Spotlight: interview with Tom Sprange KC, King & Spalding

"Progression requires regression, failure and the learning of lessons over many years. That is not possible without perseverance."

Tom Sprange KC, Managing Partner of King & Spalding's London office, talks to RedLaw's Spotlight about the driving forces behind their upcoming office move, recent industry accolades across the pond, and insights into the evolving legal landscape. From strategic expansion plans to navigating complex international disputes, Tom offers invaluable perspectives on advancement in the profession, leadership, collaboration, and fostering a culture of excellence. He also reveals his secret career aspirations outside the legal world.

King & Spalding are preparing for the London office move this May. What’s the reasoning behind the move and how do you think it will change or impact the Firm’s ambitions, if at all?

The London office celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023 so that seemed like an ideal point to take stock of how far we’d come, but also look towards the next stage in our development. We’ve grown from a handful of people at launch to 150 people – and counting – so we needed premises that reflect that growth as well as our ambitions. We want our London office to excel and grow across all of our practice areas.

Congratulations on winning the ‘Best Law Firm of the Year’ in 2023’s American Lawyer Awards. What would you say are the main factors attributed to achieving this success?

Huge amounts of hard graft, strong collaboration, and the execution of great legal work. In terms of specifics a key component has been our global growth strategy, which has seen us go from five offices when we launched in London through to 24 at the start of 2024, specifically the new office in Dallas. That footprint, coupled with our people and culture, is attracting exceptional talent to the firm, both lawyers and business services professionals. Trust and camaraderie is also vital, amongst colleagues and also clients. Finally, no firm thrives without a large portfolio of sophisticated and high value legal work and we have been fortunate to build on that.

The Firm has 24 offices across the US, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. As Managing Partner of the London office, how important is your role in influencing relationship building internally and ensuring the Firm culture, values, and client offering is consistent across the entire network of offices?

Culture and collaboration are essential to our success. We all recognise that and are responsible for it in our day to day work. London is our largest international office and the city remains one of the main international hubs for high-end legal work. Those factors and a favourable time zone put us in in a great position in terms of connecting colleagues and clients around the world. We are seeing even more international activity and growth but one thing that impresses me is the drive and passion that goes beyond any office managing partner and is engrained across our network, from lawyers to business services colleagues. There is a strong belief in those shared traits that have grown organically. All of this is key to maintaining consistency across the firm and in the services we provide clients.

As an International Disputes lawyer providing advocacy and strategic advice in significant, high-value and complex disputes, what has been the most memorable case you’ve worked on and why?

Hard one to answer as they are all so different and often exciting. The Turkey v. Iraq dispute was great given the value ($40 billion), the geo-political backdrop and the depth and breadth of the legal issues. The WADA v. Jack dispute was very rewarding as it involved protecting the dreams of an innocent athlete and the evolution of the law to reflect developments in science. However the winner is probably Motorola v Uzan, the biggest fraud case in the world at the time, as it was really several cases in one and gave me fantastic trial experience in litigation, arbitration and public international law, all in five years of action-packed fun.

What words of wisdom can you share with aspiring lawyers hungry for progression to reach partnership?

There are no substitutes for energy, perseverance and working well with others. High levels of talent and intellectual excellence are now a given in entrants to the profession. To progress you need to be able to perform at a high-level everyday, week after week and that requires boundless energy and reserves of stamina. Progression requires regression, failure and the learning of lessons over many years. That is not possible without perseverance. Many leading lawyers of today had to overcome setbacks, frustrations and unfair outcomes, but their perseverance saw them through while many around them faltered. Finally, the law is a people business. You simply cannot succeed unless you can work well with others, recognising strengths and weaknesses in yourself and those around you and harnessing them to achieve collective goals.

What has been the most positive change you have seen in the legal industry within your career?

Recognition and honest discussion regarding mental health. Much still to do but like any serious problem recognising and accepting that it exists and needs care and attention is half the battle. Contrary to the old-school approach that many of us experienced historically, it takes strength and courage at every level to address mental health and ultimately makes those in the profession stronger and happier.

And finally, if you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

Opening the batting for Australia, ideally at Lords, first day of the first test of the Ashes series to decide all Ashes series. Failing that, fighter pilot.

Subscribe for more insights

Group 2 Created with Sketch.

“ When I think about RedLaw, the word that immediately enters my mind is ‘outstanding’. They really are that good...They genuinely are an extension of my team...the relationship is one of a true ‘trusted advisor’. ”

Head of Recruitment, National Firm

Group 2 Created with Sketch.

“ RedLaw has always done an excellent job for us in supporting our recruitment programmes and have always been a pleasure to work with. ”

Partner, Specialist City Firm

Group 2 Created with Sketch.

“ She provides insightful, honest and well thought out input. ”

Corporate Partner, UK Top 100 Firm