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Chris Excell

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Chris Excell

Partner Search - Legal

I am a principal consultant in the partner search function of the legal team. I am responsible for developing and establishing partner head-hunts and clients in conjunction with the wider team.

I have built a strong reputation in the market thanks to my honesty, integrity and results orientated approach, as well as my detailed understanding of the demands of individual roles. I am passionate about building long term relationships with my clients based on trust, excellence and consistent delivery. Historically I have worked with top rated US law firms, UK law firms and boutique offerings in the city.

My specialities include partnership headhunting from salaried to equity level across the following sectors: Technology, Media, Telecommunications, Corporate, Energy.

Outside of work I support Newcastle United (ex-season ticket holder) Music is a huge love of mine, from playing the guitar to going to gigs. If I wasn't in recruitment I'd want the number 9 for Newcastle United- following in the footsteps of Alan Shearer.

chris' latest roles

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What people say about Chris

Chris approached me regarding an exciting new opportunity for me. Throughout the whole process, Chris has been excellent to deal with...


 I had a very positive experience working with Chris and Pro-Legal in general. ​Chris kept me updated during the process and was always available to chat


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Companies Chris has worked with

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Successfully placed one of the leading Private Equity Partners into this White Shoe US law firm's London offering.

Worked with this top-rated US law firm's banking and finance team to secure them a high calibre Banking & Finance Senior Associate.

Placed the Head of Data Protection and the Head of Outsourcing into this national full-service law firm's London office. plays a significant role in building this new team.

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chris' articles

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October 2018: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Chris Excell

Thomas O’Connor, Finance Partner and former head of Transactional Finance at Morgan Lewis has moved to Akin Gump as part of a four Partner hire for the firm. This hire includes two heads of practice and is set to strengthen Akin Gump’s transatlantic offering across restructuring and global finance. All four Partners joining Akin Gump reunites them with their former Bingham McCutchen colleagues. Mike Pierdes and Simon Lightman, have joined Morgan Lewis’ London office from Pillsbury. They have been brought in to strengthen their outsourcing, technology and commercial transaction capability. A trio of Herbert Smith Freehills Partners, including City Private Equity Head Mark Geday have also joined Morgan Lewis. Nicholas Moore and Tomasz Wozniak have joined with Mark Geday to strengthen Morgan Lewis’ Corporate practice in London. Matthew Oliver, Bird & Bird’s head of tax has joined the London office of Osborne Clarke. Matthew brings solid Corporate Tax expertise in M&A, venture capital and corporate structuring. He is also experienced at providing VAT advice on commercial matters, both in the UK and internationally. Gilles Teerlinck has joined White & Case from Kirkland & Ellis to grow their Capital Markets practice further. Terrlinck advises issuers, sponsors and underwriters on international securities. He has also worked on IPOs, private placements, restructurings, liability management transactions, corporate governance and other corporate matters.

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September 2018: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Chris Excell

Phillip Watkins, Corporate Partner at Katten Muchin has joined Brown Rudnick. He will focus on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, sophisticated private equity transactions, takeovers, strategic investments, joint ventures, restructurings, re-financings, buyouts and exit strategies. Noel Hughes joins the Leveraged Finance practice at Vinson & Elkins previously with Sidley Austin. He will focus on international capital markets and cross-border leveraged finance transactions, with a focus on high-yield bond financings. Mayer Brown has recruited Paul Tannenbaum into the firm’s banking and finance practice as a partner. Paul Tannenbaum previously worked at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson. He acts for lenders, borrowers and financial institutions on acquisitions and leveraged finance, particularly in the private equity finance market. Heavyweight private equity duo from the Magic Circle exit as Latham hires CC’s Moylan and A&O’s Andersen.

