Legal Business

A shock to the system as Freshfields heavyweight departs

Given that it has been so well telegraphed that the $10m lateral was coming to the Square Mile, the shock among City peers at the hire of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer private equity veteran David Higgins (pictured) has been, well, shocking. ‘Outrageous’, ‘obscene’ and ‘mildly appalling’ are among the reactions from peers. One hopeful partner at a US firm notes: ‘The clients won’t be impressed with that number splashed all over the news.’

But such sentiments are a naive reading of how the industry is evolving. Yes, if you think of a lateral as wrangling an immediate book of business, such a package suggests needing to preside over $30m within three years to be called a success on a conventional yardstick. That would certainly be a stretch – though not impossible given what some of the strongest City laterals have managed – but that is not the benchmark. Kirkland & Ellis has been stuffed with leveraged finance talent for years while lacking an unquestioned corporate A-lister. The hyper-productive Matthew Elliott delivered that when he joined from Linklaters in 2016, but his practice has a very precise real estate slant.