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Revolving Doors: HSF and SJ Berwin hire finance management team as Covington and Cleary bring in litigation partners

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has filled its two most senior finance slots with the hire of Kirkland and Ellis finance chief Nick Willmott as its new chief financial officer (CFO) and Paul Roberts from BDO as its finance director.

Wilmott, who will join HSF in September, will be responsible for overseeing integration at the recently merged firm from the perspective of the global business finance function. He has been at Chicago-based Kirkland since 2004, before which he held senior finance positions at Pepsi and real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, where much of his work was focused on merger integration.

Joint CEO David Willis said: ‘We are very pleased to have secured someone of Nick’s calibre to this important position. He has the skill set and experience we are looking for and will play a critical role in the firm’s on-going integration work.’

Roberts, meanwhile, will be finance director for the UK, EMEA and Asia regions. He previously held the same role at BDO and will start at HSF’s London office later in the month.

The appointments follow the hire last week by SJ Berwin of Rick Baumgartner from global management consultants McKinsey & Company as its first-ever chief operating officer.

As litigation practices thrive in the current market, Covington & Burling notably took on CMS Cameron McKenna London energy disputes partners Ben Holland and Jeremy Wilson following an increase in demand from energy clients.

London-based co-chair of the firm’s global arbitration practice, Gaëtan Verhoosel, said: ‘Ben and Jeremy are two extremely talented arbitration practitioners who will add deep energy industry expertise to our global arbitration practice. Their integration into our existing senior capability in London, which has seen a steady increase in instructions from energy clients over the years, will significantly expand our diverse and multi-jurisdictional offering.’

Wilson started at the firm on 1 July while Holland will begin later in the month.

Also boosting its litigation capability is US Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which has hired Frankfurt litigation partner Richard Kreindler from Shearman & Sterling; the latest German exit after Shearman announced in April this year that it was closing its Dusseldorf and Munich offices in order to refocus its German strategyon Frankfurt.

Cleary Gottlieb’s managing partner Mark Leddy said; ‘Richard brings nearly three decades of arbitration experience as an advocate and arbitrator in some of the world’s most significant commercial and investment treaty disputes, including extensive experience in German and German-language matters.’

Other recent exits have seen Shearman’s German partners leave for firms including Allen & Overy, Skadden Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom and Glade Michel Wirtz. Latham and Watkins also took a team from Shearman to launch an office in Dusseldorf in May this year.

Meanwhile in neighbouring France, Birmingham-based Wragge & Co has seen the departure of a seven-strong team from their Paris office to French law firm Franklin.

Real estate partner Henry Ranchon and finance partner David Blondelbring with them of counsel Juliette Bril and associates Charles Amar, Nadia Genisio, Suzy Lasro and Sébastien Séhili.

The appointment of Blondel comes a year after the firm recruited a five-lawyer real estate team from legacy Salans, including partner François Verdot.

According to a statement by the firm, Blondel’s hire ‘signals the firm’s commitment to the establishment of a fully-fledged bank finance capability to meet the substantial increase in demand from clients for top flight acquisition, real estate and project finance advice as well as in the key area of restructuring.’