Slaughter and May chooses next senior partner in surprise move

Head of M&A set to take over in May 2024; firm points to 'long-term decision making' as it overhauls management structure

Roland Turnill Image courtesy of Slaughter and May

UK Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May has elected M&A head Roland Turnill to succeed Steve Cooke as its next senior partner when he steps down in May 2024, marking the latest of a series of leadership changes at the firm.

The news comes hard on the heels of last week's election of Deborah Finkler as the firm’s first-ever managing partner as part of a shake up in the structure of the firm’s executive function that will also see the appointment of a chief operating officer.

The surprise timing of this latest appointment – given a lead time of more than two-and-a-half years before the scheduled handover – was explained by Cooke in a statement today as being “consistent with our approach of long term decision making as we bring in a new management structure over the coming months”.

Cooke was was voted in to the role in January 2016, just four months before taking over from Chris Saul. However, the appointment of yet another M&A heavyweight to the top role is entirely consistent with recent Slaughters practice, Cooke and Saul both being top corporate lawyers.

Turnill, whose clients include Vodafone, Royal Dutch Shell and Prudential, has been at Slaughters since 1996 and was made partner in 2004. He currently serves as head of the firm’s M&A practice and co-head of its financial institutions group and will continue in full time practice until a transition period begins in early 2024.

Cooke said of the decision to appoint Turnill that “the energy and drive he brings to his client relationships and the excellent job that he is doing currently as head of M&A and FIG co-head mean he will bring a wealth of experience when he steps into the senior partner role”.

Turnill added: “It is an honour to have been elected as the firm’s next senior partner and I look forward to stepping into that role in 2024. In the meantime, my priorities are to support Steve and to help to further build and develop the firm’s client relationships.”

His appointment breaks a run of two ground-breaking decisions by Slaughters' Magic Circle rivals to appoint women to the top leadership role. In September last year, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer appointed Asia managing partner Georgia Dawson as its next senior partner, making her the first woman to lead a magic circle firm. Linklaters followed suit in May when it elected the global head of its corporate practice, Aedamar Comiskey, as its new senior partner

Slaughters' appointment of Finkler as managing partner nevertheless continued the dramatic improvement in the gender diversity of the UK Magic Circle's leadership. Meanwhile, the process is underway for Clifford Chance to elect a successor to managing partner Mathew Layton, whose term ends in May 2022, with The Lawyer reporting concerns there may be an all-male line up for the vote.

Last week, Slaughters announced it had signed on to act in partnership with young tech companies by joining a campaign aimed at supporting 50 of the most promising late-stage UK companies in the sector. 

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