Legal Business Blogs

Q&A: Cooley’s Justin Stock talks launching in London and his ambition to match US success

Two years after Cooley‘s launch in the City with a dramatic flurry of hires, the office has hit turnover of $47m and grown rapidly. Matthew Field talks to Cooley London managing partner Justin Stock about the firm’s next move.

You’re two years in to London, how has the performance been?

It’s been great and the numbers are even a little higher than we had budgeted for. The first two years have been a lot about getting the pieces in place and bedding down the team. We had to spend time integrating and getting everyone to know each other.

What’s the future for Cooley London?

Year three will bring further growth with a focus on corporate. This is going to be about powering our core strengths across tech and life sciences, and handling complex litigation. We are at 80 lawyers and are absolutely not finished growing.

How did you come to join from Morrison & Foerster?

When David Bresnick and I originally went to chat to Cooley, it was a bit of a reconnaissance mission. We all work in the technology space and had heard a rumour Cooley was coming. We wanted to find out more.

What drew me to the firm was the opportunity to be part of an exciting vision with a firm that has the guts to do something material. They weren’t going to dip their toe in London, they were going to make a significant commitment. Joe Conroy, Cooley’s chief executive officer, was a big part of my decision. I liked his approach and his vision and determination to make it work.

What have been the key matters for London?

Working with Deliveroo on its $275m financing from General Catalyst was a great transaction; Microsoft’s deal for Swiftkey was another super deal; and both were in our core space. I also helped advise Apollo Global Management in relation to the $1.1bn float of Athene on the New York Stock Exchange.

What was your background before joining Cooley?

I practiced at a firm in Johannesburg called Werksmans, making partner there in 2000. I was married in 2001 and moved here with my wife six months later. Before then we had never discussed leaving South Africa. I joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

What was your next move?

O’Melveny & Myers were doing very well in the private equity space in the US and were building up a PE-focused practice, which presented an opportunity for me in London. After they had a significant team move in New York, I was concerned that London growth would be put on the back burner. I was ambitious and did not want to wait, so moved to MoFo, which was building up their team in London. Perhaps that growth-and-build vision is a bit of a theme for me.

What is the secret to success for Cooley?

We want to be in the top firms in London; one of the elite UK firms. We have achieved that in America. What I want to replicate here is something I’ve seen but we’re still working on it. Many of our clients in the States genuinely love the firm and value the lawyers, that’s what we want to achieve here, to be seen as a true business partner of our clients. If they see you like that you have them for life.