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Allen & Overy LLP's 'experienced and highly responsive' team is 'focused on delivering solutions rather than highlighting problems' and handles the full spectrum of share scheme issues with notable expertise in the finance sector, advising on executive incentives and assisting with global share scheme work. The 'pragmatic and commercial' Paul McCarthy leads the department and has substantial experience in share plan issues arising from corporate transactions; he is advising 21st Century Fox on the incentives elements of its proposed acquisition of the remaining stake in BSkyB and assisted Imperial Brands with the share aspects of its acquisition of Nerudia. Senior associate Louise Batty is also recommended and regularly handles cross-border share plan arrangements.

Sonia Gilbert leads the 'always impressive' department at Clifford Chance LLP, which is 'technically strong, incredibly capable and in Gilbert has one of the best experts in the employee share scheme world'. Clients also praise Gilbert 'for her calmness and togetherness when all hell is breaking loose' and 'level-headed and practical approach' that 'inspires great confidence'. The department advises on high-profile transactions and advisory work. Clients include Technip, which it advised on the remuneration elements of its merger with FMC Technologies; Sensata Technologies, which it assisted with its entrance into the UK market including its directors' remuneration regime; and Booker, which advised on the share option aspect of its £3.9bn merger with Tesco. Comcast, HSBC and Wells Fargo are also examples. Senior associate Becky Moore is recommended for global incentives work. Liz Pierson joined Squire Patton Boggs.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP's 'absolutely fabulous' department has 'unparalleled experience' with 'excellent industry knowledge and a professional approach that separates it out in the market'. The team handles the full range of share plan and incentives work including transactional support and regulatory issues. Recent highlights include advising Sky on the share elements of its proposed acquisition by 21st Century Fox, acting for Millenium and Copthorne Hotels on the incentives aspects of a cash offer by its controlling shareholder, and assisting the Bank of Montreal with the implementation of a pan-European deferred compensation plan. Other clients include British American Tobacco, The Berkeley Group and Hammerson. The 'pragmatic, decisive and experienced' Paul Ellerman leads the group, which also fields the 'outstanding' Mark Ife, who is 'one of the leading lawyers in the field', and senior associate Bradley Richardson, who is 'approachable, supportive and practical'.

Linklaters LLP's 'excellent' department is noted for its global share plans expertise, with recent highlights including advising Unilever on the share elements of the sale of its global spreads business, and assisting with the incentives aspects of Old Mutual's separation into three separately listed businesses based internationally. BAE Systems, Vodafone and Lloyds Banking Group are also clients. Alexandra Beidas leads the group and regularly advises financial institutions on remuneration issues; she also acted for Aldermore Group on the share elements of its acquisition by First Rand Bank and worked with managing associate Cara Hegarty to develop management incentives arrangements for Rothesay Holdco UK following its buyout of an investor's stake. Gillian Chapman retired in 2017.

Slaughter and May's 'knowledge, client service, responsiveness and ability to cut through complex issues is outstanding' thanks in part to the 'brilliant leadership' of Jonathan Fenn. The department has substantial experience advising on the employee incentives aspects of corporate transactions; recent examples include acting for Standard Life on the incentives aspects of its merger with Aberdeen Asset Management and assisting Market Tech Holdings with the share plan elements of its acquisition by LabTech Investments. Fenn also advised Segro on the incentives aspects of a rights issue and newly promoted partner Phil Linnard handled the establishment of a growth share scheme for a digital advisory company. Other clients include Ocado Group, Centrica and Michael Kors Holdings. Padraig Cronin joined the team from the firm's corporate department and Philip Bennett retired.

Tapestry Compliance LLP is 'easily the most specialised firm in the field' and 'provides a very professional, high-quality and responsive service that really takes the time to get to know the intricacies of its clients and their remuneration arrangements'. Practice co-head Janet Cooper is 'recognised as a market leader, not only in terms of her understanding but also her ability to apply that knowledge practically' and co-head Bob Grayson receives praise as 'an experienced expert who can always be relied on'. Recent highlight include legal director Hannah Needle advising Worldpay Group on its global tax advantage plans, Grayson handling Credit Suisse's international employee incentive awards and also assisting Sage with the implementation of a new global share plan. The practice also gained multiple new clients including Fujitsu, Skyscanner and Rentokil.

