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An opportunity to ‘build something’: KWM’s City litigation head Alex Leitch leaves for Covington

US firm Covington & Burling has bolstered its European disputes capabilities with the hire of King & Wood Mallesons London head of litigation, Alex Leitch (pictured), to its City office, as its plans to bulk up the practice this year.

Leitch is expected to start at Covington in early summer but it is still unknown whether any of his team or key clients will follow. His move, however, is indicative of Covington’s ongoing recruitment strategy within its City disputes practice with more hires expected.

A solicitor advocate who became a partner at legacy SJ Berwin in 2000, his departure comes just over a year after taking over the London litigation chief role in place of Craig Pollack, who was appointed global litigation and dispute resolution chief.

He has specialised in corporate and media-related litigation and acts for hedge funds, private equity houses, asset managers and major public companies in the financial services and private equity sectors. Recommended by The Legal 500, recent instructions includes the high-profile Crown Dilmun litigation relating to the sale of Fulham Football Club’s ground by Harrods; and he was part of the team representing Arch Financial Products, as well as its chief executive Robin Farrell and compliance officer Robert Addison, in connection with the Financial Conduct Authority’s investigation into Arch’s role as investment manager of the Arch Cru funds.

On his departure, Leitch told Legal Business: ‘I had been there for 20 years. I have nothing but respect for King & Wood and my departure is not prompted by any disaffection or lack of appetite for the combination. I met Covington last autumn and I knew they had a strong reputation for their dispute resolution practice, and while it has a great reputation in the US, there’s an opportunity to tell that story here too and build something. The second aspect was the one firm approach where it felt unified across all offices. And the crown jewel of this place is its collegial atmosphere. It has a genuine approach to partnership. Against all the hiring by US firms, and I wasn’t interested in many, those two things were the real pull.’

International arbitration partner Jeremy Wilson added: ‘The firm historically has always had a significant disputes practice. We’ve been focused on growth. Alex provides an opportunity to help us grow and develop so that we have the same offering in London as we do in other offices around the world. We certainly want a multi-partner practice in the litigation group and we intend to make more hires in the litigation and arbitration practices this year.’

The addition of Leitch follows the departure of arbitration partner duo from Covington’s City office last year, Carmen Martinez Lopez who departed to arbitration boutique Three Crowns, and Ben Holland to Squire Patton Boggs.