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60 Seconds With: Emmie Jones, Partner at White & Case LLP

Posted by Chris Excell

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to make General Counsel / Partner? I would tell myself to have more confidence in my own style and way of doing things. I was convinced that the fact I wasn’t a traditional pinstriped, table-thumping private equity lawyer was a weakness, whereas I now recognise it as a strength. What do White & Case do well? We manage to combine being a truly global law firm with having an incredible depth of knowledge and experience at the local level. The London private equity team is a great example – we’re recognised as one of the best private equity offerings in London in our own right but in addition, we have a very strong global network behind us. It means that we can support our clients on their most complex, cross-border deals and disputes in each of their most important markets. What is your biggest bugbear about CVs? The inclusion of an extensive deal list that the candidate can’t then talk to in interview. Expect your interviewer to ask you about not just your specific role but also the rationale for and structuring of the wider deal. If you can’t talk intelligently about the deal as a whole, don’t include it on your CV. How would your team describe you? I asked them the question and was told “relatable with a sense of humour”. I will take this. If not in law, what would the dream be? To be a potter or carpenter or sculptor – I’d love to work with my hands to create something beautiful but useful. I think that would be incredibly satisfying. Biggest superstition/fear? I don’t think of myself as superstitious but repeated reading of AA Milne poems when I was a child means that whenever I walk in a London street, I’m ever so careful to watch my feet. What is your morning routine before work? My son wakes up incredibly early so I get to spend a couple of hours reading him stories and playing with him before I have to get ready. It’s a lovely way to start the day and (almost) makes up for the sleep deprivation. Skiing or beach? Before I had my son I would have said skiing, but I suspect the glühwein slips down less happily with a toddler in tow. Who is your hero? There are lots of people whom I admire and respect but I don’t have any heroes. What is your life hack / top tip? To be very disciplined about achieving some separation between work and home lives. Always being available to our clients is part of the job but unless we can carve out some time for ourselves and our friends and families, we risk being unhappy in both our professional and personal lives. Achieving this level of discipline is still a work in progress for me.

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August 2018: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Chris Excell

Jennifer Brennan & Yen Sum- Joined Latham & Watkins from Sidley Austin: Latham & Watkins has announced that Yen Sum and Jennifer Brennan have joined the London office as partners in the finance department. Their practices focus on advising creditors, hedge funds, asset managers, and debtors on a variety of complex restructurings and special situations, and they regularly represent credit funds on direct lending matters across the capital structure and credit spectrum. Sum and Brennan have been involved in a number of large, market-shaping transactions, including alternative credit and other new money financings, bank/bond restructurings, schemes of arrangement, security enforcements, pre-packaged administrations, Chapter 11 and other corporate and insolvency tools, debt-for-equity swaps, restructuring involving derivative instruments, and debt exchanges. They join the firm from Sidley Austin’s London office. Both are admitted to the High Court of Australia and England and Wales bars whilst Sum is also admitted to the bar in Victoria, Australia, and Brennan is admitted to the Queensland, Australia bar. Mark Geday, Nicholas Moore & Tomasz Wozniak – Joined Morgan Lewis from Herbert Smith Freehills: Morgan Lewis has announced a trio of hires in its corporate and private equity practice in London. New partners Mark Geday, Nicholas Moore, and Tomasz Wozniak, from Herbert Smith Freehills, will soon join the firm, adding a wealth of experience in a broad range of complex and cross-border corporate transactions. The three corporate and private equity partners have worked together for many years, representing clients in transactions throughout the world and across a number of sectors, including asset management, technology, natural resources, media, telecommunications, and consumer products. Geday works with clients across the private equity and asset management sector on all aspects of corporate law, including mergers, acquisitions, disposals, reconstructions, strategic stakes, joint ventures, and fund raisings. Working within the UK and other countries for more than 20 years, he has helped clients achieve their goals through a range of innovative and market-defining deals. Moore has more than 15 years of experience advising global clients on complex mergers, acquisitions, and other significant transactions, including many high-value, ground-breaking deals. He has a particular focus on the technology, media, telecommunications, and financial buyers sectors. Wozniak focuses on public and private mergers, acquisitions, and private equity transactions. With a long track record of advising on deals globally, particularly in Eastern Europe, he has worked across a range of sectors, including financial buyers, natural resources, and consumer products. Jag Shaw Baker have joined Withers: JAG Shaw Baker, a UK tech law firm, has joined Withers with effect from 1 August 2018. JAG Shaw Baker’s six partners and the 40-person team have joined Withers to create Withers tech and will operate from offices in London and Cambridge. Andrew Krausz – Joined Weightmans from Clyde and Co: Weightmans has hired Andrew Krausz as partner and aviation lead at the firm. An experienced aviation lawyer, Krausz joins the firm’s London office from Clyde & Co. His practice covers all aspects of aviation related liability work, as well as regulatory and broader contentious commercial advice. He is a qualified and licensed private pilot and has been involved with the Royal Air Force for 27 years. He was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch in 1999. David Thompson- Joined Bircham Dyson Bell from Charles Russell Speechlys: Bircham Dyson Bell has appointed David Thompson as a partner in its family team. He joins from Charles Russell Speechlys. Thompson’s practice encompasses a broad range of matrimonial disputes with a particular focus on complex financial and international matters; he has a wealth of experience in family law instructions with jurisdictional cross-border trust and company dimensions. Alongside his practice, Thompson is the current chair of the London region of Resolution and is also a member of the Cambridge regional committee. Thompson will divide his time between BDB’s London and Cambridge offices. Steven Baker- Joined White & Case from Cadwalader: White & Case has welcomed Steven Baker as a new partner in London. Baker, who joins the firm’s global commercial litigation practice, advises clients on complex, multijurisdictional disputes under general commercial law and private international law, with a particular focus on the technology and communications, banking, financial services and commodities sectors. Previously a partner at Olswang and Bird & Bird, he joins White & Case from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, where he was a partner, and brings more than 25 years of experience. Robert Darwin- Joined Dechert LLP from Hogan Lovells: Dechert LLP has strengthened its corporate, private equity and life sciences practices with the hire of Robert Darwin as partner in the firm’s London office. Darwin has a broad international practice focused on M&A and private equity deals for corporates, funds and other private investors. He executes complex and strategic transactions for clients across a wide range of sectors and has expertise with work relating to life sciences and healthcare. Darwin will be joining Dechert from Hogan Lovells in September 2018.