Baker McKenzie fields a 'knowledgeable and friendly team' that includes 'true subject matter experts' who are 'professional, responsive, proactive, organised and an absolute pleasure to work with'. The department handles the full spectrum of share scheme work including international share plans, senior executive remuneration work and tax advice. In a recent highlight the group assisted Prudential with the launch of its global share plan; the team also acted for DS Smith on the review and launch of its international executive share plans and advised Accenture on the incentive elements of multiple acquisitions. Jeremy Edwards heads up the team and 'provides pragmatic solutions in an easy-to-understand format'; other key individuals include Stephen Ratcliffe and associate Gillian Murdoch, who is 'a high-quality lawyer in her approach, professionalism and technical knowledge'.

CMS fields 'a team of excellent lawyers' which is noted for its 'good technical advice and truly pragmatic approach'. Nicholas Stretch, Graham Muir, Andrew Quayle, and of counsel Catherine Merry (who is 'a star for commercial and practical advice') jointly lead the team. Recent highlights include Stretch advising Savills on amendments to its employee benefit trust terms, Muir assisting Euromoney Institutional Investor with the incentive elements of its acquisition of Tower Xchange and Quayle acting for euNetworks on the share scheme aspects of its cross-border merger with Stonepeak. Other clients include Bioquell, Braemar Shipping Services, Cineworld Group and ITV.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP handles the full range of incentives work including plan implementation and design, corporate governance issues, disputes and global share plans. The team includes Alice Greenwell, who handles the share scheme elements of corporate transactions and the creation of share plans, and Nicholas Squire, who covers contentious and non-contentious mandates. Simon Evans retired.

Hogan Lovells International LLP's team is 'easy to work with, highly responsive and good under pressure'. 'Absolutely superb' department head Paul Randall advised Paysafe Group on the share scheme elements of its takeover by a consortium led by CVC and Blackstone, acted for Sepura on the incentive aspects of its takeover by Hytera and assisted Lloyds Banking Group and Scottish Widows with the share components of the acquisition of Zurich's UK workplace pensions and savings business. Counsel Kiran Khetia advised Trinity Mirror on the renewal of its restricted share plan. Counsel Tamsin Nicholds handles corporate governance issues. Axa, Coca Cola, 21st Century Fox and Shaftesbury are also clients.

Travers Smith LLP 'performs at a very high level'. The practice covers the full range of work in this area, from designing and implementing incentive arrangements to providing transactional support and handling advisory work. Mahesh Varia leads the department; he recently advised Micro Focus International on the incentives component of its merger with HPE Software, acted for Shazam Entertainment on the share elements of its acquisition by Apple and assisted Rockwell Collins with the implications of its merger with United Technologies on its share incentive plan. Senior counsel Elissavet Grout and associate Kevin Donegan are also names to note; they acted for Vantiv on the share scheme issues involved in its merger with Worldpay Group.

Mathew Gorringe leads the national team at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP from its Leeds office, with clients also singling out London team head Danny Blum as 'a truly outstanding lawyer with unmatched client service and commerciality and exceptional technical expertise'. The team has notable experience advising on the implementation of international incentive arrangements; Gorringe recently assisted PPD Global with an offer to its employees across 21 jurisdictions, while Blum acted for Shell on the share scheme elements of its acquisition of First Utility and also handled the incentive aspects of Altrad Investment Authority's acquisition of Cape.

At Fieldfisher, Graeme Nuttall's 'focus, energy and drive on all things employee ownership is really quite remarkable' and 'places him as the go-to name in this niche space'. His recent work includes advising Allford Hall Monaghan Morris on the sale of a majority stake to its employee ownership trust and assisting Beta Valve Systems with the transfer of its entire share capital to an employee ownership trust. Mark Gearing and corporate partner Neil Palmer are also key practitioners in the department; Gearing acted for Haydale Graphene Industries on the establishment of a new management incentive plan and Palmer handled Erith Group's transition to an employee ownership trust. BBC Worldwide, Care and Share Associates and Echo Energy are also clients.

