The Lawyer UK 200 Rank30

Watson Farley & Williams was founded by three Norton Rose partners – Martin Watson, Alastair Farley and Geoffrey Williams – in 1982, although legend has it that it almost never happened, given that when Farley suggested the idea of breaking away and setting up by themselves, he did so in such an ambiguous manner that his colleagues nearly missed his point altogether. The firm set up on Camomile Street – directly opposite Norton Rose – and right from the start

Watson Farley & Williams was founded by three Norton Rose partners – Martin Watson, Alastair Farley and Geoffrey Williams – in 1982, although legend has it that it almost never happened, given that when Farley suggested the idea of breaking away and setting up by themselves, he did so in such an ambiguous manner that his colleagues nearly missed his point altogether.

The firm set up on Camomile Street – directly opposite Norton Rose – and right from the start focused on shipping (Watson and Farley’s area of expertise) and aviation finance (brought by Williams). These remain the areas the firm is best known for; however, it has branched out into areas such as projects, energy and corporate work.

WFW’s first overseas office opened two years after the firm’s foundation, in Piraeus in 1984. It coincided with a decline in the shipping market and the Greek office initially worked on workouts and restructurings rather than new loans.

The firm opened in New York in 1990 with the acquisition of seven partners from New York firm Burlingham Underwood & Lord. Future managing partner Michael Greville launched a Moscow office in 1993, but this was less of a success and closed in 2002.

The mid-1990s were a difficult period with disagreement about the direction of the firm which culminated in the departure of two star litigators, Simon Curtis and Mark Davies, in 1996.

Various merger discussions over the years included a 2002 approach from Simmons & Simmons, keen to further boost its finance practice, and 2007 talks with US firm Chadborne & Parke that lasted for the bast part of 12 months before falling through. Ince & Co was also understood to have approached the firm in 2015 but to date Watson Farley has turned down all comers.

The firm is currently managed by London-based Chris Lowe and Hamburg-based Lothar Wegener, who were jointly elected in 2014.

Appointed Managing partner Senior partner/chair
1982  – Alastair Farley
1987 William Fossick (role created)
1996 David Warder
1999 Christopher Preston
2001 Michael Greville
2004 Frank Dunne
2014 Chris Lowe & Lothar Wegener
2017 Nigel Thomas

TRAINING CONTRACTS

What is the trainee salary at Watson Farley & Williams?

1st year trainee: £43,000

2nd year trainee: £46,000

What is the NQ salary at Watson Farley & Williams?

NQ: £70,000