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Jonathan Smyth

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Jonathan Smyth

Principal Consultant - Legal

I am a Senior Consultant specialising in the recruitment of lawyers at all levels into private practice, focusing on the London market. My clients range from White Shoe US firms through to Top 20 City practices, as well as national firms and boutique offerings in the West End.


My recruitment career began in 2010 at a major international company in Manchester, before relocating to London in 2012. Over the past 7 years, I have gained a wealth of experience and knowledge in for the Legal sector, working in both internal and agency roles.


Outside of work I can usually be found in the gym, out with friends, or in front of the television if there is football, rugby or any other sports to be watched.


My favourite holiday destination was Rio de Janeiro – totally amazing place. I was in the Sambadrome for the Carnaval parade, I saw Flamengo play in the Maracana, and spent the rest of the time on Copacabana beach.

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What people say about Jonathan

I'm always impressed with the level of service Jonathan gives. When new people join we ask them about their experience of dealing with agencies, a recent new hire commented that​...


Companies Jonathan has worked with

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Working with a range of national firms as they continue to grow their London offering across litigation, corporate, real estate, financial services, employment, and private client. Assisted candidates from NQ through to Partner level in searches for roles within this market. 

Worked with a number of Associates and Partners seeking to re-focus their careers on clients in the media and entertainment industries. Well-networked with the significant players in this market, with an ability to advise candidates of all levels on what to expect when considering a move to a boutique media practice.

Jonathan currently works with a number of Mid-tier City firms who are keen on candidates looking to break away from Circle and US firms and regain a degree of their work/life balance whilst still focusing on high-calibre international work. 


jonathan's articles


January 2019: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the legal sector. Here are the key movements in January: Irwin Mitchell has appointed Simon Owen as its new national head of Banking & Finance. Owen joins from Trowers & Hamlins where he was Head of Real Estate Finance. Angela Savin has ended 14 years at Norton Rose Fulbright, joining KPMG as a Partner in the Tax Disputes and Investigations practice. Fieldfisher has made a headline-grabbing double hire in Real Estate Finance, bringing Iain Thomas and Christian Francis across from DWF. Iain has over 27 years’ experience in Real Estate Finance, having previously been at Mayer Brown, whilst Christian was formerly of DLA Piper. Dorsey & Whitney have made further progress in London with the hire of Partners Helena Nathanson and Paul Reagan from the Restructuring group at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. For more information about this article, or to speak to Jonathan about your recruiting needs or Legal jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 02071235057 or


