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Davis Polk bolsters English law practice with hire of Ashurst finance partner Nick Benham

Davis Polk & Wardwell’s aggressive approach to building and developing an English law practice has seen the top 30 global 100 firm hire Ashurst finance partner Nick Benham into its City office.

Benham, who has been a partner in Ashurst’s credit group since 2010, focuses on complex finance transactions including domestic and international leveraged finance and financial restructurings, acting for debt providers and strategic debt investors.

Davis Polk has only had English law capability since last year, when it poached high profile Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer capital markets partner Simon Witty (pictured) at the start of 2012. Witty’s hire was followed in quick succession by the arrival of another Freshfields lawyer, Jonathan Cooklin, who headed the Magic Circle firm’s insurance tax practice, with the pair joined in November by Herbert Smith Freehills’ leading M&A partner Will Pearce.

The trio have already acted on the English piece of a number of Davis Polk’s high profile corporate transactions, including the record breaking $49bn Verizon bond issue in September, where the 798-lawyer firm advised underwriters J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Barclays Bank, Merrill Lynch and Pierce, Fenner & Smith as joint leader arrangers and joint bookrunners, with the trio providing English law advice on the deal.

‘Nick is an outstanding addition to our elite English law team,’ said Thomas Reid, Davis Polk’s managing partner. ‘Our commitment to developing an English law practice in London was subject to only one qualification – that we attract lawyers of the same high calibre as our U.S. practices. With Nick, once again, we have a lawyer of exceptional intellectual and client capabilities.’ Reid added, ‘We look forward to Nick’s arrival when, with our existing U.S. leveraged finance lawyers in London and New York, we will be able to offer our clients a complete international solution of the highest quality in the market.’

Benham’s departure will be a blow to Ashurst, following shortly in the wake of the resignations of global corporate head Stephen Lloyd and fellow corporate partner Eavan Saunders Cole. The departures come within weeks of the top 15 firm’s full financial integration with Australian Big Six firm Blake Dawson and of ex-senior partner Charlie Geffen unexpectedly losing the chairman vote to litigator Ben Tidswell on 16 October.