Dentons has made the rare move of bringing in a nonlawyer for a senior leadership role, having hired Royal Bank of Scotland shared operations director Lisa Sewell as its new U.K. and Middle East managing director.
She is replacing U.K. managing partner Brandon Ransley, who retired from the firm’s partnership earlier this year.
Sewell has spent the last 18 months as director of shared operations at RBS, leading a global team of 7,500 across the U.K., India and Poland. Before that, she was head of bankwide simplification.
That role saw her lead the “product, process and organizational simplification of bank-wide services” at RBS, according to her LinkedIn profile.
RBS is one of Dentons’ key clients, and the firm holds a place on the bank’s legal panel, which is set to be reviewed later this year.
Sewell also previously ran her own consulting business. Before that she held roles at Lehman Mortgage Capital, a division of Lehman Brothers, and Cable & Wireless.
On her experience in driving efficiency at RBS, Sewell told Legal Week: “My experience of coming from a big corporate is being able to respond quickly to client needs as they develop, and that you need to be the most efficient operator to be able to do that. What I saw in Dentons is a firm that works in partnership with clients. There is more than just efficiencies to think about in terms of the overall growth agenda here, but driving efficiencies is part of fulfilling the strategy.”
Dentons U.K. and Middle East CEO Jeremy Cohen emphasized that Sewell is very much Ransley’s successor but has a different title because she does not have a legal background and is not a partner.
“But the role in terms of management is the same,” he said. “We decided this time to look externally as well as internally for someone with the background we required and that would work well in a partnership structure, and Lisa was the standout candidate.”
Cohen noted that she brings to the table professional management skills and experience in simplifying businesses and making them more efficient, “including digitization and the smarter use of technology.”
Ransley, who previously led the firm’s London corporate practice, has held the role since 2010. He joined Dentons in 2008 from the domestic firm Howes Percival and led the firm’s Milton Keynes office before becoming U.K. managing partner.
He retired from the partnership at the end of April but will remain at the firm as a special adviser on strategic projects.
Dentons has been pushing forward with a program of seemingly relentless expansion around the world in recent months, including a merger with Scotland’s Maclay Murray & Spens last year.
In March it announced it is set to combine with seven firms across Africa, Mauritius, the Caribbean, Indonesia and Malaysia, and last month it announced a tie-up with Hawaii practice Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.