Latham & Watkins has become the latest US player to expand its City emerging company capabilities by targeting two mid-market UK firms for a double-partner hire.
Taylor Wessing has seen one of its more senior departures in recent years as its head of technology, media and communications Mike Turner decamped to the US firm alongside Bird & Bird’s corporate partner Shing Lo. Both hires, announced today (29 January), were voted in by Latham’s partnership in early January and will join the firm over the next few weeks.
‘We are the first law firm that has a compelling emerging companies and venture capital practice on the West Coast, East Coast, Europe and Asia,’ Latham’s London corporate co-chair Robbie McLaren told Legal Business. ‘On top of this, we have the ability to do M&A and equity capital transactions in these jurisdictions as well, and that’s what clients are looking for.’
Promoted to the partnership in 2016, McLaren was until this move the only City partner covering the tech space at the firm: ‘When we set out to refine our global strategy in this sector we thought: where are we underweight in this space? The answer was London.’
He added: ‘As a West Coast heritage firm we understand how [the emerging companies practice] works and the opportunities it offers. There is such a great opportunity in this space with the amount of money being raised by private companies that we thought it would make sense to hire two outstanding practitioners.’
He added that when the firm started scouting partners last summer, Turner and Lo were the two names at the top of the list.
The loss of Turner is particularly ominous for Taylor Wessing, coming a few months after the firm lost a four-partner life sciences and tech team to another US player expanding its City capabilities in the area, Goodwin Procter.
Turner had joined Taylor Wessing from fellow UK tech-focused firm Osborne Clarke in 2013 and forged relationships with a number of tech companies both sides of the Atlantic, such as Farfetch.
Indeed, the entrance of a group of US firms into the City tech space brings a new competitive threat to a number of mid-market UK firms that had so far been largely spared by the Americans’ expansion this side of the pond.
Over the last few years US giants have usually targeted the UK Magic Circle, with Latham last year hiring Clifford Chance’s real estate veteran Stephen Curtis and Linklaters’ insurance partner Victoria Sander.
However, McLaren signalled Latham had no immediate appetite for further City laterals in the tech space: ‘With the connections these two hires bring we’ll have greater opportunity to grow. At the moment this will be sufficient and I suspect we’ll be more likely to promote our own lawyers.’