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July 2018: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Chris Excell

Emmie Jones- Joined White & Case from Macfarlanes White & Case has expanded its global mergers and acquisitions practice and global private equity industry group with the appointment of partner Emmie Jones in London. Jones was a partner at Macfarlanes where she trained and has more than 13 years’ experience advising private equity sponsors, corporations and management teams on acquisitions, disposals, management equity deals and distressed situations. She has advised on more than 150 deals and her experience includes traditional cross-border private equity transactions and advisory work for portfolio companies. Elisabeth Bremner- joined CMS from Norton Rose Fulbright: CMS has appointed Elisabeth Bremner as a partner in its financial services regulatory team in London. Bremner joins from Norton Rose Fulbright and has more than 20 years’ experience. She focuses on regulatory investigations in the financial services sector, including those carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority, the Serious Fraud Office and Securities and Exchange Commission. She has particular experience in undertaking independent internal investigations in relation to market abuse, insider trading and trader mis-marking in the investment banking and hedge fund sectors. She also advises the retail industry in areas such as fraud, sanctions breaches, mis-selling and complaints mishandling. Lucas Moore- joined Payne Hicks Beach from Jones Day: Payne Hicks Beach has expanded its dispute resolution team with the recruitment of partner Lucas Moore. Moore joins from Jones Day and has more than 15 years’ experience in international disputes. He has particular experience in multi-jurisdictional disputes arising in financial services and international trade. He also advises on contentious insolvency, fraud, corporate governance and shareholder matters. His clients consist of high-net-worth individuals, funds, banks and corporations across jurisdictions including the Cayman Islands, Mauritius and Guernsey. Nicola Fulford- joined Hogan Lovells from Kemp Little: Hogan Lovells has announced that privacy lawyer Nicola Fulford will be joining the firm as a partner in the privacy and cybersecurity practice, and will be based in the London office. Fulford will be joining Hogan Lovells from Kemp Little, where she headed up the data protection & privacy practice. Prior to her appointment to Kemp Little in 2013, she worked in-house at UBS and undertook secondments to Google and IBM. Tom Duncan- joined Ashurst from Mayer Brown: Ashurst announces the appointment of partner Tom Duncan in its dispute resolution team in London. Duncan joins from Mayer Brown where he has been a partner in the construction & engineering and international arbitration groups since 2012. He advises on all aspects of construction and engineering law with a particular focus on complex disputes. He has represented clients in a number of different jurisdictions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and has wide experience of all forms of arbitrations, adjudications and other forms of alternative resolution. Linzi Bull – joined Penningtons Manches from Harbottle & Lewis: Penningtons Manches has expanded its family practice with the appointment of partner Linzi Bull who joins from Harbottle & Lewis. Bull has a particular interest in LBGT family matters, including international surrogacy and often advises on pre-conception agreements. She has significant experience in all areas of family law and has worked on a number of complex divorce cases or high-net-worth clients, and advises on complicated cross-jurisdictional pre and post-nuptial agreements.