Norton Rose Fulbright 'stands out as a highly creative, dynamic and client-centric firm' that handles the full spectrum of share scheme issues encompassing international incentive arrangements and share scheme implementation. Team head Matthew Findley is an 'invaluable resource' for clients providing 'quick and insightful advice when it is most needed'. Findley's recent work includes advising Deliveroo on its UK and global employee incentivisation programmes, assisting IMI with its international share plan and executive remuneration matters, and handling the share scheme elements of SNC Lavalin's acquisition of WS Atkins. Clients also single out senior associate Ann Moseley, who is 'absolutely outstanding and provides a great all-round service'.

Pinsent Masons LLP is 'a joy to work with due to its understanding of the industry, pragmatism and commerciality'. Lynette Jacobs heads up the department and is 'considered by some to be a key figure in the field' and is 'a genuine joy to work with'; and legal director Suzannah Crookes is 'an excellent lawyer who knows her stuff and has a very practical and commercial approach'. The group's corporate and advisory work spans international share plans, transactional advice and corporate governance issues. Clients include Imperial Brands and Halfords Group; Jacobs and Crookes assisted the latter with the introduction of its restricted share plan. Other work includes advising IP Group on the incentive elements of its hostile takeover of Touchstone Innovations and acting for Beeks Financial Cloud Group on the share plan components of its AIM admission.

Simmons & Simmons' 'extremely good' department is led by Ian Fraser and specialises in the financial services sector; clients include Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Marex Financial. Fraser recently acted for Invesco on the incentive aspects of its $500m acquisition of Source; he also assisted Principal Global Investors with the share scheme elements of its acquisition of Internos Global Investors and advised NM Rothschild & Sons on the structuring and implementation of a global partner and employee profit share arrangement. Managing associate Tair Hussain is also recommended; he is active in structuring remuneration arrangements and remuneration reporting and disclosure issues.

White & Case LLP's strength in the technology and financial services sectors 'remains strong' with a client base including RBS, Avast Software and UBS. Recent mandates include advising Brammer on the incentives aspects of its acquisition by Advent International, acting for the Smithfield Group on the incentive components of its sale of Innovia to CCL Industries and assisting Franklin Templeton Investments with its international share incentive plans. Department head Nicholas Greenacre is 'an excellent team member'; other key individuals include senior associate Helen Levendi, who is active in the private equity and technology spaces; and consultant Euan Fergusson.

Noted for its 'good technical knowledge and excellent industry experience', Addleshaw Goddard's expertise encompasses advisory work, corporate support, corporate governance and disclosure obligations, remuneration policies and international  share plan issues. Group head Jonathan Fletcher Rogers is 'an obvious choice for pragmatic solutions to complex problems'; his recent work includes advising Rathbone Brothers on multiple acquisitions and also its directors' remuneration report, acting for GVC Holdings on the incentive components of its £4bn acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral, and assisting Ted Baker with amendments to its directors' remuneration policy including clawback provisions and directors' shareholding guidelines. Victrex, Nationwide Building Society and William Hill are also clients.

Rob Collard leads the practice at Macfarlanes LLP, which acts for international listed corporates, private companies, start-up ventures, senior executives and trustees. Collard is noted for his financial services expertise and has particular experience in tax efficient plans and corporate support work. Senior counsel Ian Shaw is also recommended; he handles the share scheme elements of IPOs and M&A transactions and advises on personal remuneration packages. The team also assists with corporate governance work, clawback provisions and the creation and implementation of equity-based incentive plans.

Mayer Brown International LLP is 'incredibly reliable and shows great attention to detail' under the leadership of consultant Andrew Stanger, who has 'good commercial insight and is always pleasant to deal with'. The department is recognised for its work on private company arrangements and issues in the banking and financial services sectors. The team is also active in cross-border matters; it recently advised Helios Towers Africa on a new management incentive plan and assisted Brookfield Asset Management with the incentive aspects of the sale of the Gazeley warehouse business to Global Logistic Properties. BizSpace, Future Mobility Corporation and Touchstone Innovations are also clients.

