Latham & Watkins has dealt yet another blow to DLA Piper’s Spanish ranks, hiring its first Madrid-based antitrust partner, while Kennedys has joined the growing number of firms beefing up their low-cost capabilities.
Former DLA head of competition José Maria Jiménez Laiglesia has succeeded against four other candidates to join Latham’s Madrid outpost, which has almost doubled its headcount in less than a year since bringing in DLA’s former senior partner Juan Picón.
With a nine-strong team led by real estate partner Rafael Molina joining from Linklaters next month, the move means the US firm will have 50 lawyers in Spain come October, up from just 18 when Picón quit his former shop at the end of 2017.
‘The other candidates that showed interest were also good, but the Brussels office which led the process pointed to José Maria as one of the top antitrust partners in the country,’ Latham’s Spain managing partner Picón told Legal Business.
Jiménez Laiglesia’s practice will support Latham’s core M&A and finance operations and will work closely with the firm’s Brussels team. Picón said the firm didn’t plan to expand the antitrust team much further, although it was on the hunt for one associate to support Jiménez Laiglesia.
The quick expansion in Madrid is all the more impressive considering Spain is usually a quieter lateral market compared to its European neighbours.
As for DLA, the firm has lost several partners since the departure of Picón, arguably its most prominent Spanish lawyer. Fellow DLA corporate partners Ignacio Gómez-Sancha and José Antonio Sánchez-Dafos followed Picón to Latham last year too.
It now comprises 81 lawyers including 18 partners, having appointed Joaquin Hervada as new local head of competition. A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We would like to thank José Maria for the contribution he has made during his time at DLA Piper and wish him all the best for the future.’
Elsewhere, Kennedys has chosen India to strengthen its innovation capabilities by launching a nine-strong business development operation in Kerala.
Kennedys Kognitive Computing will focus on tech development including machine learning and text analytics. Led by Tony Joseph and reporting to the firm’s head of research and development Karim Derrick, the launch of the new company comes after a year-long exclusive partnership with the Kognitive Computing team.
Derrick told Legal Business: ‘The clear differentiator is that the purpose of this team and my primary objective is to produce client-facing products to remove the need to use lawyers in the first place. It’s not about improving efficiency or margins, it’s about helping our clients using lawyers only when they need to.’ He said clients will pay to use products developed by the team on a per-use basis, a model the firm has already applied with its litigation tool KLAiM.
It makes Kennedys the latest in a long series of firms announcing a substantial investment in innovation, as client pressure on costs keeps efficiency high on BigLaw’s agenda.
Perhaps the most significant move of the year was Clifford Chance’s acquisition of the former Carillion Advice Services team in Newcastle.
Closer to home, globetrotting firm Bird & Bird has expanded its Polish dispute resolution team with the hire of PwC Legal head of litigation Adam Kowalczyk in Warsaw. He leaves PwC after two-and-a-half years and was previously an associate at Weil Gotshal & Manges and DLA.