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Freshfields fuels New York M&A growth with four more Cleary lawyers

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has added four more lawyers to its ten-partner Wall Street M&A team, with three counsel and one associate joining the City firm from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

The move announced today (5 December) comes just over a month after the firm hired Cleary M&A veteran Ethan Klingsberg and partners Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese and Paul Tiger, in what it hopes will amount to a breakthrough for its US business after years of struggle.

Andrea Basham, Elizabeth Bieber and Zheng Zhou are joining Freshfields as counsel, while Chase Lax will move to Freshfields as an associate.

The additions continue what is the most significant US transactional investment for the firm since the 2014 hire of former Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson senior partner and head of global capital markets Valerie Ford Jacob along with two other corporate partners – Michael Levitt and Paul Tropp. Peter Lyons, Shearman & Sterling’s former global public M&A head, arrived the same week, with the firm willing to pay select recruits above the top of its lockstep.

Recent US mandates out of Freshfields’ New York office included advising Starbucks Corporation on the $7.15bn sale of its Consumer Packaged Goods and Foodservice business to Nestlé, Novartis on the $5.3bn acquisition of the assets associated with Xiidra, and the London Stock Exchange Group on the $27bn acquisition of Refinitiv from Blackstone.

The latest New York transactional push comes at a time when Freshfields is gearing up to elect new leadership amid a wider debate about its US practice. There has been speculation that senior partner Ed Braham, who took a personal hand in the hires, might use them as ammunition to consider another run at the role, but an influential camp has been arguing for a new approach. Among the names floated is Helmut Bergmann, the German managing partner of continental Europe, as part of a reformist leadership team including figures like Alan Mason, David Sonter and Claire Wills.