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Sliding doors: Norton Rose Fulbright exits Prague; Kirkland launches in Houston

In the same week as Kirkland & Ellis announced it is opening in Houston, top 10 LB100 firm Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has confirmed it is withdrawing from the Prague market, closing its local office due to ‘difficult market’ conditions with effect from 1 May.

NRF’s Prague head Milana Chamberlain will return to London where she will take up a senior position within the London business, ethics and anti-corruption practice. Meanwhile, Prague partner Pavel Kvíčala will join Czech-Slovak law firm Havel, Holásek & Partners along with his immediate team on 1 May.

There are currently 18 staff in the office, 10 of which are fee-earners including two partners. It is the second time legacy City firm NRF has exited the Czech capital, having previously closed its doors in the region in 1996.

The new office was launched in 2006, and ranked second-tier for corporate and M&A according to the Legal 500.

NRF’s deputy managing partner for the Europe, Middle East and Asia regions, Tim Marsden said: ‘Prague is a difficult market for firms with a global business model to compete in. We have been keeping the Czech market under review for some time. With no strong signs that market conditions are likely to change, we have decided that now is an appropriate time to effect a managed exit. The smooth transition of relevant client matters to Pavel Kvíčala will be a priority, and we look forward to working closely with Pavel and his team at Havel Holásek in the future.’

In the US, meanwhile, Kirkland has launched an office in Houston, the firm’s seventh office in the jurisdiction, with the hire of M&A partner Andrew Calder from rival US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Calder, who joins with associate Rhett Van Syoc, specialises in M&A, corporate and securities law, and corporate governance, with a particular focus on the energy sector. He comes with experience of advising private equity funds such as Blackstone Energy Partners and KKR, and companies like GeoSouthern Eagle Ford Development, Alta Energy Luxembourg, Arch Coal, Petrohawk Energy Corporation and PPL Corporation.

Kirkland corporate partner Benjamin Clinger is also relocating to Houston from the firm’s Chicago office. Clinger has experience of representing private equity sponsors in M&A, leveraged buyouts and portfolio company operations and exits.

Chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee, Jeffrey Hammes said: ‘Andrew is a first-class lawyer with an exceptional track record of achieving excellent results for top-tier clients on their most significant energy transactional matters. We are very pleased to both welcome him to the firm and to enhance the service we provide to all of our clients in the energy industry.’