10 Things You Didn't Know About: Michael Ruck, Partner at UK law firm TLT

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

Michael Ruck is a partner in TLT's financial services team in London. Michael previously spent four and a half years at another City law firm in the corporate crime, investigations and enforcement team and before that spent almost six years working in the FCA's Enforcement and Market Oversight Division. Michael is a highly experienced investigations lawyer. What made you want to become a lawyer? When I started out I wanted to be a criminal defence solicitor as I not only wanted to help those who were wrongly accused but also to help those who often found themselves to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was fortunate enough to be able to do this for almost six years following qualification. What does TLT do well? TLT has a very collegiate and supportive culture that stands out in the market. It's also very good at meeting client needs, whether that's going beyond the call of duty, developing new services or offering an excellent standard of client service. A good example of this is the firm's Future Law initiative, which was announced recently and is designed to drive change more rapidly in the way the firm delivers services and products to clients. The firm has been consistently growing for years and I joined because I was already aware of its leading reputation in the financial services market. What’s your favourite thing about working for TLT? My favourite thing about working at TLT is the supportive culture which extends to supporting our staff, clients and others via our corporate social responsibility activities. What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago on how to shape your career? Ten years ago I had recently joined the enforcement division of the Financial Services Authority (now Financial Conduct Authority) to conduct regulatory and criminal investigations. My advice to myself then would have been to ensure I made the most of the opportunity to work at such a high profile organisation, and to gain as wide a variety of experience as possible, while not being afraid to consider a move to private practice when I had achieved everything I thought possible at the FSA/FCA. When is the right time to start building your network and how is best to achieve this? Networks are important from the very outset of a legal career. I continue to be in contact with people I have met or worked with in previous roles and you never know when you may need someone to assist you or when others will need your advice or support. I believe that the best way to achieve this is to have as wide and varied a network as possible of those people you would want to work with. Who has had the greatest influence on your career? My family have probably had the greatest influence on my career. My family have always supported me and offered guidance on how I could deal with what have sometimes been difficult career decisions. What qualities do you look for in potential candidates hoping to join your team? I look for ambition and a desire to get involved with all aspects of the role, including business development and the nitty gritty of investigations. What do you think will be some of the major changes to the legal profession in the future? While legislation and case law will continue to evolve, many of the major changes likely to impact the legal profession in the future are technological and cultural. The evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and how this can be used will impact numerous aspects of the profession, with firms seeking to utilise and engage with such technological advances to benefit clients. For example, TLT has partnered with a US AI company to launch our product TLT LegalSifter for clients. It completes a contract review in a minute or two, increasing the speed, quality and value of day-to-day contract reviews for businesses and freeing up in-house legal teams to work on more rewarding and value-added tasks. We will also hopefully continue to see an increasingly diverse profession at all levels, bringing new ideas and approaches to how legal advice and support can be provided in the future. How will flexible and agile working impact law firms in the future? Flexible and agile working will hopefully ensure that the diversity of the legal profession continues to increase – by offering the ability for individuals to support clients in a way that makes a variety of working patterns and locations possible. One of the key challenges will be ensuring that all individuals continue to be fully engaged as part of a wider team and firm with the opportunities to maintain and grow their network. How can lawyers and firms ensure they are at the forefront of progress and innovation in the legal market? The main thing is to never stop learning and never stand still. The industry is changing every day as new technologies make new ways of working and servicing clients possible. Lawyers should engage with their firm's transformation programme – like the Future Law initiative at TLT, which encourages everyone to share their ideas for new solutions to client challenges and is supported by a £500k investment fund – and never be afraid to put their ideas forward.


Growth in a flat climate

