Legal Business Blogs

Sidley returns to Kirkland for seven-partner Munich launch as US giant sustains European assault

Observers of Kirkland & Ellis’ patented burn ‘n’ churn approach to talent management are used to a little partnership movement, but even by the US leader’s standards, news today (15 February) that Sidley Austin has secured a seven-partner haul in Munich will catch attention.

The move sees Sidley return to Kirkland in dramatic fashion after last February hiring a six-partner deal team from Kirkland’s London office, a rare instance of the Chicago-bred institution losing an equity partner to a rival.

Veteran partner Volker Kullmann, joins with fellow corporate partners Björn Holland, Christian Zuleger, Nicole Schlatter and Marcus Klie, as well as finance partner Markus Feil and tax partner Roderic Pagel.

Kullmann joined Kirkland from Clifford Chance (CC) in 2004. With a focus on private equity and corporate, his clients include Ardian, Bridgepoint, Gilde Buy Out Partners, Intermediate Capital Group and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

The transferring Kirkland team will be joined by Linklaters Frankfurt-based restructuring partner Kolja von Bismarck. Also ex-CC, von Bismarck joined Linklaters in 2009. The new recruits join Jan Schinköth, who arrived from DLA Piper at the beginning of the month and was also previously a partner at Kirkland.

Kirkland’s Munich office is left with five corporate partners and an overall headcount of 14 partners.

Sidley had re-launched in Germany in March last year after the recruitment of the six-partner team led by Erik Dahl in London. The London and Munich-based Dahl was brought in to establish and lead the firm’s German office. Sidley secured the corporate work of key Kirkland client TowerBrook Capital Partners with the relationship managed by Dahl and fellow corporate partner Christian Iwasko.

Sidley had previously shut its Frankfurt office in 2014 following a spate of partner exits that put the office under a review in 2013 but the firm has obviously upgraded its ambitions for Europe.

While Kirkland confirmed the departures, Sidley European head George Petrow said: ‘The addition of these outstanding partners to our Munich office is another key step forward on Sidley’s road toward first-tier global leadership in acting for private capital. Contrary to growing scepticism in some quarters about the future of globalised markets, we remain convinced that the ability to offer cross-border legal services will continue to offer outstanding growth opportunities to the firms capable of exploiting them, and nowhere more so than in private equity, restructuring and M&A.’

For more on the revolving door between Sidley and Kirkland, see ‘Kiss the ring – patronage, in-fighting and exits threaten to stall Kirkland’s bandwagon’ (£)