At Mishcon de Reya LLP, Stephen Diosi 'has built up a successful standalone practice' that is 'extremely professional in everything it does'. Diosi attracts praise as a 'bright, practical and commercial lawyer with very sound subject knowledge and a calm approach'; he regularly handles the design and implementation of national and international employee incentive arrangements, corporate governance issues and disclosure matters. Clients also praise associate Caroline Nye-Wilkins as 'highly knowledgeable and impressive'. In a recent highlight, Diosi acted for Merlin Entertainments on the global compliance issues surrounding its share plans; he also assisted Akce Holdings with the implementation of new executive and employee incentive arrangements and advised Alony Hetz Properties and Investments on the incentive components of its acquisition of Brockton Capital. Other clients include Bank of New York Mellon, City Financial Investment Company and Jackpotjoy.

Osborne Clarke LLP's 'highly responsive and knowledgeable' team is led by Michael Carter, who is 'very helpful and has strong share plans expertise'. The group regularly acts for national and international clients on corporate mandates; recent highlights include assisting Alfa Financial Software Holdings on the executive remuneration and employee incentive aspects of its IPO, advising HH Global on the share elements of its reorganisation including the rollover of share options and a new cash-based long-term incentive plan, and acted for Topps Tiles on the creation and implementation of a new save-as-you-earn scheme. The team also fields associate director Mairi Granville-George and senior associate Dan Sharman, who joined from Bird & Bird LLP in 2018.

Postlethwaite Solicitors Ltd has 'amazing client service' and 'stands out for its knowledge of the arena'. The team excels in the employee ownership space advising on succession arrangements and the design and implementation of share ownership plans. Other areas of expertise include international issues, transactional support and share scheme administration advice. Recent highlights include advising Blue Chip Technology on an employee ownership transaction in which the company's founders sold the company to an employee ownership trust, and assisting Open Cell with the granting of EMI options. Robert Postlethwaite leads the group and is 'approachable and gives good and balanced advice'; other key names include David Reuben and the 'amazing' Judith Harris.

Stephenson Harwood's 'competent and reliable' team is 'a key name in the market for AIM listed companies' with a client base including easyHotel, Patagonia Gold and Focusrite. The team also acted for Lavendon Group on the incentive aspects of its acquisition by Loxam, assisted Kalibrate Technologies with the share plan elements of its takeover by Canterbury Acquisition and handled the share components of Novacyt's AIM listing. Barbara Allen heads up the team and is 'genuinely excellent'; senior associate Anika Chandra is also a key name to note.

Taylor Wessing LLP 'stands out for its excellent response times, clear, concise and direct advice and brilliant commerciality'. The department regularly advises on the share scheme aspects of complex transactions; examples include acting for Supercell on its acquisition of a majority stake in Space Ape Games, assisting Money.co.uk with its sale to ZPG, and advising Inflexion Private Equity Partners on its buyout of Alston Elliott. Ann Casey heads up the team and provides 'consistently good quality advice in a reliable and personable way'; she is particularly knowledgeable on international tax issues. Other key practitioners include newly promoted partner Anna Humphrey, who focuses on the technology and media sectors; and senior associate Samantha Lenox.

Counsel David Baxter leads the department at Ashurst, which handles the share scheme components of corporate transactions, international share plan issues and corporate governance mandates. Baxter's recent work includes acting for Aveva Group on the incentive elements of its combination with Schneider Electric SE's industrial software business, handling the share scheme issues of Ladbrokes Coral Group's acquisition by GVC Holdings and advising Cape on the share plan components of its takeover by a subsidiary of Altrad Investment Authority. Interserve, EnQuest and Renewi are also clients. Rebecca Servian was promoted to senior associate.

