ONE of Yorkshire’s best-known corporate lawyers has decided to retire after a legal career stretching back to the late 1960s.
When Andrew Walker took his first steps on the career ladder, England had just won the World Cup and the Beatles were riding high in the charts.
Mr Walker, who turned 70 earlier this month, has decided to retire at the end of January, after becoming a trusted adviser to some of the biggest names in Yorkshire business.
Mr Walker plans to step down from his role as a corporate partner at DWF in Leeds, although he will retain two non-executive directorships, with AIM quoted engineering company T.F & J.H Braime (Holdings) and Clugston Group, the Scunthorpe-based construction and distribution company.
Mr Walker has been linked with some of the region’s biggest deals and law firms, and he is among a generation of lawyers who helped to make Leeds the top legal centre outside London.
He’s arguably best known for his role in the 1995 merger of Simpson Curtis with Pinsent & Co to form Pinsent Curtis, which is now Pinsent Masons.
At the time of the deal, Mr Walker was managing partner of Simpson Curtis, and played a leading role in the negotiations.
After studying law at Magdalene College, Cambridge, Mr Walker was articled at Linklaters & Paines in the City of London in 1967.
“It was extremely exciting,” he recalled, “The economy was recovering and the City was still a very traditional place. It was great fun and I learned an enormous amount.”
He returned to Yorkshire to work as a partner at Barnsley-based Bury & Walkers in 1972, before joining Simpson Curtis in 1974.
“Bury & Walkers made me understand how important it was to get close to the client and the client’s business,” Mr Walker recalled.
“Simpson Curtis was regarded as one of the leaders outside London. It had an embryonic but growing corporate practice. Leeds needed to raise its game; the older industries were beginning to die out. London very much ruled professional services.
“Leeds was poised to move forward at a pace. It was blessed with a very strong legal sector. This terrifically strong base assisted the growth of its industrial base as well. Very dynamic characters set the standard for what Leeds and Yorkshire stood for.”
Mr Walker, who lives near Wetherby, held senior roles at Simpson Curtis – which is now Pinsent Masons – for 31 years.
“It was a very fast-moving environment,” he said. “There were a string of successful deals and flotations. I watched Leeds develop and evolve as a legal centre, as part of a team that was competing against London firms.”
He helped to establish Newcastle-based firm Watson Burton’s office in Leeds in 2005, and joined DWF in 2009. Mr Walker, a former president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, believes that his ability to establish strong relationships has been the secret of his success and longevity.
“You’ve got to stay focused and work hard in a tough environment,” he said. “The good times will outweigh the bad ones.
“Stick to your core relationships and always look at things from a client’s perspective.”