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Kennedys seals tie-up with Gates and Partners in aviation sector shake up

International dispute resolution law firm Kennedys and rated aviation and aerospace outfit Gates and Partners have merged in a move designed to achieve ‘an even greater international platform’ and strengthen their offering to global insurance and reinsurance clients.

The merger, which went live on 1 June, will enable Kennedy’s to offer comprehensive legal support to the aviation sector including corporate and commercial, regulatory and competition, employment, finance, insurance and dispute resolution services. The merger will also give an expanded platform to the already international Gates team, which has offices in London, Brussels, Singapore and Dubai. The merged firm will be known as Kennedys and the new team will operate as Kennedys Aviation.

The merger will take Kennedys’ partner count to 176, with over 1,120 staff members worldwide. The specialist aviation team will comprise over 60 people including 20 partners. Kennedys chief executive officer Guy Stobart told Legal Business that the united firm will aim to build in key geographic locations, focusing firstly on Asia, followed by the US and then South America.

Gates and Partners is listed by the Legal 500 as a tier 2 aviation firm with a ‘solid reputation’ in the market, and said to be ‘among the best’. The firm advised British Airways in relation to a BA38 accident, where an aircraft flying from Beijing to Heathrow landed short of the runway when both engines failed on approach. Key individuals include Neil McGilchrist, who has ‘vast experience’. Saleema Brohi and Paul Freeman are also singled out.

The merged firm will be led by Kennedys senior partner Nick Thomas, while Gates senior partner Sean Gates will retire from the firm this summer.

Thomas said: ‘Our expansion continues to be predicated on client need and organic growth and this merger enables us to do what we do best: dedicate ourselves to a particular sector and add real value by combining legal knowledge and industry insight. This approach has served us well in several other sectors. It’s a powerful combination which adds greater value to our clients’ businesses.’

Gates added: ‘I leave the firm in a tremendously strong position; Gates and Partners has carved out a position as the only international law firm wholly dedicated to the aviation and aerospace sectors and it will now be able to grow further, benefitting from Kennedys international platform, wider legal expertise and its strong sector focus.’

Other recognised leaders in the aviation field include Clyde & Co and Holman Fenwick Willan, Bird & Bird and DLA Piper. Holman Fenwick launched its aviation team in 2011 with the controversial hire of Barlow Lyde & Gilbert’s (BLG) eight-partner rated aviation team, smoothing the path for BLG’s merger with former aviation rival Clyde & Co.

Kennedys is in on-going merger talks with Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick – a move that would give Kennedys its first foothold in Scotland.