Legal Business

Revolving doors: Dentons and Akin Gump double up in London as Squire Patton Boggs offsets loss in the City

Revolving doors: Dentons and Akin Gump double up in London as Squire Patton Boggs offsets loss in the City

A busy week for lateral hires saw Dentons, Akin Gump and Squire Patton Boggs each make City hires as DLA Piper turned to Aviva to expand its pensions team.

Dentons said today (30 September) it had hired M&A and private equity partner Paul Doris from the London office of US firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. He is the firm’s third corporate lateral hire in the last 18 months and advises financial sponsors, particularly in energy and infrastructure and in markets including Spain and Latin America.

Dentons’ UK corporate head David Collins (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘Paul’s skillset, sector focus and geographic coverage are all very much aligned to our strategy of building out a diversified corporate transactional practice in the UK which connects with our colleagues across the UK and the Dentons global platform.’

He added: ‘After what felt like a slightly extended summer break and pause in activity after a very busy first half of the year, we are back to high levels of activity across the team.’

Doris follows Dentons announcing last week it had hired restructuring and insolvency partner Richard Pallot-Cook in London. He re-joins from Simmons & Simmons and was previously a partner at Dentons.

Akin Gump, meanwhile, added two partners to its private equity practice, with Shaun Lascelles and Simon Rootsey joining the firm’s London office from Vinson & Elkins.

Partner in charge of Akin Gump’s London office, Sebastian Rice, told Legal Business: ‘We were very impressed with the work they’ve done, culturally they’re a great fit and we hope they will be a strong addition to our corporate team in terms of the clients they advise and the type of work they do.’

Akin Gump also hired finance partner Michael Gustafson to its London office from Pricoa Private Capital, where he was deputy chief legal officer. Gustafson was previously a partner at Bingham McCutchen before its London office joined Akin Gump in 2014.

‘The team who joined from Bingham McCutchen regarded Gustafson incredibly highly and he does very similar work to what we do. He’s coming back and we’re really excited to have him back,’ Rice added.

Squire Patton Boggs went both ways in London with the hire of banking partner Ian Yeo from Herbert Smith Freehills. The firm also lost employment partner Natalie Bellwood, however, to B2B IT services provider DXC Technology, where she becomes global head of employment.

Elsewhere, DLA hired Amrit McLean from Aviva, where she was propositions and sales director, as a partner to launch the firm’s pensions de-risking service. McLean has 13 years’ experience in pensions de-risking and pensions bulk annuity work.

UK head of pensions at DLA Piper Ben Miller told Legal Business: ‘There’s an awful lot of insurance that is being issued. There is a real need within the market for a really strong and comprehensive team led by somebody who has that sector experience and that’s what we’re able to do here.’

Finally, Osborne Clarke made a lateral hire from Thrings, bringing in Steve Schofield to its UK real estate practice, while in Poland, DWF appointed partner Paweł Stykowski as head of insurance in the firm’s Warsaw office. He joins from Wierzbowski Eversheds Sutherland where he headed the financial services and compliance practice.

Legal Business

Deal View: Five years on – How Akin Gump’s Bingham acquisition turned bust to boom in the City

Deal View: Five years on – How Akin Gump’s Bingham acquisition turned bust to boom in the City

‘Our team was nearly twice the size of Akin Gump’s London team. There was potential for vulnerability on both sides. They didn’t want their entire lives disrupted by a very large cuckoo in the nest.’ Five years on, restructuring partner James Roome reflects on the potential pitfalls of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s 28-partner acquisition of the City arm of his former shop, Boston’s ill-fated Bingham McCutchen.

In contrast to more ostentatious US counterparts, the Texas-bred Akin Gump has since flown under the radar to turn Bingham’s bust into its boom, thanks largely to the trophy restructuring team fronted by Roome. City growth has culminated in a blistering 2018 run as revenue spiked 28% to $123.5m, catapulting it into Legal Business’ Global London top ten firms by revenue.

