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A&O’s transatlantic woes continue as New York leveraged finance pair quit for Shearman

Allen & Overy (A&O) has suffered a fresh blow to its transatlantic aspirations following its failed US merger as two key leveraged finance partners depart for Shearman & Sterling.

Alan Rockwell and Michael Chernick are leaving A&O’s New York office for the US firm just a month after A&O lost well-respected London corporate partners Simon Toms and George Knighton to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. That blow came only 10 days after the Magic Circle firm’s long-winded merger talks with O’Melveny & Meyers came to nothing and was widely viewed as collateral damage from the failed tie-up.

A&O broke its lockstep to hire the two partners, with Rockwell joining as part of a four-partner team from White & Case in 2016 and Chernick as part of a three-partner team from Paul Hastings the following year.

Shearman senior partner David Beveridge said: ‘The opportunity to add Alan and Michael to our team is significant for the firm as we look to further cement our position as one of the leading transatlantic leveraged finance firms.’

The New York exits come only a month after A&O’s managing partner Andrew Ballheimer vowed ‘more focus and speed of execution’ in the Magic Circle firm’s US recruitment push as new partners, including US lawyers, had recently been voted in by the partnership.

A spokesperson for A&O said: ‘We thank Alan Rockwell and Michael Chernick for their contributions during their time at A&O and wish them all the best for the future. Our New York leveraged finance practice continues to be a robust and integral part of A&O’s global offering.’

For Shearman, the hires follow high-yield star Ward McKimm famously in July 2018 returning to the firm after a three-year stint at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The firm had taken the symbolic step to break its much-cherished lockstep to lure him from US rival Kirkland & Ellis in 2015, a move which exercised changes to the partnership ushered in the previous year to attract top US talent.