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Latham sets pace for 2014 as expansive City arm hires Weil private equity partner

For many watchers of the upper reaches of City law, Latham & Watkins has in recent years established a profile as one of the most upwardly mobile players in London, a reputation the US-based giant has moved to underline early in 2014 with the recruitment of Weil, Gotshal & Manges funds partner Nick Benson.

The move is the fifth partner hire for Latham’s City arm within the last 12 months and a further high-profile addition to the 600-partner firm’s UK buyout practice after the recruitment last April of Clifford Chance’s (CC) private equity head David Walker, which was followed up in October with the appointment of fellow CC partner Tom Evans.

Benson joins Latham from Weil Gotshal’s private funds group, where he advised sponsors and investors on the establishment and operation of private equity, infrastructure and real estate funds. He had joined the City office of Weil in 2011 as part of a four-partner team hire from CC’s funds practice.

‘Adding a private funds lawyer of Nick’s calibre is a natural extension for our private equity practice and will also be a significant addition to our global funds team,’ said Latham London managing partner Nick Cline (pictured).

‘We are one of a select group of firms to offer market-leading private equity and finance teams in all major jurisdictions. Nick’s arrival further strengthens our credentials in London, a key market for our global private equity practice,’ said Daniel Lennon, global chair of Latham & Watkins’ corporate department.

Aside from private equity, Latham made two senior laterals last year, bringing in Dean Naumowicz, former head of derivatives at Norton Rose in May; and Simon Bushell, former co-chair of corporate fraud at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Weil in contrast has seen several recent UK departures in private equity including Mark Soundy and Simon Burrows last year moving to Shearman & Sterling, though the New York-based firm remains one of the leading players in the City buyout scene. While Weil retains a large UK funds practice, there is no doubt that US advisers including Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Kirkland & Ellis have made substantial inroads in the lucrative area at the expense of UK rivals over the last five years.

Latham’s London office now numbers 250 fee-earners and 60 partners giving the Los Angeles-bred firm one of the largest City operations built by a foreign adviser.

For analysis on the battle between US and UK firms to dominate the City private equity market see Back at the gate: US invaders raise fresh questions over private equity status of CC and Linklaters