Legal Business

City O’Melveny exodus continues as Akin Gump hires private equity funds duo

City O’Melveny exodus continues as Akin Gump hires private equity funds duo

The London woes of Allen & Overy’s prospective merger partner O’Melveny & Myers have continued with the loss of private equity funds lawyers John Daghlian and Mary Lavelle to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

The path from O’Melveny to Akin Gump has become a well-trodden one of late after private equity funds partners Daniel Quinn and Aleksander Bakic decamped in April for the Texas-bred firm’s investment management practice and transactional platform in London.

Funds veteran Daghlian and Lavelle, who was previously counsel at O’Melveny but will join Akin Gump as a partner, join the same practice.

Daghlian joined O’Melveny in 2004 from legacy SJ Berwin and was chair of O’Melveny’s investment funds practice, advising on international and domestic private equity-driven transactions.

Lavelle advises fund managers and institutional investors on investment fund and asset management matters, as well as secondary transactions.

While O’Melveny’s London office has been depleted by a merger proposal which has failed to gain significant traction despite discussions going on for more than a year, A&O’s City office has so far been left relatively unscathed.

Germany has seen the most notable losses for A&O with Duesseldorf corporate partner Murad Daghles defecting to White & Case in December 2018, while global head of employment and benefits Tobias Neufeld and dispute resolution head Daniel Busse left to set up their own boutiques a couple of months earlier.

James Roome (pictured), senior partner in Akin Gump’s London office, said of the hires: ‘John and Mary’s arrival—and that of Danny and Aleks recently—will add really outstanding capabilities and experience to our top-tier funds practice. Being UK-qualified, they genuinely complement the established US-qualified private equity funds team in London and the US.’

Prakash Mehta, co-head of its firmwide investment management practice, said: ‘John and Mary are, strategically, an exceptionally good fit for Akin Gump. Our London funds team will now number eight partners across the core areas of private equity funds and hedge funds—and there are numerous connection points between London and the US.’

The firm’s private equity funds team in London will include six partners: new arrivals John Daghlian, Daniel Quinn, Aleksander Bakic, Mary Lavelle and established Akin Gump partners Christopher Gorman-Evans and John Holton.

Legal Business

‘Investing in strength’: Akin Gump’s City turnover spikes 28% amid restructuring bonanza

‘Investing in strength’: Akin Gump’s City turnover spikes 28% amid restructuring bonanza

The London office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has recorded a 28% revenue hike to $123.5m.

The City results, with revenue up from $96.2m, mark a blistering year on the back of a swathe of big-ticket transactions in the financial restructuring space and stand out against the more muted firm-wide revenue uptick of 3% from $1.04bn to $1.07bn.

Profit per partner (PEP) was flat at £2.4m compared with $2.38m the previous year and revenue per lawyer was unchanged at $1.21m.

The City office, which is made up of 26 equity partners and 110 lawyers, is now responsible for generating 12% of firm-wide revenue. The resurgence for London is something of a fillip after last year’s 9% revenue rise, which came on the back of a 4% dip in turnover to $87.9m in 2016.

Financial restructuring partner James Roome told Legal Business that standout matters for the firm included roles on the $3.5bn restructuring of bond and bank debt underpinning Noble Group and the ongoing work in relation to the restructuring of UK construction plc Interserve.

Sebastian Rice, corporate partner in charge of the London office, points to the lateral hires of energy partner Julian Nichol from Bracewell in March 2018 and that of financial restructuring partner Thomas O’Connor from Morgan Lewis in October 2018.

He commented: ‘They are good examples of adding people in core areas of strength, and it is proving a success.’

Akin Gump’s City results follow strong performances in London from other US firms. White & Case’s London revenue rose 7% to $350m as firm-wide revenue broke $2bn and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy recorded a 25% increase in London revenue, to $156m. Elsewhere, revenue for Goodwin Procter’s London office grew 58%, while King & Spalding was up 12%.

Legal Business

Akin rainmakers quit to launch Russia independent in further apocalyptic sign for Western firms

Akin rainmakers quit to launch Russia independent in further apocalyptic sign for Western firms

Lawyers have been speaking for months of a tough environment for international firms in sanction-battered Russia, but no event has been as emblematic as the news in September that two of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s top Moscow partners have quit to launch an independent firm.

