UCL News


Press cutting: From Freshfields to pastures new

6 March 2007

Sandy Shandro is happy to accept the challenge of university as Dean of Laws at UCL To retire at the peak of your career - aged 55 and earning in the region of £800,000 plus a year - is never going to be easy.

But it is clearly less stressful if there is another exciting challenge in the bag. Moreover, when Sandy Shandro arrives at University College London on September 1 to take up his new post as Dean of Laws it will feel almost like a return home. "I've always had strong academic interests so I'm thrilled to bits by the appointment," he says, breaking into a smile. "I just could not have planned it any better."

The move, from his current role as head of the restructuring and insolvency practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, is a big step: from private to public sectors; from commercial law to academia. But Shandro is buoyed up by his impeccable academic credentials.

A bilingual Canadian, he gained his MA in Montreal before coming to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. He capped his career there by winning the Younger Society prize in law. He later spent time as a professor of law at McGill University and an adjunct professor of law at the University of British Columbia.

According to Peter Kunzlik, who runs the City Law School, these credentials matter enormously. Having himself made the transition from practice to academia, he is aware that some lifetime academics might have doubts about the value of appointing someone who had spent their career doing deals if they knew nothing of the intellectual dimension to law. "I welcome Shandro's appointment not just because he has had such a distinguished career with some great law firms but because he has the academic experience to act as a bridge between the two cultures," says Kunzlik.

This might be a trend: Nottingham Law School recently appointed Lovells' partner Keith Gaines as dean. It may reflect a feeling that universities need to reengage with the profession.

Shandro himself displays typical legal caution in declining to comment on university politics but simply emphasises the thrill of the new opportunity. "I now have a chance to put something back into the role of law and legal education in society," he says. "That is the motivation behind my move."

Along with a number of other Freshfields' partners in their mid-fifties, Shandro decided to take advantage of the firm's pension arrangements to leave now. But he was clearly never going to settle down on the golf course. Determined to create a second career he was already contemplating a return to the academic world. "I'd started to look at The Times and the THES for the job ads and planned a lunch with a friend at UCL to talk over my interests. The fact that the dean's job actually turned up at the same time could not have been more fortuitous."

Even so, he will depart from Freshfields with a strong sense of regret at leaving a community of supportive colleagues. Shandro insists that the warmth and the bonds between colleagues in the firm has been one of the principal pleasures in working there. He joined from Clifford Chance in the late 1990s when that firm was undergoing the stresses of expansion. He immediately found the Freshfields environment more congenial and built up the insolvency practice into one of the best in London. He himself has an outstanding reputation, especially for cross-border and multi-jurisdictional restructurings. Over the years he has been involved in high-profile international insolvencies - such as Swissair - and he has done ground-breaking work helping the former Communist states of Eastern Europe to develop new legal codes. "When I was at Clifford Chance I worked with Ernst & Young and Coopers & Lybrand to set up the country's first insolvency profession. I also wrote the bankruptcy law for Azerbaijan - although I must say I have never gone back to check in detail how it has been applied!"

This international perspective will serve him well at UCL. In providing leadership and management for the next phase in the Faculty of Law's growth there will be a strong emphasis on the international context. "It would be harder to find a more talented law faculty anywhere in the world than UCL's," he says. "Moreover, it has been strengthened even further recently by bringing in some very big names from the judiciary. However, that strength is not necessarily recognised as yet in the same way, for example, as the London School of Economics and Political Science in its field. A high priority for me is to raise that profile and develop a range of postgraduate courses. I will certainly teach on the LLM programme."

Edward Fennel, 'The Times'