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

How do law firms plan to achieve meaningful growth targets in an era of what some commentators have described as “near-flat demand” for legal services? As the longest Bull Market since the Second World War continues unabated, the appetite for growth in the London legal market continues to remain at record levels. Firms remain open to interesting propositions on an opportunistic basis that may add new areas to their offering or strengthen their existing presence in core disciplines, as well as forming long-term views regarding key areas (geographical, sector, headcount) as priority areas for strategic growth. Whilst this continued optimism is always positive, scratching the surface of the market’s collective interest in growth raises a fundamental question; with the IMF forecasting an average growth of 2.2% in the Legal industry over the next five years, how do law firms achieve their ambitious targets for meaningful growth in a saturated marketplace without significant increases in levels of demand? Strategy, Message, and Buy-in Achieving the sort of growth targets firms have set will require a bold-faced attitude to hiring, particularly to lateral and team hires. Whilst there are “passing birds” in the market, achieving meaningful growth requires a more focused strategy. These “needle-moving” hires will not come knocking, firms need to be prepared to go out and get them. This requires the creation of a coherent strategy regarding priority areas for growth, and a commitment to proactively secure hires that will make a meaningful impact on headcount, sector presence, revenue, and of course, profit. Firms need to ensure that key internal decision-makers are bought into this process, and effectively “sell” themselves and what they can provide to potential groups of laterals, as a lack of clear direction and message can kill these processes in a heartbeat. Staying on Message When discussing growth, the question that firms often seem to lack a clear answer to is what type of growth they want to achieve? Is the consolidation of key sectors a priority? Addition of further international or regional presence? Or branching out into new areas that will form a more holistic offering to existing clients whilst adding new revenue streams? The reality is that the factors above are rarely mutually exclusive, and any acquisition will normally result at least two of these boxes being ticked. What is most important is that any extraneous factors are considered before conversations have reached too advanced a stage. This again relates to the creation and implementation of a clear strategy, as firms that enter “growth mode” occasionally have a tendency to follow too many rabbits down various burrows, which can result in the initial strategy for growth being lost within the process of adding numbers for numbers’ sake. Growth will come at the expense of competitors Part of formulating any strategy for meaningful growth must include a target list of competitors, and within that, a “wish list” of hires that will positively impact a firm’s growth aspirations. Firms with an appetite for large-scale growth must adopt a ruthless attitude to securing individuals or groups that will make this difference. Any meaningful growth in the current market will be achieved at the expense of competitors, and firms must acknowledge that a methodical, proactive approach that emphasises opportunity to laterals working for peer firms is by far the most effective method of achieving effective results in this respect. Are two firms better than one? As mentioned in the preface of this article, the IMF forecasts an average of 2.2% growth in the UK Legal industry over the next five years, but with one major caveat; a deal on Brexit. A no-deal Brexit halves this figure to 1.1%, further increasing the pressure on growth targets that firms are already feeling in the current market. Without wishing to sound glib, this begs the question that if consolidation and expansion remain on the agenda in the wake of the UK’s impending exit from the EU, particularly with growth forecasts halving in the result of a hard Brexit, would mergers solve the conundrum of consolidation and expansion in one fell swoop? Whilst a considerable number of firms have remained open to the possibility of merging under the right circumstances, a number of conversations that we have had with firms regarding active interest in merger partners show that attitudes to this sort of opportunity have increasingly begun to turn from passive to active in the last six months. This shift makes sense given both the market-wide appetite for growth and the intention of covering bases in the event of a period of uncertainty following March 2019. Mergers that can provide consolidation in key sectors and further enhance relationships with major clients also provide immediate meaningful growth across all key measurables including headcount, revenue, national and international reach, and internal network. This is said in the safe and certain knowledge that a) mergers are not easy processes to complete and b) mergers are also something of a nuclear option in terms of growth, however, the point remains that in terms of achieving meaningful growth, a merger partner may be an extremely effective option.


