Partners at law firm Ashurst have elected London corporate heavyweight Karen Davies as their first female chair.
Davies, the firm’s UK head of corporate, will take up her four-year term on 1 August, succeeding Ben Tidswell who is leaving the firm to chair the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal.
“It’s fantastic, I love Ashurst and it’s a real honour and privilege to be chair and to be the first female in that role,” Davies told Financial News.
READ Meet the 20 Most Influential in Legal Services 2021
Davies is one of a string of female partners who have been elected to top roles at leading City firms recently, with Freshfields appointing Georgia Dawson as its first female senior partner in January and Linklaters electing Aedamar Comiskey as its first female senior partner earlier this month.
Davies and Comiskey were both recognised in FN’s inaugural 20 Most Influential in Legal Services list, which was published in April in advance of their promotions to top management roles at their respective firms.
“On the diversity front we have made huge strides. Everyone has. It’s good to see so many women in management at Ashurst and there are more and more female partners coming through. It’s a fantastic story and we are seeing that across the City as well,” Davies said.
Davies said her “catchphrase” during the election process was: “An unrelenting focus on our people, clients and culture”.
READ Linklaters’ new senior partner Aedamar Comiskey faces battle to reform pay, insiders say
“Our people have been through a really tough time over the last year, so we need to make sure we look after our people and give them the best environment to succeed and thrive,” she said.
The firm’s US strategy will also be a key issue during Davies’ term. Ashurst held merger talks with US firms Latham & Watkins and Fried Frank before its eventual tie-up with Australian firm Blakes in 2012.
Building on its successful infrastructure-focused practice in the US remains an unresolved issue for the firm.
“The US is a strategic issue for all firms at the moment, it’s on everyone’s agenda,” Davies said.
When asked if a merger with a US law firm could be on the cards, Davies did not rule it out.
READ ‘Progress is painfully slow’ – Can the Magic Circle law firms fix their stark gender imbalance?
“It’s a matter of evaluating all the opportunities available,” she said. “In the last year and a half with Covid, everyone has been bunkering down looking after their own clients and their own shop. It’s for us to look at the opportunities out there when the world opens up and starts travelling again.”
Davies will continue with her deals practice alongside her role as chair of the firm. The prolific M&A lawyer’s recent deals include advising software firm Aveva on its $5bn acquisition of OSIsoft last year, and its £2.8bn rights issue to help fund the deal.
She will lead the firm alongside the firm’s Sydney-based managing partner Paul Jenkins.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth