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Global London: Andrews Kurth becomes latest Texan in City gold rush

The appetite of Texan firms for the UK energy market shows no sign of abating with news that Houston-based Andrews Kurth is to follow neighbours Bracewell & Giuliani and Locke Lord into the City.

The Andrews Kurth launch is spearheaded by UK energy specialist Peter Roberts, who is leaving Ashurst two years after becoming partner.

Although the date of the launch has yet to be confirmed, Roberts will act as managing partner and will be Andrews Kurth’s first English law partner.

Roberts’ experience includes a stint at in-house, having acted as general counsel at Centrica for three years. He was also a partner at Jones Day and worked at energy specialists Denton Hall (now Dentons).

In his new role, Roberts will build a team in London and rotate lawyers through the office from the US practice for experience. He noted the launch will be ‘Anglo-American.’

On the new venture, he said: ‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to represent a market leading oil and gas firm, as it embarks on the internationalisation of its practice. London is clearly the hub for oil and gas work through Europe, Africa and Central Asia, which is where it’s all happening.’

Indeed, the UK has seen a spate of Texan activity in recent months, with Houston-headquartered Bracewell & Giuliani hiring energy trio Julian Nicol from Simmons & Simmons, and Alastair Young and Jason Fox from Herbert Smith Freehills to its enhance its London office.

Bracewell, whose name partner includes former New York mayor and US presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, launched its London office in 2007. Nicol is currently the London managing partner.

Texan firm Locke Lord, meanwhile, launched a greenfield office in February 2012 and made multiple lateral hires throughout the year, bringing the London partner headcount to 17. It snared Mayer Brown reinsurance litigator Ian McKenna at the end of October as well as Fox Williams’ corporate finance partner James Channo and Mischon de Reya’s former head of finance, Luke Morris in November. This was in addition to a raft of former Salans lawyers, including London head Roger Abrahams.

Speaking to Legal Business at the end of last year, Locke Lord chair Jerry Clements said the firm watched the demand carefully over a number of years and felt it would miss an opportunity if it didn’t have an office in the City.

And it seems there’s more to come, as Roberts believes other energy firms will move to the City, with some currently scoping the scene.

‘I don’t think it will be a surprise to see other US firms looking to do this and capitalise on opportunities to bring their practices to markets governed by English law,’ he said.