How firms with “fee-splitting” structures have made inroads into the London market

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

The Legal Industry is often maligned for its perceived reluctance to embrace change. Take the career path of a lawyer for instance, once a simple (if sometimes long) process from training to qualification, associate to senior associate, and finally, senior associate to partner, this well-trodden path was widely accepted as the lot of a private practice solicitor. The Legal Industry’s attempts to modernise itself through the use of AI, agile working, and technology, left the traditional career structure largely untouched, with partnership at a traditional law firm still being seen as the ultimate achievement in private practice. Firms with non-traditional structures, such as those that employed “fee-sharing” models, were largely seen as either high-risk unknown quantities or high-pressure environments that relied solely on an “eat what you kill” ethos. Attitudes towards innovation in the legal sector rarely change overnight, and the inception of these modern structures (driven partly by the Legal Services Act of 2007) were somewhat maligned by traditionalists as being unsustainable models for long-term growth. To their credit, the fee-sharing firms have worked hard to change perceptions in the market and, judging by the ever-increasing level of interest expressed by senior individuals in these models, they appear to have succeeded. So what is it about these non-traditional structures that appeal to lawyers? Why would a senior individual with an established client base want to make the move to a firm like this? And what can the firm offer in return? The answer is surprisingly simple; because they offer exactly what they say they do, an alternative to the traditional law firm environment. The traditional law firm structure comes with a myriad of complex issues that can affect an individual’s progression, remuneration, and happiness within their role. Firm-wide strategy, internal politics, sector focuses, and attitudes to charge-out rates can all affect an individual’s business case for partnership and position within a practice. Those who find themselves frustrated by these issues and want more autonomy over their practice and how they approach their clients may be better served within a fee-sharing environment. Remuneration is also a factor for some individuals when considering their position in a traditional firm versus a fee-sharing environment. Take the example of Lawyer A being paid £80,000 at a traditional practice whilst generating £250,000 of work per year and transport their practice into a fee-sharing environment where 50% of fees are passed to them as remuneration. Lawyer A now earns £125,000, a £45,000 increase in remuneration in very short order. It should also be pointed out that 50% is a conservative figure and several firms with fee-sharing models offer significantly higher percentages to their lawyers. There is a perception in the market that firms with fee-sharing models are siloed and not collaborative in their approach, however cross-referrals of work between lawyers at these firms is very common, particularly as a significant number of the remuneration models will also include bonuses for work brought in and passed to other individuals within the practice, making it mutually beneficial for referrals to be made. Fee-sharing firms have also made significant investments in marketing and secretarial functions, as well as beginning to take on salaried associates in some cases, in order to combat the perception that the support offered to lawyers who work there is minimal. It is, of course, worth mentioning that, whilst fee-sharing models are clearly making headway in the London market, they are not necessarily for everyone. Lawyers must be confident in their ability to transport their clients and work to a new firm, as remuneration paid in line with billings is only of benefit if one is actually billing. For that reason, these models are unlikely to appeal to the more conservative individuals in the market. It is also worth mentioning that, whilst fee-sharing firms have made significant strides in the level of support that they provide to their lawyers, these may not always resemble the traditional models that some individuals may be used to. An adjustment period is to be expected, but those favouring significant associate and administrative support may be less enthusiastic about the prospect of joining a fee-sharing practice. Whilst it is not our intent to extol the virtues of the fee-sharing model over the traditional law firm or vice-versa, for those considering the future of their career and wondering whether the traditional private practice model is the right platform for their client base, it is comforting to know that other models exist and that they have made rapid progress in becoming genuine alternatives to the traditional model.


