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Top KWM funds partner exits for Clifford Chance in Germany

Clifford Chance (CC) has tapped King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) for its highly-regarded Germany head of funds Sonya Pauls.

Pauls (pictured), who divided her time between London and Munich at KWM, will join CC’s Munich office. Pauls was one of KWM’s biggest billing partners across Europe with 20 years’ experience advising European and global fund managers.

She will work with the Magic Circle firm’s German funds team and its international private funds group, as well as taking responsibility for private equity funds in the firm’s corporate department.

CC Germany managing partner Peter Dieners said: ‘Pauls’ move to Clifford Chance is fantastic news for the firm. For us, she is the market leader in Germany for private equity fund structuring and her skills and know-how complement our strengths. Together with our existing funds team, this will create a truly unique and outstanding funds practice, which dovetails perfectly with our national and global strategy.’

Pauls is the latest notable exit from KWM’s Germany offices. K&L Gates recently launched in Munich last month with the hire of a three-lawyer team from the firm, bringing in investment management partner Hilger von Livonius and two of counsel.

The departure follows a string of high-profile partners in exiting KWM’s European practice, with London alone experiencing the loss of private equity heavyweights Steven Davis to Proskauer Rose and Richard Lever to Goodwin Procter in recent times, while valued partners such as competition litigator Elaine Whiteford, financial regulation specialist Gregg Beechey and Simon Fulbrook have also departed for Covington & Burling, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and Goodwin Procter respectively. Pauls’ exit marks further deterioration of the firm’s once well-regarded continental European practice, with KWM having lost a six-partner private equity team billing over £8m a year in Paris to Goodwin Procter in April.

Pauls’ departure is also symbolic. The funds group, bar the exit of London-based Duncan Woollard to Paul Hastings, has largely proved imperious to partner exits despite the chaos caused at the firm this year by the shock resignation of managing partner William Boss, pay delays, a practice reorganisation, a restructuring that saw some 24 partners asked to leave the firm and a cash call that will see partners pump £14m into the troubled practice.

For more on King & Wood Mallesons see the cover feature: ‘Global 100: Branded – Inside the troubled takeover of SJ Berwin’