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Q&A: Stephen Denyer

1 April 2014

Stephen Denyer takes up his new role as head of City and International at the Law Society on 1 May after 36 years at Allen & Overy where he is currently global markets partner.

You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?

Over the last 25 years I have been heavily involved in the international expansion of Allen & Overy (A&O), particularly in Europe. Having had management responsibility for a variety of offices and regions, more recently I have been responsible for creating and running the 'A&O Network' covering the 150 countries in the world where the firm does business but does not have its own office.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on two major A&O events designed to promote the development of our global relationship law firm network. These will both take place in London later this year.

Your job at the Law Society will cover international as well as City. What is the connection between the two?

The international team at the Law Society has a tremendous reputation around the world for the work they do on market access and establishment rights in many international markets (such as the BRIC and MINT jurisdictions). As an experienced City practitioner I know just how relevant this work is to all City law firms.

How would you describe the approach you will take to the City when you join the Law Society?

I will not be making any assumptions about what the City needs or wants from the Law Society. I will treat each City law firm and all City lawyers as I would the crown jewel clients I have dealt with over the years at A&O. I will make sure I communicate regularly with them all and will be in 'listening mode' when I do so. They will all be encouraged to come to me with requests, suggestions and complaints.

What was your first job?

I joined A&O immediately after graduating from Durham University and have been there ever since.

Share some great advice you've been given.

Never assume. It is always better to check the facts thoroughly before expressing an opinion.

What's in your desk drawers?

Although I have a desk, I do not spend very much time sitting at it since I believe strongly in getting out and engaging directly with those I am dealing with. Therefore, the thing I use most extensively is my old leather briefcase capable of carrying my laptop and many relevant papers.

Career highlight?

I am particularly proud of the part I played in the globalisation of my firm and the establishment of successful operations in many different countries.

During your career at A&O what activity have you particularly enjoyed?

I have been significantly involved in the recruitment of young lawyers and other professional staff and in their career development. I have found my mentoring and coaching activities particularly rewarding.

What's your pet hate?

I cringe when I hear English people using 'coded language', which most non-Brits can't understand.

Favourite city?

Warsaw was the first city outside the UK I lived in and I have retained a particular affection for it. So far as UK cities are concerned, there are four pictures of Durham on my office wall, and I especially enjoy going back there.

Best thing about living in Germany?

I have been fortunate to be involved with the development of A&O Germany practice right from the beginning and to have been responsible for hiring and developing many of our key people there. From a personal point of view, it has been a privilege to watch my four kids grow up being able to operate equally well in both English and German.

How do you relax?

I am very much a family man spending as much time as I can with my wife and children - wherever possible in the natural environment.