June 2018: Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Kerry Price

Freshfields has announced the addition of a patent litigation team in London. The team, which consists of Partner Dr Christopher Stothers, Counsel Laura Whiting, and associates Paul Abbott and Ammina Rao, join from Arnold & Porter and will work closely alongside the firm’s established patent litigation teams in Germany and the Netherlands. DLA Piper has announced that Martin Nelson-Jones will be joining the firm as a Partners in its corporate practice. He will be joining from Freshfields, specialising in M&A. Nick Lliff has joined Shoosmiths in London from Gowling WLG as a project and real estate finance specialist in their Banking & Finance team. Having also spent time at Pinsent Masons and DLA Piper, Lliff had advised a wide variety of lenders, borrowers and public bodies on the financing of infrastructure, energy and min projects for more than two decades. Ali Iftikhar joins DWF’s London office as an insurance partner from Simmons & Simmons. Joining the team will specialise in liability, cover and comparative law with a focus on complex high-value work.


The Megabucks Return: What 2018 salary increases at US Firms mean for the London market

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

With September fast approaching, trainees qualifying in the 2018 Autumn intake are raising their collective eyebrows at the remarkable amounts of money now being offered by US Firms in London. With several firms announcing their increases so far, the upward trend is clear for all to see. Cravath set the tone with a 2018 NQ rate of £143,000 equivalent, followed swiftly by a host of compatriot firms including Skadden, Akin Gump. Kirkland, Davis Polk, Weil, and Milbank. This is likely to create a trickle-down effect, with Quinn Emanuel already raising NQ salaries by 9% to £125,000 in order to try and keep pace with the upper echelons of the market. With all the headline-grabbing amounts of money being that are now in play for associates at US Firms as a result of these increases, it does beg the question; what do these figures mean for talent attraction in the wider London market? The ‘Talent War’ is rapidly heating up – With demand for high-calibre lawyers far outstripping current supply levels, firms are doing all they can to ensure that they are best place to snag the best individuals available in the market. Lawyers working Magic or Silver Circle hours would be hard-pressed, even if not actively looking, not to consider the financial rewards on offer at US Firms, particularly as these outfits continue to challenge the established order and win more and more work from the traditional London elite. Associates are beginning to rediscover their worth in the market, and as such know that they can afford to be picky when it comes to the opportunities that they explore. There is less fear when asking for further financial incentives, such as sign-on bonuses, and the firms that are prepared to pay these will find that, more often than not, they secure more talent, particularly when salaries are similar across the board at Premier US offerings. The Circle firms face a choice Over the last two years, Magic Circle firms have grabbed a few headlines of their own with sizeable salary increases for associates. Cutely done, these increases factored in bonuses as part of the overall figure, and brought lawyers at these practice at least closer to their counterparts at US Firms. Attracting talent at the junior end of the market has never been an issue for Circle firms, but retention may become more of an issue as the talent war increases, particularly given that many junior and mid-level associates are increasingly questioning the logic of continuing to work US-level hours for Magic Circle money. The increases so far in 2018 mean that Circle firms will either have to up their game again financially, or emphasise what is generally considered to be their main point of advantage over US competitors, the strength of their structure, training, and development of junior lawyers. If Circle firms aren’t going to do what they can to bring associates closer to the rates now on offer at US firms, they must at least continue to invest in their training and development programmes in order to retain their own talent. Mid-tiers and Boutiques need to emphasise their USPs Mid-tier and Boutique practices have historically traded on work-life balance as a primary selling point when attracting talent from larger practices, however this is becoming harder and harder to do when faced with further increases at the upper end of the market. These practices will need to become more adept (if they are not already doing so) at selling their wider USPs to prospective candidates. Those with a strong reputation in a particular sector will need to put this front and centre when attracting talent, providing a clear career-related reason for associates to consider their offering. Those that, for instance, attract good levels of work from start-up clients that may not attract the attention of larger firms, should be able to provide candidates with proof of their experience in acting for these clients. Those that pride themselves on progression opportunities and transparent rewards for high-achievers (such as percentage-based bonuses for hours/figures billed) need to show tangible examples of how this works in practice, and what associates can realistically expect with regard to the future of their career and the impact that merit-related bonuses can have on their take-home pay.