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60 seconds: Mark Taylor, Partner at Dorsey & Whitney

Posted by Chris Excell

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to make Partner? The last couple of years before making partner are some of the toughest. You need to show not just that you can work hard and smart but also that you can attract business and build revenues for the firm. My advice is not to forget about the team you are working with. Do not be afraid to delegate work (downwards, sideways and even upwards). Above all, do not go out on a limb in an effort to show that you can do everything yourself. What does Dorsey & Whitney do well? We share our knowledge, expertise and experience within teams and across teams and across the broad Dorsey platform. At the macro level, this is achieved through regular meetings of our firm-wide practice groups and industry groups (with technology and healthcare the two industry groups on which we are most focussed in London). At the micro level, we have an “open door” culture and you will often find partners and associates deep in discussion around matters such as potential pitch opportunities, technical issues and the scoping and pricing of deals. Two heads are invariably better than one – and, if nothing else, it is amazing how vocalising an issue can crystallise your thinking and prepare you for a contract negotiation, fee discussion, or another challenge. What is your biggest bugbear about CVs? Lists of deals which go back into the last decade. Time and time again a long deal list is used to disguise an absence of recent experience. A healthy deal list is certainly evidence of experience and, with experience, comes wisdom. However, sometimes you just want to know that the person you are seeing is doing deals here and now which are relevant to the post that you are trying to fill. How would your team describe you? My last upward review contained a lovely quote about being a patient and encouraging coach to associates. I try to give feedback in real time and am not averse to carrying out post-deal performance reviews in one or other of my favourite haunts – Catch Champagne Bar (may it reopen soon!), New Street wine Bar or Canto Corvino. A glass of something can really open up the conversation. If not in law, what would the dream be? My daughter just saw this questionnaire and typed in the answer to that one – a guitarist! I have always loved the sound of the guitar and studied classical guitar for many years before turning to jazz and South American music, which has been a passion for the last five years. I keep a nylon strung guitar in the corner of the office but rarely have the opportunity to play it these days. Biggest superstition/fear? Heights. I really dislike the trend for glass lifts. Curiously, the Sky Garden is OK because it has such a lovely ambience – but you will never get me into Sushi Samba! What is your morning routine before work? Having breakfast with my wife and daughter and, when I can, taking my daughter to school before heading to the office. I often work late so this is really precious time. If there is the time my daughter and I will sometimes put our roller blades on and pursue each other around the kitchen although this particular pleasure is usually curtailed by my wife who has been known to hide the roller blades in the interests of preserving the kitchen floor. Skiing or beach? Beach – see biggest superstition/fear above. Who is your hero? There are too many to list. What is your life hack/top tip? If you don’t understand the discussion the chances are that nobody else does, so speak out! I have been to too many meetings where our natural tendency to smile and nod has allowed others to get away with utter nonsense. Sometimes a single request for clarification can open up a new conversation and avert what would otherwise have been a disastrous outcome.

