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Q&A with Penelope Warne, the senior partner and head of energy at CMS

27 March 2019

Penelope Warne, senior partner and head of energy at CMSPenelope Warne is the senior partner and head of energy at CMS.

To date, what has been the highlight of your time at CMS?

It is difficult to choose just one highlight - I have had a successful and inspiring career, allowing me to meet wonderful people across the world and to pursue and accomplish many goals.

These include the creation of the number one global oil and gas practice and a standout law firm in Scotland.

Also, building on global growth through opening and growing new international offices, two ground-breaking mergers as well as leading and inspiring a future facing and modern law firm, promoting greater diversity in law.

I’m still enjoying working on projects to enhance our work in relation to the US and Asia.

I joined CMS to set up our Aberdeen office in 1993.

At the time I was a young and ambitious lawyer - I had recently moved to Aberdeen and saw an opportunity to become Aberdeen’s first oil and gas-focused lawyer, aligned with the thriving North Sea industry and advising as both an English and Scots qualified lawyer.

Over the course of my long career at CMS, I have been proud to head up our leading energy practice and drive the firm’s international growth, leading new energy-focused offices in Dubai, Oman, Brazil and Mexico.

Like many sectors, the energy industry is complex and faces many challenges.

I am privileged to have worked on a number of ground-breaking transactions for clients over the years as well as partner with governments, economists and leading universities across the globe.

For example, debating the future of energy with industry leaders at Davos and other important thought leadership work across the sector and more generally in the business of law.

I strongly believe that in order for law firms to remain relevant and successful, we must evolve. This means embracing change, driving forward innovation and harnessing technology to better deliver services.

As the senior partner, I am proud to have led the firm through two ground-breaking mergers. In 2013, we merged with Dundas & Wilson, strengthening our position in Scotland.

Three years later, we completed the largest merger in the history of the UK legal market, combining with Nabarro and Olswang.

The merger resulted in CMS being the sixth largest UK law firm and one of the top six global law firms.

It was transformational providing significant scale to invest further in our technology and expand our global presence to become a future facing, modern, progressive, sector-focused firm.

Finally, it has always been my vision to build a successful and dynamic firm, with a supportive culture where careers can thrive. This is closely aligned to developing standout diversity and CSR initiatives which really make a difference and enhance the world of law.

There have been many great moments so far but perhaps my one standout highlight may yet to be delivered - to further consolidate our ability to deliver services in Asia and the US.

CMS successfully completed the largest merger in the UK legal sector. What would be your advice for ensuring a successful merger?

To accomplish a successful merger, you must be future facing. You have to set out the strategic vision and purpose, then lead and inspire.

Integration has to be efficient and the importance of culture should not be underestimated. Winning hearts and minds is the difference between success or not.

What needs to happen for more women to get into leadership roles?

Gender diversity should be supported at all levels both junior and senior. Visible role models and following through on policies are both important.

It is not just about women in senior roles; it is important to foster millennials through developing a flexible mind-set and supportive culture which embraces mentoring and agile working and eliminates unconscious bias.

I have always promoted pan-legal industry working in order to tackle this issue.

As a proud advocate of women in business, and with 30% women on our board and in our partnership, we regularly work with clients and other organisations, schools and universities to share experiences of best practice.

In this way, we can help change perspectives in our communities and throughout society. Our clients value the work we do and it gives us a very different, strong and meaningful relationship with them.

We have worked together with many clients on their D&I strategy, with a special focus on LGBT, gender ethnicity and disability. We benefit from their programmes and we share ours with them.

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