HFW names global aviation head as next senior partner

Giles Kavanagh set to take over from long-serving senior partner Richard Crump in April

Incoming senior partner Giles Kavanagh Image courtesy of HFW

Giles Kavanagh, the head of HFW’s aviation practice, is to succeed Richard Crump as the firm’s senior partner.

Kavanagh will take over from Crump, who has led HFW through a 15-year period of growth in terms of footprint, headcount and revenue, at the beginning of April. 

A long-term member of HFW’s management board, Kavanagh will continue to serve as the firm’s sustainability partner but will step down as head of the aviation practice, which he has led since 2011 when he moved his team over from legacy firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG).

Kavanagh is the second legacy BLG partner to become senior partner of a leading law firm, with former colleague Simon Konsta having served as both senior partner of BLG and Clyde & Co.

Kavanagh is considered one of London’s go-to aviation disputes lawyers, alongside contemporaries like Julian Acratopulo of Clifford Chance and Patrick Farrell and Robin Springthorpe of Norton Rose Fulbright.

His ability to span disputes, regulation and the intricacies of aviation and finance, especially during the global financial crisis and the pandemic, saw him manage client relationships with manufacturers, flag carriers and major insurers.

HFW has expanded considerably under Crump’s 15 years at the helm, growing its footprint worldwide and broadening its focus from its traditional areas of shipping and insurance to become a full-service law firm that values transactions as highly as it does disputes, with a clearer brand and sharper messaging.

The firm, which last year reported its revenue had hit the £200m mark for the first time, has made a concerted effort to build its presence in the Middle East and having opened in Dubai in 2006 announced associations with local law firms in Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in 2015. The firm then marked its 20th office worldwide when it launched in Abu Dhabi in 2018, though it has since ended its association with Lebanese firm El-Khoury & Partners and no longer has an on-the-ground presence in the country.  

The firm has also bulked up its presence in Australia, adding offices in Perth and Sydney to its older base in Melbourne, and became the second international law firm to secure an alliance in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone when it announced a formal association with local shipping boutique Wintell & Co in 2016. Three years later the firm hired a team from Squire Patton Boggs to open its own Shanghai practice and has also added to its team in Hong Kong, one of its oldest overseas locations.

While its US ambitions have been arguably more modest than rivals like Clyde & Co or Kennedys, the firm merged with Houston-based Legge Farrow Kimmitt, McGrath & Brown in 2017 and has carefully built up its strengths in the US, as well as more recently in Latin America.

Crump himself committed to that global outlook having relocated full-time in Singapore since 2014, one of the few UK senior partners to do so.

The Global Legal Post understands Crump will remain at HFW as a consultant, acting as a sounding board for Kavanagh and managing partner, Jeremy Shebson, but will play no role in management beyond this.

Shebson thanked Crump for this “immense contribution to the firm as senior partner over the past 15 years”, while Kavanagh said HFW had “changed significantly, branching out from our roots as a shipping firm to establish a multi-sector focus” alongside the firm’s expanded international network.

He said: "I am looking forward to working with Jeremy and the board to continue to strengthen and grow our business – across all of our sectors, services and offices – and to make sure that we continue to meet the changing needs of our clients in order to provide them with the best possible service.

"The legal market is more competitive than ever, but I believe that, working with our clients and the talent we're fortunate to have at the firm, we can together build a bold, bright future for HFW."


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