Legal Firm in Focus: Shoosmiths

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Steve Porter

Shoosmiths has over 1,000 lawyers advising in all core disciplines from 13 locations across the UK. We hear from Steve Porter, Head of their Corporate Division on how things are shaping up for 2020.

What has Shoosmiths been up to in 2019?

Shoosmiths is enjoying a sustained period of growth both in terms of headcount and geographical footprint.

Committed to further investment in people, sector specialisms, technology and efficiencies, our culture centres on the ‘client experience’. With this mantra being at the fore of all our effort, we were delighted to be crowned ‘National Law firm of the Year 2019’ at The Lawyer Awards.

Spotlight on ‘Corporate’

Our Corporate division has the boldest growth ambition and is on course to double in size over three years.

A spate of strong lateral hires across the national practice in the last six months brings the number of corporate partners to a record total of 32, bolstering our national departments specialising in Banking & Finance, Corporate Restructuring and Advisory, core Corporate and Tax. However, it’s our focus on delivering seamless, integrated services for our clients across all practice areas that is really working for Shoosmiths.

What have been your division’s key achievements?

The largest growth in the last 12 months has been in our Banking & Finance department which now consists of eight partners who specialise in asset-based lending, general corporate lending, marine and aviation finance, project finance and real estate finance. The team is appointed to the majority of the legal panels of UK lenders but this department now undertakes a significant amount of work for corporate borrowers. Our Head of Banking & Finance, Rebecca Mauleverer, was shortlisted for a Women in Finance Award for her leadership of the team.

Our Corporate Restructuring and Advisory team continue to be the ‘go to’ advisers for well-known brands including Monsoon, Accessorize, Aldo, Regis, Monarch Airline and British Steel. This year the team advised on more retail CVAs than any other firm. Awarded Lawyer of the year in 2018, Head of department, James Keates, was once again shortlisted at the Turnaround, Restructuring and Insolvency Awards in 2019.

Our Core Corporate department advises on VC, PE & M&A and Public Companies transactions and achieved a raft of industry awards this year, including ‘Large Deal of the Year’ at the Thames Valley Deals Awards for advising LDC on the sale of ByBox to Francisco Partners for £221m. Other notable deals we acted on included the sale of M Restaurants to the owners of Gaucho; the sale of RED Driving School, the £15m investment by Inverleith LLP into Planet Organic Limited and over 40 transactions for Octopus Ventures including the sale of Tails.com to Nestle.

Having advised on no less than 150 venture deals in 12 months, our VC team were named Corporate and Commercial Firm Specialism of the year at The Legal 500 Awards. Leading the charge on equal opportunities, we launched our own networking and learning initiative for female founders and women in venture capital, ‘SpHERe’. We hosted our first two events in London with assistance from serial entrepreneur Sherry Coutu CBE and Octopus Ventures attracting an audience of over 100 guests.

Shoosmiths’ specialist Tax department won the Best SEIS/EIS Tax Adviser award at the EIS Association Awards at the House of Lords. The team also now offers specialist advice to large corporates on employee incentives and share schemes.

What are your thoughts for 2020?

Whilst sources report a market slump in deal volume this year, we have not experienced a decrease in demand for our services. Instead, we remained extremely busy but with a trend towards an increase in deal value (and therefore complexity). The pipeline for 2020 is looking very strong with increasing mandates from our firmwide institutional clients and large corporates. Continued collaboration with our investor clients (such as LDC and Octopus Ventures) means we anticipate increased levels of activity despite the past six months’ political uncertainty.

What is going to make an impact on the legal profession in the next year?

My view is that technology will have a significant impact on the profession over the next few years. We are currently working on a number of technology-led initiatives which I believe will result in improved efficiencies. In particular, document automation, online portals which allow us to share real time data and documents with clients and automated data analysis tools will see huge benefits for us and our clients.

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