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Revolving Doors: Travers and Shearman exodus continues as US firms pick up the talent

Once a rare phenomenon, exits from Travers Smith have picked up pace in recent weeks, with the latest departures announced this week being those of Ed Ford and Sacha Gofton-Salmond to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Partners at Travers since July 2021 and July 2022, respectively, Ford and Gofton-Salmond will bring to Simpson Thacher with capabilities in the private equity secondaries market.

Jason Glover, managing partner of Simpson Thacher’s London office and head of its European funds team commented: ‘Simpson Thacher has a multifaceted private funds practice in Europe and the addition of Ed and Sacha will further enhance our ability to provide clients with the flexibility needed to meet an evolving market.’

Glover also signalled the firm’s confidence in the continued expansion of the secondaries market, after total transactions reached a new record of $57bn in 2022, according to Jefferies’ global secondary market review. ‘Secondaries have grown in popularity in recent years’, he said, ‘and we expect that their use will continue to grow in a wide variety of private equity strategies.’

The two moves mark another gain for the firm from Travers after Stephanie Biggs came over to co-lead the European financial services and funds regulatory team earlier this month.

At Shearman & Sterling, meanwhile, the absence of any fresh news on the much-speculated upon merger with Hogan Lovells did not stem the outward flow of lawyers, as insolvency and restructuring partner Helena Potts left for Paul Hastings.

Potts is the third partner to join the firm’s London office so far this year, following the hires of former Linklaters infrastructure co-heads Jessamy Gallagher and Stuart Rowson in January. She pointed to this growth as a reason for her move. ‘Paul Hastings has been making a lot of high-profile lateral hires, and has brought over a lot of smart people in the restructuring space, both in London and in the US’, Potts told Legal Business. ‘That makes this an incredible platform for me to continue growing my practice.’

Potts also noted that her hire came amid expectations of a boom in the sector. ‘Restructuring has been quite quiet for the last couple of years. But the market looks set to turn, given the macroeconomic headwinds that we’re facing globally.’

Elsewhere, Dechert announced its hire of four antitrust partners and one counsel from Orrick. Douglas Lahnborg joined the London office with Saira Henry, who was a senior associate at Orrick, while John Jurata joined in Washington DC and Russell Cohen and counsel Howard Ullman joined in San Francisco.

With these hires, Dechert has established a dedicated London-based competition offering for the first time, with Lahnborg and Henry set to work closely with lawyers in the United States and across Europe, as well as with others in London who handle antitrust work arising from areas such as white-collar defence and investigations. ‘We’re meeting a strategic need’, global antitrust and competition group co-chair Mike Cowie explained to Legal Business. ‘Brexit has made UK antitrust enforcement far more important – you need more than just Brussels. You need a strong presence in London, you need depth. And Saira and Douglas bring that.’

Lahnborg and Henry bring particular expertise in the tech sector, including in cutting-edge areas such as cloud computing and AI. Lahnborg highlighted this aspect of his practice in conversation with Legal Business. ‘With this team, we’re particularly focused on technology. A lot of the enforcement activity we see in the US, in Brussels, and increasingly in the UK, is around tech. It just keeps generating market studies and investigations.’

In another departure from Orrick, European syndicated lending and direct lending specialist Anthony Kay moved to Baker McKenzie. Made up to the partnership at Orrick in 2020, Kay brings additional breadth to Baker McKenzie’s leveraged finance offering.

‘We add Anthony to a strong bench of banking and finance partners’, New York and London-based capital markets partner Rob Mathews told Legal Business. ‘His hire plays well into our broader complementary private equity and leveraged finance strategies. He’s perfect for us. He worked at Latham & Watkins and Orrick, so he’s known in the market, and he has both the syndicated lending piece and the direct lending piece. He has client contacts in both of those areas, so he’s kind of a double whammy.’

Away from restructuring and private equity, insurance was a focus for CMS, which expanded its practice with the hire of Anna Walsh. Most recently a partner at Capsticks, Walsh focuses on the healthcare sector. Insurance and reinsurance group head Ed Foss stressed this expertise as a reason for Walsh’s hire. ‘Having Anna come over, who has that experience from a healthcare perspective, really fits our broader strategy to meet complex insurance needs across sectors.’

Walsh expanded on this point, noting ‘huge growth in the private healthcare market in the last few years’, and increasing client demand for advice in growth areas including digital health and AI.