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Lucky 13 in London as Kirkland unveils mammoth partner round and taps City rival for restructuring hire

Underlining the meteoric rise of a group of elite US law firms, Kirkland & Ellis has unveiled one of the largest promotion rounds ever seen from a single legal partnership, minting 97 new partners, including 13 in the firm’s fast-growing City arm.

The number of London promotions is more than double last year’s round, when six lawyers were made up, and up on last year’s total tally of 81. It is also larger than the entire partnership of top 50 UK law firm Travers Smith.

Kirkland’s new London-based partners include Mark Thompson, Jacob Traff and Rebecca Villarreal, who have all been made up in M&A/private equity, while Mark Ingram and Frazer Money are promoted in the firm’s tax department. Jeremy Leggate and Aranpreet Randhawa have both been promoted in investment funds.

Andrew Butel has been appointed to the firm’s government, regulatory and internal investigations litigation team while Philipp Kurek has been made up in general litigation. Also on the disputes side, Jon Newman has been promoted in arbitration. Rounding out the London promotions are James Simpson (capital markets), Adam Skinner (financial services regulatory) and Christopher Wall (debt finance).

The remainder of Kirkland’s promotion round have been made up in the firm’s international offices spanning Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington DC.

The 2,000-lawyer US firm has an unusual model in that it makes up large ranks of salaried partners before considering promotions to its tightly-held equity. The firm had 359 equity partners at the end of the 2016 financial year, and 461 salaried partners. Those making it to equity benefit from one of the world’s most profitable law firms where plateau earnings now top $10m.

In a further expansion to Kirkland’s London arm, the firm this week hired James Watson as a restructuring partner from London firm Stephenson Harwood, where he was a senior associate.

Kon Asimacopoulos, a partner in Kirkland’s European restructuring group, told Legal Business: ‘James has got tremendous experience in leadership roles and clients love him, that’s a key factor for us.’ Kirkland has also hired associates Karim Kassam and Gabe Tan to strengthen its London restructuring team. Kassam joins from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer while Tan arrives from White & Case. The appointments come in the same week that Kirkland was instructed on one of the most high profile UK insolvency mandates of the year, the administration of UK airline Monarch.

Kirkland, which has built one of the largest City practices of any US-bred law firm, has made a concerted push to add depth to its London restructuring practice this year, already bringing in Freshfields partner Sean Lacey in May.