'Psst...what are you putting this time down as?'

CMS's outgoing senior partner brought the entire firm to a screeching halt to mark the end of her tenure, RollOnFriday understands.

Penelope Warne joined the firm more than 30 years ago and is leaving for a role at the World Bank after a successful decade as senior partner during which she steered the firm through a takeover of Olswang and Nabarro and to expansion around the globe.

Even so, staff were taken aback by the scale of the ceremony marking her departure.

All CMS lawyers across the world (or those affiliated with its UK offices - the sources are split) were “summoned to the largest rooms of their respective offices" to "pay homage”, said a source, who estimated that a substantial proportion of the firm's 5,800 fee-earners downed tools for the occasion.

Warne was beamed in live from London amid an extravagant light and music show, opening her parting speech by thanking the person who had provided the disco lighting and assuring everyone that he had previously worked on the Hong Kong waterfront illuminations “so none of us could possibly afford him”.

Insiders said the dazzling effects were the work of her son-in-law, a professional who has lit the likes of Blenheim, Kensington Palace, Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc and now the conference room at Cannon Place.

After about 30 minutes, Warne delved into some career highlights, “one of which was that she landed the 12 biggest oil companies as clients in her first year as a lawyer” while in Aberdeen, said a source, who wondered whether such reminiscences were "out of step with her environmental work for which she had previously thanked herself".


As up to 9,000 staff in 84 offices spread across 47 countries watched in awe, their senior partner stepped aside to allow no fewer than five people to pay tribute in supplementary paeans “about how wonderful our outgoing leader was”, said an insider.

One source calculated that "trapping" circa 6,000 lawyers with charge out rates of between £300-£1000/hour for 90 minutes came to a few million quid. “That feels like quite a lot to spend on an ego massaging exercise for a firm which made 19 of its lawyers redundant this financial year”, they said.

ROF thinks it’s not enough and wondered if fireworks and a flyby could follow on, but CMS's press team were too emotional to respond to requests for comment. Which means they also couldn't confirm if their award-winning senior partner's dogs really are called Veuve and Clicquot.

Warne isn’t the first to make a splashy exit. A reader recalled that when John Young departed as Senior Partner from Hogan Lovells in 2012 he appeared at the summer party dressed as Braveheart, complete with blue woad facepaint, warrior's kilt and wig, “and made his entrance into the hall descending on a zip wire shouting ‘Freeeeedom’, before brandishing a knife to address the haggis on stage with great zeal”.

“That's a proper way to step down from a leadership role”, they said.

    LU icon Let the top firms come to you on LawyerUp when they like you for a role. It's available on the App Store and Google Play.

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 26 April 24 08:55

No different to journalists who go over the top in obituaries for other journalists, who are largely uunknown, in the hope they will have the favour passed forward.

Anonymous 26 April 24 09:24

This is not at all surprising. People in the firm laughed at her overinflated sense of importance for all of the time I was there.

Anon 26 April 24 09:48

I'm not sure "joining the world bank" is quite right - a fairly inflated version of reality unless i am mistaken 

Big ‘Ed 26 April 24 10:09

With that ego, you’d think she was Sir Alex Ferguson retiring at the end of an illustrious managerial career

CMSers 26 April 24 10:13

Delighted for her. Whilst people referred to her as the queen behind closed doors, she is inspiring, cared about diversity and inclusion deeply (unlike other partners), and grew the firm into the beast it is today (let’s not forget the impact CMS has on our CVs!) She has probably made a stack of cash in that time.

Hey, Nonny Mouse! 26 April 24 10:20

A senior partner at my shop recently reached his retirement day. Considering he'd been at the firm for 10+ years I was a little underwhelmed by the leaving party: a trough of KFC and some warm wine, attended by a handful of people. 

I remember thinking at the time, when it comes to my retirement, I'd rather not have a leaving do at all than experience such a leaving do. 

On the other hand, now reading about this sound and light show, I'd rather be remembered as the guy who shared a bucket of KFC, than the person who left the office with a thoroughly massaged ego.  

Anonymous 26 April 24 10:20

Does it really cost money (lost billable hours) to do this though? In the end, you still need to do your work. It probably just had the effect that people stayed a bit longer at work that day, after the show was over.

Redundo 26 April 24 10:44

As one of the 19 lawyers made redundant last year and unemployed ever since, CMS has been an absolute dead hand on my career and Penny's masturbatory farewell is definitely insult to injury...

Brillers 26 April 24 10:45

There's no way that this "cost millions" in billable hours.  Billable hours delayed, perhaps, but certainly not denied!

Anonymous 26 April 24 10:52

Narcissism or bootlicking at its finest? Or both?

I can’t imagine the awfulness of spending thirty-plus years of working in private practice, never mind spending thirty-plus years working at the same firm. 


Spotty Lizard 26 April 24 10:59

Presumably around half of her speech was taken up just with saying the firm's stupid full name. 

Anonymous 26 April 24 11:05

I agree wholeheartedly with your point about her support for diversity and inclusion, CMSers. She was a great supporter of anyone, regardless of their identity characteristics, willing to test the theory that the only difference between a brown-nose and a sh*t-head is depth perception. 

Ex CMS 26 April 24 11:16

A massive ego and not everyone’s cup of tea but credit where credit is due, she knew how to build a legal practice. 

thecynic 26 April 24 11:16

Absolutely hilarious, albeit unintentionally. Was there a spontaneous mass-dancing event in the local square?

