Spotlight on our solicitors – meet Matt Shakesheff

Spotlight on our solicitors – meet Matt Shakesheff

Our Spotlight on our solicitors series allows us to shine a light on the talent of our legal professionals. With these interviews, we get to know more about the people behind the expert advice. In this edition, we sat down with Corporate Partner, Matt Shakesheff. Matt joined Harper James in 2021, following his time as legal counsel at a private equity firm.

Prior to entering the legal sector, Matt worked in the motor industry as General Operations Director at Mercedes Benz.

‘I studied Economics at Kingston University in which I did a module in Law,’ Matt says. ‘I enjoyed this, but I had no desire to become a lawyer back then. I grew up with in a family that was heavily involved with the motor trade – my dad owned and ran a number of luxury car dealerships in and around the Midlands, so I’d always had an interest in working with him in the same field.’

‘After working down in London for a few years at Mercedes Benz, I moved back to the Midlands and became the Group Operations Director for Birmingham and Manchester. During my time there, I became quite involved with their legal teams and was responsible for a lot of their commercial due diligence when we were looking to acquire other businesses,’ Matt explains. ‘I really enjoyed that aspect of my work, but I had come to a crossroads once I’d decided that I wanted to leave. My father-in-law at the time, and a partner in a law firm himself, had asked me if I had ever thought about converting my Economics degree and becoming a lawyer.’

‘Working with him back then would’ve given me a guaranteed training contract (something that was extremely hard to come by at the time). I had also built up a passion for buying and selling businesses, so I decided to take the leap into law.’

What are your main areas of corporate expertise? Do you specialise in any niche areas?

‘I’ve specialised in mergers and acquisitions for the last twelve years or so,’ Matt adds. ‘I love that it’s not like litigation for example, where there can be a lot of angst. M&A is about bringing the buyer and a seller who have the same end goal together. It can be stressful at times, but there’s always a champagne moment where the client walks away with what they want.’

Can you name the key highlights of your career so far?

‘My very first sale and purchase as a newly qualified solicitor was a full circle moment. I was working at a small legal firm, Geoffrey Parker Bourne, where I worked on the sale and purchase of a small Skoda car dealership in Birmingham. That was a key moment as it was when I started to think, “I want to do more of this.”’

What do you think clients value the most about the way you work with them?

‘I’m quite personable and always reassure my clients that I’m always happy to help them where I can,’ says Matt. ‘I’ve always operated on the ethos that if you take the time out to understand your clients, they will always come back to you.’

‘I think a lot of my clients value my unique life experiences which most lawyers don’t typically have. I’ve been in their shoes before and understand what a typical transaction looks like from their perspective, which I think is incredibly important and invaluable.’

How does Harper James compare to other places you have worked at previously?

‘I’ve worked at Harper James for around four years and it’s almost unrecognisable from what it was when I joined. The pace of growth has been absolutely outstanding. I think this is because of the genuine flexibility that they offer its lawyers, particularly for those who have families,’ says Matt. ‘The quality of the lawyers we have here is exceptional and it’s a true testament to what our people have created.’

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do to unwind?

‘My kids are my world but when I’m not with them, I enjoy playing golf – albeit I don’t play as nearly as much as I’d like! I play to a decent standard,’ Matt adds. ‘I have a really close-knit group of friends that play down at Stratford Golf Club together during evenings and weekends. I love it – it’s my downtime.’

‘Surround yourself with professional advisors from an early stage,’ Matt says. ‘I’ve personally found that when a founder reaches the point of wanting to sell up and they’re presented with a ‘questionnaire' about their business, they tend to panic. Make sure your business has the best practices in place in terms of legal, financial, and regulatory from the outset. It can be expensive but dedicate some of your working capital to it, as it can save you time and money in the long run!’

About our expert

Matthew Shakesheff

Matthew Shakesheff

Corporate Partner
Matthew joined Harper James as a corporate partner in May 2021. He has extensive experience of corporate law and corporate finance matters including: mergers and acquisitions, management buy-outs and buy-ins, private equity and venture capital investments, restructuring, refinancing, shareholder and joint venture agreements and commercial contracts. Matthew has also advised a number of high-profile banks on the corporate aspects of their client’s acquisitions and corporate lending.  

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