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KWM competition trio defects to Macfarlanes in rare lateral play by City thoroughbred

City firm Macfarlanes has made a rare triple lateral hire with three partners from King & Wood Mallesons‘ (KWM) European practice. The firm is taking on Tom Usher, Cameron Firth and Christoph Humpe as partners, and will also take on KWM’s former European senior partner Stephen Kon as a consultant.

Kon had resigned earlier in the week, having stepped down from the senior partner position earlier in the year. Partners have been peeling away from the legacy SJ Berwin practice after the partnership, which is carrying more than £30m in debt, failed to agree to a recapitalisation plan in November.

Usher, who billed almost £4m last year, had led the firm’s dispute resolution and regulation division and joined SJ Berwin in 1989.

Meanwhile, KWM China is understood to have bid for an out-of-administration purchase of certain legacy SJ Berwin offices including Dubai, Germany, Italy and Spain. It is also talking with partners to keep an outpost in London.

If a deal is agreed, the acquisition will remain within a verein structure, and the business will take on a significant number of lawyers but without any of legacy SJ Berwin’s liabilities.

While the Chinese arm is interested in these parts of the business, it is not yet clear what will happen to other outposts in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Last week the firm registered a new LLP in the UK under the name KWM Deutschland, which may include part or all of the new European entity which the Asian arm is keen to retain.

K&L Gates and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have also taken on a number of lawyers from KWM’s Munich office, while one of KWM’s top billers Craig Pollack and part of his team are to join Covington & Burling pending a partnership vote.

DLA Piper will take on real estate partner William Naunton and several members of his team including partners Cornelius Medvei, Bryan Pickup, Ed Page, George Burrha and Jeremy Brooks. Managing associate Omer Maroof will also join as a partner, alongside eight other lawyers and three trainees.

Tax partner Clive Jones will join Greenberg Traurig, alongside top biller Steve Cowins and Marc Snell, M&A partners Michael Goldberg and David Fitzgerald and partner Matthew Priday along with their teams.

Read more: ‘This is a gritty place’: Macfarlanes’ leaders on the hustle it takes to look effortless

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