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Latham continues European assault with Magic Circle hire in Germany while Ropes adds London finance partner from Goldman

US firms have been busy expanding their European finance ranks this week, with Latham & Watkins scooping yet another Magic Circle partner and Ropes & Gray hiring a leveraged finance partner in London.

In its race to the top of the German legal market, Latham has come back to London’s big four for the third European hire in less than two months.

Thomas Weitkamp has quit Clifford Chance (CC) to join Latham’s banking practice in Munich.

Weitkamp, who joined CC’s local operations in 2003 and made partner six years ago, advises financial institutions and private equity houses on leveraged finance, lending and restructuring – an obvious fit for a US firm which has been aggressively expanding its local transactional capabilities in recent years.

‘Our German finance practice is strategically focused on ground-breaking leveraged buyouts and corporate finance transactions,’ said Latham’s Germany managing partner Oliver Felsenstein.

‘Thomas’ experience complements our existing top-tier banking, private equity, restructuring and high yield practices. He is hard-working, dynamic and entrepreneurial – someone you want on your team.’

This is the second German lateral from the Magic Circle in less than two months for Latham, which in March tapped a retrenching Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to recruit its seventh Dusseldorf-based partner while also hiring from Linklaters in London last week.

In Munich, the firm previously hired Linklaters’ head of private equity Rainer Traugott in 2016, while Felsenstein himself quit CC with Burc Hesse the year before, only a few months into a four-year term as head of private equity at the Magic Circle firm.

Germany has traditionally been dominated by London firms, Freshfields and CC in particular, but with both scaling down in recent years, 170-strong Latham is proving a potent contender for the top end of the market from its Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich outposts.

Another US firm strengthening its European finance practice, Ropes has hired Goldman Sachs loan negotiation group managing director and CC alumni Carol Van Der Vorst to become the firm’s seventh finance partner in London.

‘As we look towards the next phase of growth, we think expansion in the underwriter side and further expansion on the large-cap sponsor side will be a good source of business,’ co-head of finance Michael Kazakevich told Legal Business. ‘We started looking across the market for candidates and Carol’s name kept popping up from various sources. Banks respect her, sponsors like her because she is reasonable and a great lawyer.’

Van Der Vorst, who started her career as an associate at CC before moving to Goldman in 2011, will start at Ropes in August as the firm’s 28th London-based partner.

Her hire continues Ropes’ efforts to beef up the London office after a number of departures last year.

The firm, which almost quadrupled the size of its London practice over the previous five years, saw its ranks shrink by 13% to 125 and its City partnership by 20% to 27. Kirkland, Watson Farley & Williams, King & Spalding, Linklaters, White & Case and Dechert recruited partners from the firm.

But Ropes started the year with some headline London hires, including CC white-collar heavyweight Judith Seddon to co-lead its London international risk practice.

Kazakevich denied 2017 had been a difficult year for the firm’s London outpost, pointing to strong financial performance and saying: ‘This move is not rebuilding, this move is growing. I don’t need to rebuild the practice because clients are all still there.’