it had previously been unusual to see a non-corporate partner in such a prominent role at Travers. An employment lawyer, Lilley’s tenure saw a lot more soft-cultural initiatives at the firm. Carroll became senior partner and was charged with continuing to cultivate Travers’ relationships overseas.

The firm was slow to embrace professionalisation of business services, with a business development function only really set up in 2007. However, it has made real efforts in recent years to shake off its reputation as conservative and traditional. In particular, it has managed to recruit a considerably more diverse trainee intake than it did only a few years ago – though a distinct preference for certain universities and subjects is still evident. Female representation, particularly at partner level, has also been a problem but an all-female promotions round in 2017 suggests that Travers is heading in the right direction.

A dress code review in 2017 saw the firm ditch suits and ties in favour of business casual and it has also experimented with agile working.

Managing partner Senior partner
Alan Keat
1995 Alasdair Douglas
2000 Christopher Bell
2001 Chris Carroll
2006 Alasdair Douglas
2010 Andrew Lilley Chris Carroll
2013 Chris Hale
2015 David Patient

TRAINING CONTRACTS

What is the trainee salary at Travers Smith?

1st year trainee: £43,500

2nd year trainee: £49,000

What is the NQ salary at Travers Smith?

NQ: £75,000