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To be (a partner) or not to be (a partner) that is the question

Posted by Chris Excell

For the vast majority of lawyers, becoming a partner is the pinnacle of their career. There are various motivators for this, be it financial motivation or for prestige. In this article, I want to explore why people look to achieve partnership, alternatives to partnership and everything in between. Becoming a partner, quite rightly, brings its own challenges. I have found that quite often, Lawyers think that once they achieve partnership status then the rest is easy. This could not be further from the truth. It is only the beginning. Yes, it brings you the gravitas and clients love to work with partners as they are seen as the decision makers in the team, however it also brings a number of new challenges: You are now responsible for ensuring there are enough client matters to feed the juniors in the team (alongside yourself), leading by example, influencing the wider partnership (both locally and if relevant, internationally), competing against other teams for resource allocation, being a true ambassador of the firm both externally and internally etc. It really does go beyond focusing purely on fee earning. You need to take a more holistic view and be able to look at things from a commercially strategic perspective. The common theme I come across speaking with lawyers who are on the cusp of partnership is the complex conversation about how to achieve this. They often ask questions such as what time frames will it take to step up? What do I need to generate figure wise for the business plan? Is there space for someone to be made up in my team? All these questions are completely valid and definitely need considering, however, the two real questions you should be asking yourself before any of the above are: Why do I want to become a partner? And more importantly Where do you want to become a partner? The reason I say this, is that there are a lot of factors to be taken into consideration when going through this important thought process. Does your current firm offer the right platform for your clients and more importantly, your long-term career aspirations? Will you be able to influence the wider partnership? Would you prefer a full equity model, or do you feel a traditional lockstep would work better for you? Do you want full voting rights or just the title? If you conclude that your firm can’t offer any of the above, and you have your heart set on becoming a partner, then clearly, your current firm is not the right place for you to achieve this - you need to start considering your options elsewhere at a firm that can (you can find my number at the bottom of this article) There are of course alternatives to partnership, namely Special Counsel, Legal Director or Consultant and there are pros and cons to all; if you are purely looking for a title and that is it, then it might be worth exploring alternatives such as these as you can still get the same internal/external perception without the additional responsibilities. At most firms, you will also be financially remunerated as that of a partner (particularly at US law firms where the Special Counsel title is held in very high regard). However, if you thrive on the added responsibility, relish the pressures that come with this new-found status and ultimately want to be able to have a significant say in the wider partnership then 100% you should be looking only for a partner title. What I have found historically, that is the lawyers who stay where they are to become a partner purely through loyalty and haven’t considered the points above, then inevitably after a short time, are on the lookout to find the right platform. However, these partners are now in a much more difficult position when it comes to porting over their clients due to covenants (which of course can be negotiated and/or circumvented- that is an article for another day). To surmise, obtaining partnership should only be once you are 100% sure that your current firm is the right place for you to make partner. This will protect you and your clients as they are the most important things to focus on when thinking about partnership.

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60 Seconds with: Matthew Cormack, Partner at Wardhadaway

Posted by Chris Excell

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to make Partner? There is no substitute for hard work and being keen. Make the most of all opportunities during your career. What does Ward Haddaway do well? I think we are very good at putting the client first and service levels. Whether the client is a multinational group or a startup, they get the same care and attention and level of customer service. What is your biggest bugbear about CVs? Overselling. It is quite easy to tell where someone is claiming to have led transactions or projects when they simply didn’t have the experience at that stage of their career. Although everyone should sell themselves in a CV, be careful not to give out the wrong impression, as a CV can say just as much about someone’s character as their experience. How would your team describe you? You would have to ask them! I think everyone in our team gets along well both inside and outside of the office, and we try to get the balance right between working hard and creating a culture where people can enjoy coming into the office. If not in law, what would the dream be? Centre forward for Grimsby Town Football Club, although given their current plight I’m not sure how much longer this will be just a dream! Biggest superstition/fear? I don’t really have any superstitions, I suppose my biggest fear would be complacency. Sometimes it is easy to get into a spell where you are not being challenged enough by what you do, and for me that is key and something I look to do inside and outside of work. What is your morning routine before work? I do quite a lot of marathon running and triathlons, so I am either in the gym or out running. If I’m not training then I’m staying in bed a little bit longer before getting into the office. Skiing or beach? Skiing Who is your hero? It’s hard to pinpoint any one particular person really. I’ve never had celebrity idols, but take inspiration from family and friends and those that have a real influence on my life. What is your life hack/top tip? Grab every opportunity. I think it was Richard Branson who said “If you don’t know whether you can do it, say yes and work out how to do it later”. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

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