Top 50 law firm Penningtons Manches Cooper has announced that its CEO David Raine is to step down in October this year and will be succeeded by Helen Drayton, head of the business services division and a current member of the firm’s managing board.
Over the next six months, a planned transition period will see David – who assumed the position of chief executive following the merger between Penningtons and Manches in 2013, and was previously Penningtons’ managing partner from 2008 – confer overall responsibility for the firm’s management, and the development and implementation of its strategy, to Helen. David will remain at the firm, providing strategic support and maintaining a special focus on the firm’s sustainability agenda.
During the course of David’s leadership the firm has transformed significantly. Solid organic growth, alongside a number of strategic mergers, has seen turnover increase by almost 400%. Intertwined with this growth has been the focussed move towards more complex and sophisticated instructions, particularly disputes-based work – contentious matters now account for more than 50% of fee income – and the shift from a primarily domestic, regionally-focused practice to one that has an increasingly international outlook and footprint. To support its commercial evolution, the firm has at the same time invested considerable resources into new technologies and specialist business support staff to build a more sophisticated infrastructure that reflects its ambitions as a modern business.
Helen, a corporate lawyer who joined the firm in 2012, was identified as David’s successor following a selection process that shortlisted a number of high performing candidates. As part of the firm’s development programme, she joined the management board and worked closely with David and other board members on a range of strategic projects, as well as taking an active role on the ongoing expansion of the international offices.
Prior to joining the management board, she played a key role in the firm’s corporate, banking and finance practice and has been a central member of the Cambridge office. She currently works out of both London and Cambridge and will continue to do so, in conjunction with agile working - reflecting the firm’s hybrid working policy.
Commenting on the announcement, David said: “It might seem easy to say, but the firm is in a great place at the moment. The strategy we have developed and implemented has engaged our teams and fostered a strong sense of common purpose and excitement about what we can achieve in the future. For me it was really important that I handed over at the right time, in the right way, and to the right person. I’m very happy to say that all those criteria are being met as we move forward into this transition phase.
“It has been fantastic to work so closely with Helen. There is no doubt that she will be an ambitious leader: someone who combines a sharp, curious mind with a highly practical commercial outlook, and a down-to-earth approach to management; she epitomises the firm’s values. A purposeful handover now will ensure Helen can continue to build on everything we have achieved and allow strategy and implementation to continue at pace.”
Helen said: “I am incredibly proud to be taking over from David. His calm, team-oriented approach can make it easy to forget the degree of change he has overseen; particularly in the ten years that I’ve been here. It’s a great juncture at which to be taking on the chief executive role: there are so many good things going on across the business – complex, interesting work for some exciting clients both old and new; fantastic new colleagues who have actively chosen to join us; and great programmes in place to support diversity, inclusion and wellbeing, to name but a few.”
She added: “While it’s important to reflect on and celebrate our successes, I’m also very much focused on momentum and ensuring that we keep moving forward. A firm like ours – particularly when you consider the breadth of our practice areas and our place in the legal services market – cannot afford to stand still. We’ve built a robust and resilient business, with the right structures and mechanisms in place for the next stage of strategic development, and I can’t wait to engage and work with colleagues across the firm going forwards.”
David concluded: “Over the course of the last 15 years many things have changed, but one key element has been constant – a great team of partners and colleagues across the firm and a strong management team, which has provided stability, consistency, resilience, and a sense of shared excitement about the future. I am delighted that this remains the case as we move forward under Helen’s leadership.”