Legal Business Blogs

Revolving doors: all change in Middle East, UK, Europe as September begins with fresh wave of hires

It has been a busy start to September already with a spate of international and UK-wide hires.

Washington DC-based Crowell & Moring was a major beneficiary in the Middle East, picking up a team from Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) after the latter announced plans to shut down its operation in Qatar.

SPB issued a statement last week announcing it had decided to close its Doha office as it had become ‘increasingly clear that our presence in Doha was not core to our strategy’, and instead focus on its other Middle East bases in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It follows other international firms that have quit Qatar in recent years, including Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy.

Crowell then announced SPB’s Doha team, comprising infrastructure partners Robert Hager, Charbel Maakaron, Michael Guiffré, and Meagan Bachman will be joining Crowell & Moring as partners, as the firm plans to launch an office in Doha with an additional team of eight lawyers. Hager, Guiffré and Bachman will be based in DC, while Maakaron will head up the Doha office.

Major work for the team includes acting for the Qatar government on the development of the Hamad International Airport, one of the largest airport and infrastructure projects in the world.

Crowell chair Philip Inglima said: ‘We see Qatar as a strong market for one of our strategic growth priorities, which is the expansion of our global infrastructure practice, building on the strengths of our government contracts, international dispute resolution, project development, and regulatory experience.’

Meanwhile, in Belgium, Cooley has hired Patrick Van Eecke, the global co-chair of DLA Piper’s data protection and cybersecurity practice, as a partner in its Brussels office. He leaves DLA after 17 years, and his practice spans data protection and privacy, as well as e-commerce, marketing, advertising and consumer-related legal advice. He becomes head of Cooley’s European cyber, data and privacy practice and vice chair of its global practice. West Coast US tech specialist Cooley opened in Brussels last year, following its successful London launch in 2015.

In Paris, Dechert has enhanced its bench of seasoned arbitrators with the addition of Claudia Annacker from the award-winning team at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Annacker specialises in investment treaty arbitrations and has represented sovereign states and investors in more than 30 investment treaty arbitrations and regularly advises investors on structuring their investments to benefit from, or improve, investment treaty protections. She is admitted to the Paris Bar and is also a member of the Court of Arbitration of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the board of the Vienna International Arbitral Centre.

In the UK SPB has made some hires of its own, adding two new corporate partners in London and Leeds respectively. Jayson Marks joins from HFW in the City, with more than 15 years’ experience and with a primary focus on natural resources, acting for mining and oil and gas companies and investors, he has financial services, commodities and shipping experience.

In Leeds, the firm has hired M&A and private equity specialist David Milne from local rival Eversheds Sutherland. Both firms have a long legacy of competing in the city for premium corporate work – with SPB in its previous guise of Yorkshire stalwart Hammonds – despite both having moved into transatlantic tie-ups in recent years.

Travers Smith has made a significant private equity hire with the addition of Simon Witney as a senior consultant from Debevoise & Plimpton, where he has worked since 2017. Prior to that he was a partner at SJ Berwin between 2001 and 2013 and a consultant at King Wood & Mallesons between 2013 and 2017.

A prominent member of the UK and European private equity communities, Witney has served in senior positions at trade associations over a number of years. He is currently a member of the Council of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), which is responsible for the BVCA’s strategic direction and oversight, and previously chaired its legal and accounting committee. He is a past chair of Invest Europe’s tax, legal and regulatory committee and a current member of its professional standards committee and financial services-regulatory working group. He has also been a member of the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association’s legal & regulatory council.

Senior partner Kathleen Russ commented: ‘The private capital market is undergoing a significant change…As a result, now more than ever, providers of private capital are seeking truly multi-faceted and sophisticated support from their legal advisers to help them navigate the complex issues they face.

‘Many of my colleagues at Travers Smith have had the pleasure of working closely with Simon Witney over the years. Having him now join our firm demonstrates our commitment to our clients and will further consolidate our market-leading presence in this sector.’

In Manchester, Addleshaw Goddard has made a significant hire from its national competitor Eversheds Sutherland, recruiting employment law specialist Mike Burns as partner.

Burns, who will lead the Manchester employment practice, brings over 25 years of experience, advising on all aspects of contentious and non-contentious employment law issues. His appointment follows on from the lateral hires of Shakeel Dad and Rebecca Kitson, (from Walker Morris and Eversheds Sutherland respectively) as partners in Addleshaw’s Leeds office.

Finally, the in-house legal market witnessed a significant move recently with GC Powerlister Anna Cosgrave last week becoming general counsel of Unilever’s Food & Refreshment division.

Cosgrave, who had been head of legal at successful snack brand graze since 2016 and was previously a managing associate at Addleshaw Goddard, moves into a senior role following Unilever’s acquisition of the holding company of graze in early 2019.