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Revolving doors: US players dominate lateral recruitment as Alston & Bird opens City branch

US firms led the way with lateral hires in London last week, with Alston & Bird launching a City branch. The Atlanta-based Global 100 firm has hired three partners for its UK finance and payments practices.

Andrew Petersen joins from K&L Gates, where he was head of the finance practice and is joined by fellow finance partner James Spencer. Petersen and Spencer have worked together for more than 17 years and handle a range of transactions related to real estate private equity, commercial mortgage-backed securities, restructuring, and debt and equity workouts. They are joined by competition partner and payments industry specialist James Ashe-Taylor from Constantine Cannon where he was head of its European antitrust practice.

Alston partner Richard Willis, who will oversee the London branch, told Legal Business: ‘We’re conservative about the way we grow, whether it’s domestically in the US or the few instances we’ve ventured aboard. We look for practices that we know have a strong connectivity back to what we do well and can continue to attract premium clients and great projects. Finance is an area we’ve been making investments in as a firm, across many of our offices, and have done well. There isn’t a shortage of candidates in the London recruitment market but there is a shortage of candidates that may fit well, so we were fortunate enough to come across our new hires.

‘We don’t have a fixed headcount that we aspire to. It’s natural to equate growth with success but our aspirations are more modest. First and foremost, we want to make sure we get our new teams fully integrated into the firm and make sure we’re taking great care of their clients. That sort of integration and strategic vision is the principal goal for this year.’

Meanwhile, McGuireWoods has made a significant City hire with the acquisition of respected former White & Case EMEA banking group head Lee Cullinane. Leverage finance specialist Cullinane has worked on deals that have combined European financing elements with high yield and US institutional debt as well as emerging markets transactions.

He told Legal Business: ‘What made me consider the firm is that it has a preeminent leverage finance practice, particularly in the mid-market space in the States, where it has achieved great things in the past few years, and that’s what we’re looking to do here in London. We see London as the centre of growth for our European business and we want to be competing with the best firms for the best clients and the best work.

‘Most of us are generally confident about business levels in Europe. If you look at private equity, vast amounts of money are still to be invested. People are getting comfortable with emerging markets work. We want to be of the size where we’ve got the critical mass to compete with other leading players in the London market and across Europe.’

In another City move, Global 100 standout Goodwin has hired partner Robert Young to its tax practice in London. Young joins from Taylor Wessing where he was head of tax. He has experience in venture capital taxation and M&A, as well as advising corporate and personal clients on tax planning and structuring.

Young said: ‘Goodwin is a really exciting firm, one of the fastest-growing in the UK market, and its focus industry sectors align very well with my practice – particularly tech, life sciences, real estate and private equity. In terms of areas of interest within those sectors, a lot of time and attention is being paid to changes to the taxation of UK real estate, particularly the new non-resident capital gains tax regime, which is of interest to many of Goodwin’s core clients. Institutions are concerned with how these changes will affect them when they’re investing into the UK. That’s driving a lot of advisory work.’

Elsewhere, Orrick has added corporate adviser Ed Lukins to its capital markets and corporate group in London. He joins from Cooley where he was a partner. Head of Orrick’s European venture capital practice, Chris Grew, commented: ‘A terrific confluent of things, in terms of Ed having life sciences capability and also his experience in the energy sector, made him an absolutely perfect fit for the firm. The quantum of transactions we’re handling is just phenomenal, so we’re always glad to add to the bench strength. The nice thing about working in technology and energy is that they are not affected by the political shenanigans going on. I wouldn’t say that they are immune to Brexit and the economy but we are certainly not dramatically affected so far by anything.’

Meanwhile, Dechert has added partner Ciara O’Leary to its Dublin office. Funds expert O’Leary, who joins from Maples where she was a partner, has experience in establishing and operating European retail regulated funds, exchange-traded funds and alternative investment funds.

Finally, Ince has appointed Julian Clark as its senior partner in London. He joins from Hill Dickinson where he was head of global shipping and has over 30 years’ experience in litigation, arbitration and mediation and has worked in marine, trade and energy dispute resolution and has expertise in piracy, e-commerce, cybercrime, security and terrorism issues in the shipping sector.