Legal Business Blogs

Revolving doors: Two out, two in at Kirkland, as A&O sees first exit following merger approval

London fraud specialist Andy McGregor has become the first partner to leave Allen & Overy since partners voted in favour of its merger with Shearman & Sterling last week. A Legal 500 leading individual for civil fraud in London, McGregor is particularly experienced in banking litigation. He moves to disputes boutique Enyo Law after eighteen months at A&O, which he joined from RPC in May 2022.

Kirkland & Ellis has seen another partner depart its London office with the move of IP litigator Katie Coltart to Linklaters. Coltart joined Kirkland as a partner in 2018, and previously spent six years at A&O, where she qualified in 2011.

‘One of the major pull factors was Linklaters’ global footprint, especially its strength and depth in Europe’, Coltart told Legal Business. ‘It appealed to me, and it appeals to clients, who increasingly want to come to one firm for a seamless cross-border experience.

‘This is especially important in Europe with the advent of the Unified Patent Court. We’re expecting to see an uptick in UK litigation linked to that, too, as clients run parallel actions in the UK and the UPC. Linklaters was looking for somebody who could cover both tech and life sciences and I expect my practice will continue to be broad in that sense.’

Linklaters also bolstered its antitrust & foreign investment practice with its hire of former Addleshaw Goddard competition and regulatory head Bruce Kilpatrick. A Legal 500 Hall of Famer in EU and Competition, Kilpatrick returns to Linklaters after more than a decade at Addleshaws. The hire sees Linklaters build its competition team after Simon Pritchard left for Latham in March.

In another Kirkland departure, Paul Hastings has brought over corporate partner Ruth Knox as its new global co-chair of ESG and sustainable finance. Knox was at Kirkland for just over two years, joining as a partner in September 2021.

‘I’ve watched with real interest over the past 12-18 months as the firm added a lot of lateral talent to its ranks’, said Knox, referring to a spate of recent hires by Paul Hastings that has included New York-based investment funds & private capital practice global chair John Budetti, also from Kirkland; and London infrastructure and energy partners Jessamy Gallagher and Stuart Rowson from Linklaters.

Knox’s new role will see her work alongside a range of teams. ‘The true strength of ESG and sustainable finance is in supporting other practices, such as investment funds and private capital, energy and infrastructure, and private equity’, she said. ‘It grows in parallel with the growth of other practice areas. That’s part of what made this opportunity so exciting to me.’

Though she noted the backlash against ESG, especially prominent in the US, Knox was clear that: ‘ESG is not going away. We’re seeing more and more demand from PE sponsor and investment fund clients for dedicated ESG counsel, able to advise on the full suite of requirements. That’s only going to increase, especially with the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and increased disclosure requirements.’

Kirkland, for its part, is fighting back, with the hire of debt finance partners Ian Barratt and Sinead O’Shea from Simpson Thacher. Barratt is a Legal 500 Hall of Famer for acquisition finance in London, and O’Shea is a leading individual. The two lawyers joined Simpson Thacher in 2003 and 2000 respectively, and their losses reduce its London acquisition finance partner headcount to just four, according to its website.

The hires may be signs of a play on Kirkland’s part to target Simpson Thacher key client KKR. Both Barratt and O’Shea list work for KKR among their top matters, and KKR is also a key client of Alvaro Membrillera, the former Paul Weiss London head whose August move to Kirkland precipitated the recent flurry of partner departures.

Herbert Smith Freehills has also made moves in private capital, bringing over Eleanor Shanks and Dylan Kennett. Shanks joins from Sidley Austin and will take the role of head of international private equity in London, while Kennett was a senior associate at DLA Piper, and will become UK venture capital and growth capital practice co-lead.

‘The firm has expanded in private capital in recent years, and the opportunity to come and play a strategic role in that growth was too good to turn down’, said Shanks.

Michael Jacobs, a PE-focused corporate partner who joined HSF from A&O in 2020, described private capital as ‘one of the core strategic focuses of the firm – we are definitely looking to continue to grow and develop. Dylan and Eleanor are very important pieces of the puzzle. Dylan, because he has experience across both early and late-stage VC/growth investments, meaning we’ll be able to offer clients support through the full life cycle. And Eleanor because she has the real PE pedigree to complement our existing team.’

Shanks described this approach as ‘cradle-to-realisation’, while Kennett noted the firm’s aim to provide support ‘from fund formation to downstream capital deployment.’

Elsewhere, Vinson & Elkins has hired energy and infrastructure finance partner Chris Taufatofua from Milbank. Taufatofua joins the corporate practice headed by Ben Higson, who joined from Hogan Lovells in November last year.

‘Joining a team that is very seriously in growth mode and fully immersed in the challenges and opportunities of the energy and infrastructure sectors was compelling,’ said Taufatofua. ‘For someone with a deep-rooted project sector and industry-led practice like mine, V&E is the ideal platform.’

Shoosmiths, meanwhile, has expanded its London banking and finance team with the hire of real estate specialists James Spencer, formerly a partner at Alston & Bird, and Paul Hynes, who was a senior associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman, and joins Shoosmiths as a partner.

Freshfields has made an addition to its competition practice, bringing Colin Raftery back into its practice as a partner after his departure as a senior associate in 2016. Raftery will join in the new year from the Competition & Markets Authority, where he has been senior director of mergers for the past five years.

Freshfields London antitrust partner James Aitken cited Raftery’s experience at the CMA as a reason for his hire. ‘The CMA has had a significantly increased role in merger control following Brexit. It’s at the forefront of international thinking in terms of developing theories about things like dynamic competition, and how to apply merger control to digital markets. Theories that are developed in the context of merger control in digital cases are applied more broadly in other sectors. Colin, having been part of the leadership team at the CMA, will bring invaluable experience in helping our clients to navigate that.’

Freshfields has also been active in Frankfurt, where it brought energy and infrastructure finance specialist Andreas Ruthemeyer back into its global transactions team after he moved to Clifford Chance in February 2020.

Also in Germany, Pinsent Masons has hired a team from Dentons into its Munich office. The team includes public sector partners Andreas Haak and Lars Hettich, and corporate partner Michael Krömker.

In Hong Kong, Eversheds Sutherland has hired Tom Van Hoof, previously of counsel at DLA Piper, into its banking and finance team as a partner. This marks another sign of the firm’s commitment to China, after it announced a cooperation agreement with King & Wood Mallesons China in July.

Stephenson Harwood has also been active in the PRC, hiring an eight-lawyer shipping team into its offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Partner Paul Ho leads the team, which consists of two of counsel, three managing associates and two associates, and comes from Ince Hong Kong, where Ho was chief representative of the Shanghai office and head of its Greater China practice. Ince Hong Kong operates independently of Axiom Ince, which was recently shut down by the SRA.