Bird & Bird LLP's incentive expertise encompasses executive and all-employee share plans, plan structuring, design and implementation mandates, compliance work and international arrangements. Colin Kendon leads the group and acts for a variety of international and domestic companies; his recent work includes advising the management team of Beach on the share aspects of its sale to Acrisure Holdings and acting for Strategy & Investment Partners on its establishment of an EMI plan.  Legal director Fleur Benns is also a name to note; she recently handled the rollout of restricted stock unit awards to Church & Dwight's employees in 13 jurisdictions. Dan Sharman joined Osborne Clarke LLP.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is recognised for its EMI option plan expertise through the knowledge of practice head David Dennison, and regularly advises start-up and growing companies. Clients praise Dennison as 'a charismatic individual and a true pleasure to work with' with 'an in-depth knowledge of his specialist areas'. His recent mandates include advising Betsson on the share elements of its takeover of Netplay and assisting Niltasoft with a new share option plan. Tesco, Raven Russia and Panmure Gordon & Co are also clients.

James Carter and Martin Griffiths jointly lead the department at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, which excels in advising AIM listed clients and has notable expertise in advising on tax efficient schemes that are alternatives to EMI plans. Clients span the technology, energy, finance, retail, recruitment and finance sectors; examples include Pennant International, Prime People and Alpha FX Group. Highlights included acting for Centamin on the creation of its performance share plan, assisting Ivory Worldwide with the establishment of an EMI option scheme and handling Social Communications Group's implementation of an EMI share option scheme. Robert Birchall made partner in 2018.

Cooley (UK) LLP's 'responsive and knowledgeable' team has substantial strength in cross-border matters (particularly involving the US) and advises on the share elements of corporate transactions. In a recent highlight, practice head Paula Holland advised SendGrid on the incentive aspects of its IPO in the UK and the Netherlands; she also handled the share elements of Nightstar Therapeutics' Nasdaq IPO and assisted SilverRail Technologies with the share plan components of its sale to Expedia. Holland also focuses on the technology and life science sectors, with example clients including Oxford BioTherapeutics, Appian and Fuze.

Fox Williams LLP's 'knowledgeable and effective' department fields a team of 'talented' individuals including team head Emma Bailey, who is 'a thoughtful and competent tax lawyer with excellent industry insight'. The group is particularly noted for its advice to smaller listed and private companies on bespoke unapproved equity incentive arrangements and handling corporate support work. Recent mandates include assisting Anthesis Consulting Group on the introduction of an equity incentive structure for its senior management and employees, advising QiO Technologies on its option schemes across multiple jurisdictions, and acting for Jonas Computing on the incentive elements of its acquisition of Blayhall Marine. Punter Southall Group, Four Seasons Ventures and Constellation Software are also clients.

At Latham & Watkins, practice head Stephen Brown handles national and international executive incentive matters including the share aspects of corporate transactions, the impact of management changes on schemes and stock-based incentives work. Other key individuals include counsel Sarah Gadd and associate Kendall Burnett.

Shearman & Sterling LLP's incentives team sits as part of its tax practice and primarily focuses on the incentives components of M&A transactions. Tax partner Simon Letherman is the key name to note; he advises clients across the energy, financial services, mining and TMT sectors.

Squire Patton Boggs has seen substantial growth in its employee share plans work through the recruitment of Liz Pierson from Clifford Chance LLP. The practice focuses on the international aspects of incentives work, with recent mandates including establishing a global all employee share purchase plan across 25 jurisdictions for LivaNova, acting for GB Group on the expansion of its existing international savings-related employee share plan, and advising Lifebit Biotech on its new EMI option plan. Other clients include Keywords Studios, Luceco, Low & Bonar and West Corporation. Patrick Ford is also a key name to note.

Wright Hassall LLP is noted for its 'excellent service, specialist knowledge and high responsiveness' and clients single out group head John Dormer as 'a clear thinker, articulate lawyer and incredibly helpful partner'. Clients include Radiant Worlds, Wedlake Bell and Giftwink. The group provides support across all aspects of share plan work including HMRC plans, bespoke plans, transactional support and compliance issues. Associate Sebastian Salt is also recommended.

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Legal Developments in London for Employee share schemes

  • Companies should plan now to minimise their pension protection levy

    The amount that pension schemes have to pay to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) for the year 2006/07 may have increased by as much as five times the previous year's levy. Employers who ultimately bear the cost of many pension schemes will need to make plans now to ensure the levy payable for the year 2008/09 is kept to a minimum.
    - Stephenson Harwood

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