Burges Salmon and Watson Farley appoint new senior leadership figures

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Burges Salmon and Watson Farley & Williams have both appointed new senior management figures, with employment partner Chris Seaton set to take the reins as the Bristol firm’s new senior partner.

Seaton will step into the role at Burges Salmon on 1 May this year, succeeding corporate partner Alan Barr, who will return to fee earning after six years as senior partner.

Seaton has spent more than 26 years at the firm, joining in 1991 after 11 years in the Royal Navy, making partner in 1999. He was previously head of employment at the firm, and has chaired the firm’s international committee since 2004 and sat on its partnership committee since 2011.

He will continue client work alongside his new responsibilities as senior partner, operating in tandem with Peter Morris, who has been managing partner since 2010.

Speaking to Legal Week, Seaton said: “I am excited to be given the opportunity to take a leadership role – I have been on the executive board for the past six years, so I have been involved in shaping the direction of the firm for a while.”

In terms of his priorities for the role, Seaton said: “I am an employment partner by background; therefore the people business is very important to me, and along with diversity issues, that will be firmly on the agenda.”

The firm saw revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) hit record levels in the last financial year, with revenue rising 8% to £87.4m and PEP up 7% to £532,000.

Elsewhere, Watson Farley has appointed London shipping partner Nigel Thomas as its new chairman, replacing Frank Dunne, who has held the role since 2004.

Thomas joined the firm in 1987, prior to which he was an investment banker at Lazard.

Dunne has stepped down, following his move to New York last year to boost the firm’s US shipping practice.

In a statement, the firm’s joint managing partners Chris Lowe and Lothar Wegener said: “Frank has been an inspirational chairman and we would like to thank him for his commitment and hard work. We welcome Nigel to his new role. He will be a fantastic chairman and ambassador for Watson Farley.”

Watson Farley last year posted a 5% increase in turnover to reach £131.6m, alongside an 8% fall in partner profits to £480,000.