Lydia 26 April 24 11:20

I think the people reporting to ROF for the piece are a bit mean. Not that many women do as well. I presume she is about my age. I trained at Nabarro Nathanson starting in 1983 (now part of CMS) which was a good firm for women, role models there and also 50% of my 1983 intake  female - quite rare in those days.  

Good luck to her at the World Bank.

Office Drone 26 April 24 12:08

I'm not certain why this is newsworthy... perhaps a gaudy farewell, an ego massage etc - fine, whatever. The lady clearly seems to have achieved a lot in her career and if the firm decided to give her a bombastic farewell party, so be it. And if her dogs are really called Veuve and Cliquot, who cares - the dogs won't mind. I know a lawyer whose horse is called "Contingency fee"... I feel a bit sorry for the beast when the (well overweight) chap takes it out for a ride but it's properly cared for and doesn't seem to mind its name 😃


Many of our dreadful politicians and "industry thought leaders" get knighthoods and gongs for much, much less and often have reputations and track records that stink to high heaven. 

Anonymous 26 April 24 12:28

This article and the comments are terrible. This was a woman who’d done so much to advance CMS’ market leading practice and champion diversity, but you all giver her a kicking. Misogyny is alive and well! I for one think this lady is God. 

Rates 26 April 24 12:38

...just to be clear, am I to take it that there are no CMS lawyers anywhere costing under £300 per hour?


For context, I'm 10 years PQE this year and cost £290 per hour, and that feels expensive 🤣


Lawyers are such a rip off. I'd wager no more than 5-10% of the people I've ever met could actually afford one over any prolonged period if it came down to it.

Anonymous 26 April 24 12:46

Anyone else wondering what on earth the “World Bank” is? 

It's an international NGO tasked with relieving poverty. Health, infrastructure, education. You get the idea.

But these days it spends almost half of its budget on climate change projects instead.

CMS-er 26 April 24 13:25

Not at all surprised at how egotistical this was. CMS corporate in particular is full of partners with an over inflated sense of ego.

Mr de Pfeffel Yonson 26 April 24 13:37

There are certainly no blonde tories in Belgium, just beautiful blonde people and beautiful blonde beers.

CMS from Germany 26 April 24 13:57

Luckily, this only seems to have affected CMS UK's offices (i.e. UK, some CEE offices, etc.). At least in Germany, this article is the first thing I read about her leaving (which makes sense as she was senior partner of CMS UK only).

If LinkedIn did speeches... 26 April 24 15:18

Self-congratulatory speeches are the natural next stage of gloating in the legal world, given how much lawyers love to pat themselves on the back and blow their own trumpet on LinkedIn 

Anonymous 26 April 24 16:23

CMS from Germany, you must be mistaken. She was in charge of everything and everyone. How disappointing for you that you appear not to have been aware of her brilliance or to have benefited from her sage advice about how to win clients due to all of your husband’s industry connections! 

Anonymous 26 April 24 17:40

This is when confidence turns into cringeworthy bragging. Reminds me of that anecdote when Margaret Thatcher as a nine year old school pupil won a school prize and announced at the prize giving ceremony - "I wasn't lucky, I deserved it." 

Sometimes in life people will think more of you when you are humble. 


SecularJurist 26 April 24 18:45

Taking the comments on this thread about as read (i.e. not from knowing her), perhaps such qualities (or traits) are necessary to rise to the top. She definitely didn't get there by being nice, one presumes.

Not that I'd want to work for such a leader.

Kim Jong-un will be jealous at such a send-off.

HogLove nostalgia 26 April 24 20:09

When John Young departed as Senior Partner from Hogan Lovells, he came to the Summer party dressed as Braveheart (with blue woad facepaint, warrior's kilt and wig), and made his entrance into the hall descending on a zip wire shouting "Freeeeedom", before brandishing a knife to address the haggis on stage with great zeal. 

That's a proper way to step down from a leadership role. I recall RoF covered it at the time and did a quick search and found the piece. City firms need more leaders of this ilk:



Jurist 27 April 24 09:28

Touche! Good text, but below some comments

1. CMS is more like federation so the party was broadcasted only for the jurisdictions under UK rule (UK, CEE, part of Asia and LATAM). The theoretical head of CMS (international executive partner) sits in Frankfurt. So, indeed, Germany, France, Sowin, etc. were not invited 
2. There are rates below GBP 300, also in the UK.

3. Outside the UK people attended e-meeting (not in big numbers) to get free lunch (or at least sandwiches) and champagne as that was provided for this occasion. So, they usually left the party after the first speech

Sir Woke XR Remainer FBPE MBE 28 April 24 11:14

An absolute legend of the game. We should do more to celebrate great leadership in law.

HogLove 28 April 24 19:11

In fairness, John Young never took himself seriously - the absolute opposite of ego.  The guy survived a major cancer, then got dressed up in spandex to do the high wire at the firm's annual conference. 

He also recited Rabbie Burns when he addressed the haggis when he zip-wired in on Burns night. He was also a thoroughly decent and kind fellow, whose leadership values endure at Lovells and its successor firm.  

person with a knowledge 28 April 24 22:27

Don’t agree with CMSers. Ex Senior Partner was respected and simultaneously hated for some reasons. The firm doesn’t care about the diversity and inclusion to be honest. They publicly demonstrate (the same as others) as if that’s the case but they are easily can get rid of pregnant or inconvenient lawyers last year.

Anonymous 01 May 24 03:22

SP at mine was a well known bully before she stepped down, after the power and control a big do helps mask fear, insecurity, easier to stay consult/chair and deflect after all it's a scary lonely place reality, ain't it.

Related News