May 2018 : Legal Movers & Shakers

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

Cooley has strengthened its Global Tax Team with the appointment of David Wilson, formerly a partner in Paul Hastings London office. David brings with him a stellar reputation for Corporate Tax work, particularly in relation to complex cross-border transactions. His appointment adds to the already highly-regarded London Tax practice at Cooley. Linklaters M&A partner Roger Barron, one of the Firm’s Corporate heavyweights, has joined Paul Hastings. He brings with him a superb reputation and profile for M&A work, having acted predominantly for blue-chip clients. This appointment further underlines Paul Hastings commitment to the growth of its London M&A practice. Mishcon’s Andrij Jurkiw has joined Womble Bond Dickinson as Head of Competition. Andrij’s experience covers both contentious and non-contentious UK & EU Competition work, particularly in relation to the FMCG, food, building materials, basic chemicals, recruitment, pharma, real estate, technology and transport sectors. RPC has appointed Paul Joukadour as a partner in its IP, Technology and Media Group in London. Joukadour joins from Hogan Lovells, bringing with him a particularly strong skill set in relation to cross-border supply agreements, outsourcing, critical services and distribution structures.


7 Tips for Trainees Approaching Qualification

Posted by Jonathan Smyth

Writing this article in May, September seems like a distant dot on the horizon. In reality, only sixteen weeks remain for the Autumn trainee intake of 2016 before qualification. With all of the pressures facing trainees, the temptation to push the idea of where to start your post-qualified career to the back of your mind is understandable, however experience suggests that the “NQ season” has a habit of sneaking up on us and that addressing your situation early usually leads to better results in September. With that in mind, we at Pro-Legal have produced the following tips for trainees who are about to embark on one of the pivotal periods of their career. 1. Decide what you want to do Are you happiest advising on premium M&A deals? Litigating? Or was Private Client the seat that you enjoyed most? Whatever the answer to this question is, deciding on what you want your post-qualified specialism to be informs every other aspect of the process. Some trainees have a clear idea of what they want to specialise in on qualification, others are less sure, but prioritising the area(s) that you are keen to move into is key to creating a plan of action for both internal and external NQ opportunities that arise. If you are unsure about your external marketability in certain areas, meeting with a recruiter to obtain an overview of the market is always a useful first step. Similarly, discussing the current trends in your chosen disciplines can also help inform you as to what the likelihood is that there will be opportunities in this area in the run-up to September. If you feel that these conversations lead to you thinking more about external opportunities than internal roles, it may be time to commit to leaving. Be honest with your recruiter and yourself about this - are you genuinely keen to move into a fresh situation post-qualification? Or are you testing the waters out of curiosity? Once that question has been answered, deciding on which recruiter(s) to work with is the next logical step. 2. Work with a recruiter you feel you can trust The London market is teeming with legal recruiters, so picking the right one or two to work with can be a tricky decision. Choosing a recruiter who you feel understands your needs is crucial. You should feel able to trust your recruiter to be honest with you and also with their clients when it comes to discussing your experience and requirements. Check out our article on the best way to choose a legal recruiter to help you decide on the one that is right for you. 3. Create a CV Given that almost two years have elapsed since you previously prepared a CV, and considering the amount of experience gained in a relatively short space of time, utilising your recruiter’s knowledge and experience to create an effective NQ CV should be priority number one. Your recruiter will be able to help you avoid the pitfalls associated with this in order to create a clear, concise, and well-presented document that maximises your chances of securing interviews. Make sure that your CV emphasises your experience in the discipline that you are applying for. Include tangible examples of the work done during your seat(s) in this area and include as much detail as possible. The common myth regarding NQ CVs is that they should be no more than two pages, which is outdated and wrong. Your CV should be as long as it needs to be to include all information that is relevant to the role that you are considering. If you are struggling to decide what to put in or leave out, talk to your recruiter and ask their opinion. Remember that your recruiter sees dozens of CVs on a weekly basis, and knows their clients’ requirements, so asking for help in deciding is the logical thing to do in this situation. Remember that once a CV is sent for a role, the implicit understanding is that partners can ask about anything included in the document. Do not oversell and try to impress by putting matters/transactions on the CV if you are not going to be able to discuss these confidently at interview. Similarly, be aware that if you and one of your interviewers share a similar interest outside of work, they may ask you about this in order to get a better idea of your personality. You should, therefore, assess all areas of your CV with the same rigorous approach. If you can have a confident conversation about it put it on, if not then leave it off. 4. Decide on a POA and target your approaches accordingly Once the CV is created, discussing the type of firms that would best fit your experience and requirements with your recruiter will help to create a target list of potential employers that are likely to appeal. Your recruiter can make anonymous enquiries at these firms to establish their level of interest in external NQs, tailoring the approach to fit the agreed POA. Being proactive in this sense will afford you the greatest degree of visibility on potential openings at your target list of firms, whilst also keeping your powder dry in the way that firing off a CV in a scattergun approach will not. Always ensure that you give written consent (e-mail is fine) for your recruiter to submit your CV to any potential or active openings and keep a record of the firms that have been approached on your behalf. It is also worth keeping a record of who has submitted the CV to a particular firm if you are working with more than one recruiter. This will avoid any unnecessary duplication, which can lead to issues. 5. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail (at interview) Preparation for an interview is key when applying for an external role. In addition to the overview of the interview format that your recruiter can help you with, the onus is on you to ensure that you are as well prepared as possible for each particular meeting that is arranged. We've devised a useful guide to preparing yourself as effectively as possible in order to succeed at interview. 6. Manage your offers sensibly Always keep your recruiter informed of how your other processes (internal or external) are progressing. The more knowledge your recruiter has, the more effectively they can manage yours and the client’s expectations. Timeframes are not set in stone and some processes will advance more quickly than others, but by keeping the lines of communication open throughout the process you will ensure that there should be no unpleasant surprises at any point. Ensure that you are aware of what the likely salary is for each role. NQ salaries are fairly well-publicised at City and International/US firms, so a Google search will provide you with the information you need on this front. It is not uncommon for NQs to hold multiple offers in the run-up to qualification, whether these be a number of external opportunities or a combination of internal and external offers. Managing your offers is a potentially tricky business, as the temptation to allow newly released opportunities to affect existing offers can lead to uncomfortable situations. Avoid complications by assessing each new opportunity that arises in the following way: Is it a firm that was on your initial wishlist? Is this opportunity better than the offers you currently hold? Can you justify affecting your relationships with firms that have already made you an offer in order to enter a new process? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it may be worth making a further application. If not, it is probably better to focus on the bird in the hand. 7. Enjoy your success! You’ve qualified! And in a significant number of cases with an exciting new firm and role to look forward to. Take the time to enjoy that before moving on to the next chapter of your career, and do keep in touch with your recruiter from time to time, as we are always happy to lend a hand with advice on the market and any other queries you may have. Find out more about how Jonathan Smyth can help with your recruitment needs by contacting him on +44 (0)20 7123 5057