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Edwards Wildman loses associate quartet to City firms as tensions mount over potential Cooley takeover

Having endured a spate of high profile partner exits during the summer, US firm Edwards Wildman has now seen four associates depart from its London office, and join the ranks of Eversheds, Travers Smith, Pinsent Masons and automobile giant Nissan in recent weeks as uncertainty over Cooley talks continues.

Eversheds confirmed it had hired corporate associate Andrew Overend into its corporate and commercial team in mid-September, where he now reports to Richard Moutlon, head of Eversheds’ UK private equity team.

Travers Smith also recruited, and hired IP associate Jonathan McDonald who started at the firm this month also. Pinsent Masons further confirmed it had hired an associate from the US firm but would not provide the individual’s name as an official starting date had not yet been set.

The last known associate departure saw commercial litigation specialist Richard Tyler turn away from private practice altogether and head in-house as legal adviser for automobile manufacturing giant Nissan. Having joined only days ago (22 September), he now works with Nissan legal affairs manager Ruth Walkden.

Other associate exits in recent months included commercial litigation lawyer Rhys Davies, who joined the recently-departed insurance heavyweight Francis Mackie at Weightmans.

The catalyst to recent partner and associate departures for the London office is said to be over feelings of disconnection from the US side as well as issues in relation to pay. An ex-partner says: ‘The London office was doing increasingly well and dragged down by the US offices doing less well. Because it was one profit pool, we were effectively sending profits to the US and getting paid well below market as a result’.

Partners at the firm are also said to be in talks with fellow US firm Cooley, with negotiations led by commercial litigation head Laurence Harris. However, while it is expected that the majority of the near 20-strong partnership will join Cooley, it is understood there is uncertainty and tension over when the takeover will happen.

A partner at the firm says: ‘That deal is not done. There is no signed document yet that says Cooley will hire most of the London office. The truth is that no one knows what will happen. Cooley may launch in London in October, or they may launch next year, or maybe in two years, but there’s a lot of uncertainty over when this deal with Edwards Wildman partners will happen, and if it will happen. It was the same when Cooley tried merger talks with Olswang several years ago and nothing ever came of it. People are just waiting and hoping’.

Such discussions have been ongoing as the Boston-headquartered Edwards Wildman just weeks ago announced plans to combine with Dallas-bred Locke Lord, forming a $675m practice that would sit just outside the top 50 of the Global 100.