Blake Morgan elects new Chair and appoints new board

Posted on 3rd June 2024

Blake Morgan has elected Helen Bunker, current head of its London office and private client team, as its new Chair.

She will be joined on the board by partners Sarah Rees and Simon Staples who have been elected to the board, alongside Penri Desscan and Sadak Miah who have been re-elected for a three-year term from 1 May. Richard Wade, head of the firm’s construction group, will be stepping down from his role as an elected member of the board, having served the maximum two consecutive terms.

Blake Morgan’s board is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the firm. It is made up of the Chair, the Managing Partner, Mike Wilson, the Elected Members and Non-Executive Directors, as well as HR and Development Director, Liz Bryne, Business Development Director, John Parkinson, and Matt Clarke, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer. From 1 May, Matt Clarke will be taking on the additional responsibilities of Chief Operating Officer, with a new job title of Chief Operating and Financial Officer.

Board members: From the left – Simon Staples, Liz Bryne, Penri Desscan, John Parkinson, Matt Clarke, Mike Wilson, Sadak Miah, Sarah Rees and Helen Bunker.

New Chair, Helen Bunker, was previously Managing Partner at Piper Smith Watton LLP which merged with the firm in 2015. With 27 years of experience in the legal sector, and leadership experience as head of the Private Client team and of the London office, she has worked with a broad range of UK and non-UK domiciled clients, including private individuals, trustees, and estates, advising them throughout key life stages.

Helen is a long-standing advocate for inclusivity and has supported the development of Blake Morgan’s disability and neurodiversity EDI workstream. She is a Mental Health First Aider for the firm. She also contributes to several initiatives focused on supporting women: she is a patron for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which Blake Morgan sponsors, and is involved in the City Women Network, as well as being a sponsor for Women for Women International – a charity focused on supporting women in countries such as Afghanistan.

Helen will be taking over the position from Kath Shimmin, becoming the firm’s second female Chair. Kath was elected in 2021 and during her term has strengthened the reputation and commercial position of the firm and successfully spearheaded a series of diversity and inclusion initiatives. She will remain as a partner after stepping down from her role as Chair.

Alongside Helen and re-elected board members Penri Desscan and Sadak Miah, Sarah Rees and Simon Staples will act as partner representatives on the board.

Sarah Rees leads the commercial litigation team in London, focused on high value litigation, primarily acting for high-net-worth individuals. She joined Blake Morgan in 2002. In 2024, she was named as a leading individual in the prestigious Legal 500 directory.

Also joining the board for the first time is partner Simon Staples, who heads up the firm’s corporate group in Reading. With nearly 20 years of commercial experience as a corporate partner, he specialises in mergers, acquisitions and disposals, and private equity. His clients have included public and private companies, financial advisers and brokers. Simon joined the firm in 2017 and is also the former president of the Bristol Law Society.

Kath Shimmin, outgoing Chair at Blake Morgan, said:

It has been a privilege to serve as Blake Morgan’s Chair over the past three years and to have had the opportunity to help the firm continue to grow and succeed. I’m proud of the way our expertise has developed across each practice area as we continue to build on the first-class service we offer clients. I’m also particularly proud of our progress across diversity and inclusion and sustainability, areas I feel passionate about, and know we will continue this good work as a firm.

Kath Shimmin and Helen Bunker.

“I’m looking forward to supporting Helen as she takes on the mantle as Chair. I know that she will continue building the firm’s position as a trusted partner to our clients, and an inclusive and considerate employer. She will be supported by a board of exceptional lawyers, including our newest elected members, who have all been selected based on their superb talent and commitment to the firm.

“I’d also like to thank Richard Wade for his invaluable support during his two terms on the board. He helped to steer the firm through the challenges of the pandemic and beyond, and has shown an unwavering commitment to ensuring the best outcomes for the firm, for colleagues, and for clients.”

Helen Bunker, incoming chair at Blake Morgan, said:

I would like to thank the current Chair, Kath Shimmin, for her leadership and the strong culture of inclusivity she has fostered throughout her tenure. Her appointment as the first female Chair of Blake Morgan was an historic one for the firm and I feel honoured to be following her example. I look forward to working with Penri, Sadak, Sarah, Simon, and the rest of the board to drive the firm’s success.

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