2017's top dealmakers: Ashurst's Davies on memorable deals, lawyer egos and a client's £50,000 hotel bill
One of 2017's busiest corporate lawyers on her biggest deals, her penchant for musical redheads and an unusual Chinese cash transaction
Ashurst corporate partner Karen Davies was the most prolific adviser by value on takeovers of UK companies during 2017.
According to data from Mergermarket, she took roles on six takeovers of UK companies worth a combined $17bn (£12.7bn) during the year. Here, she recalls some memorable moments from her career to date.
Why did you become a lawyer? I realised halfway through my A-levels I didn’t really have the stomach for medicine.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My family are tremendously supportive. Simon Beddow and Logan Mair here at Ashurst have always supported me from day one.
What has been the standout deal you’ve worked on in 2017 and why? It has to be Aveva’s £3.5bn reverse merger with Schneider. It was the most complex multi-jurisdictional deal that I have ever worked on and it took us three attempts to get it away. I was also lucky to work with a great team here at Ashurst across practices and offices, which made it great fun.
What’s your proudest professional moment? This year – having had a fantastic run of deals and being voted by my fellow partners to join the Ashurst global board.
…and worst day on the job? Back in the day, probably spending 100 hours a week indexing a data room and people constantly trying to move documents around (which in those days meant manually updating the index and physically having to move documents around in files). Very dull, but important work I was told.
Aside from your own firm, which lawyer do you most admire and why? Former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Vanessa Knapp for her sheer intellectual vigour, ex-Freshfields partner Mark Rawlinson for his silky smooth client skills, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s Adam Signy for his commercial acumen and ability to get a deal done, and Travers Smith’s Philip Cheveley and BLP’s Nathan Willmott for being thoroughly nice guys.
What’s your strongest characteristic… and worst trait? One and the same – impatience to get things done – which you need in M&A to order to be able to drive transactions forward.
What advice would you give to young deal lawyers starting out? Being a technical lawyer is just part of it; you need to take the time to understand your client and their commercial objectives to be a good business developer. Work hard (but pace yourself and learn to use the downtime between deals) and always be a team player.
What’s the best part of your job? No two days are ever the same and you never stop learning. Winning new clients and having the ability to help develop and bring through associates to partnership is also very rewarding.
What most annoys you about the legal profession? Lawyers who fight points for the sake of their own ego and waste their clients’ money and my time in doing so.
What’s the most unusual/shocking request you’ve ever had from a client? Being given £50,000 by my client in renminbi fresh new notes and being asked to pay their hotel bill with my credit card… as the hotel themselves apparently wouldn’t accept that amount of money in cash.
Most memorable deal you ever have worked on and why? The eBay acquisition of Skype. It was the first deal I ran on my own start to finish and being able to spend time with the eBay team in Menlo Park and see first-hand how a tech company operates and thinks was a real privilege.
What is the daftest bit of corporate jargon you’ve heard (and did you smirk)? The phrase ‘having a wash up’, which I heard clients using and I gather means to have a team debrief!
Do you see yourself having a career outside law? No, not for the foreseeable. But one day I envisage spending more time in my garden in the summer and skiing in Colorado in the winter.
What’s your favourite item of clothing? Right now, it would have to be my lamb’s wool windbreaker. Also my favourite item when skiing.
It’s midnight and you’re in the office for the night, where’s your takeaway from? It’s something I try to avoid. I typically start work early and am usually starving by at least 7pm… but it would have to be a nearby sushi.
What are your desert island discs? Beyonce and fellow redhead Ed Sheeran.
Favourite box set(s)? I love my box sets and it would be tough to choose between Homeland, Suits and Peaky Blinders.
What’s your favourite cheese? Parmesan.
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