Heavyweight litigator Ilya Rybalkin and corporate veteran Suren Gortsunyan launched Rybalkin, Gortsunyan & Partners (RGP), bringing across 11 other fee-earners from their former shop – now left with just 18 lawyers in Moscow.
While the US sanction regime bars US firms from supporting Kremlin-linked oligarchs, speaking to Legal Business Gortsunyan said Russian companies were becoming increasingly less comfortable with instructing Western advisers.

Legal Business

Ominous signs for western firms in Russia as Akin Gump team quits to launch local independent

Ominous signs for western firms in Russia as Akin Gump team quits to launch local independent

The latest sign that life in Russia is getting tough for international firms came today (5 September) as two of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s key Moscow partners quit to launch an independent firm.

Heavyweight litigator Ilya Rybalkin and corporate veteran Suren Gortsunyan have launched Rybalkin, Gortsunyan & Partners (RGP) alongside 11 associates, counsel and paralegals from the US firm – a team which claims to have been involved in transactions cumulatively worth over $80bn.

The move comes as growing tensions between Russia and the West and US sanctions against leading Russian business owners are increasingly hindering western firms from servicing Moscow clients.

‘A team spin-off of this calibre and scale from a leading international firm is unprecedented in the Russian legal market,’ said Rybalkin, who was one of the top earners at legacy Hogan & Hartson before quitting shortly after its 2010 merger with Lovells and is credited with building up Akin Gump’s key Russian dispute resolution and investigations practice.

His clients included investment group Renova, whose owner Viktor Vekselberg was included in the latest US sanctions on 6 April and who saw billions of dollars in foreign assets frozen. The sanction regime also prevents US firms from supporting individuals included in the lists, a clear issue for western law firms with a large Russian client base.

‘At a time when sanctions and other geopolitical measures are distracting law firms from their main goal of serving clients, we expect to attract further senior lawyers from international law firms, added Rybalkin.

Alongside Rybalkin and fellow Hogan Lovells alumni Gortsunyan, former Akin Gump counsel Oleg Isaev will also start as partner at the new firm, which aims to have at least 15 fee-earners by the end of the year.

RGP will work with Akin Gump on a non-exclusive basis, including on current matters. Akin Gump’s Moscow office is now left with 18 lawyers.

Sebastian Rice, partner in charge of Akin Gump’s firm’s London office, said that the move will allow the team ‘to continue to support a number of established client relationships which would be impossible for Akin Gump to serve in the current international regulatory environment’.

‘We are disappointed that current events have resulted in their departure, and look forward to working with them closely in the future, where we are able to do so.’

Once regarded as the western legal elite’s El Dorado, international firms have been on the slide in Russia since the invasion of Crimea in 2014, which prompted the US and EU to publish subsequent lists of sanctioned Kremlin-linked oligarchs and plunged the local economy into financial crisis.

The Russian operations of international firms has been under increased scrutiny lately, with Britain’s foreign affairs select committee criticising Linklaters for its role in the $1.5bn IPO of energy company En+, owned by sanctioned oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Meanwhile, even New York firms like Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom, which built a substantial part of their business on Russian clients, have scaled down their local presence since 2014.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Akin Gump and King & Spalding boost London benches while international lateral hiring continues apace

Revolving Doors: Akin Gump and King & Spalding boost London benches while international lateral hiring continues apace

In a week dominated by European and international partner hires, US firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and King & Spalding were among four firms to add to their London benches with strategic additions in project finance and white-collar crime respectively.

After the coup of hiring former Financial Reporting Council (FRC) heavyweight Gareth Rees QC last September, King & Spalding has underscored its ambitions of being a serious corporate crime firm in London with the appointment of Aaron Stephens from Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP).

Stephens had a 10-year stint as BLP’s head of corporate crime and investigations, representing various clients who were under investigation by regulatory bodies including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Rees QC told Legal Business that the firm aims to recruit a five-strong team by the summer with the addition of an of counsel and a more junior associate. He commented: ‘We want to become recognised as an eminent white-collar team in London. Aaron’s hire is an incredibly strong contribution to that aim.’

‘He has a great reputation in the market. I asked my mates when the hire became a possibility, and it seems Aaron is very well-liked and well-respected, which is a good combination.’

Meanwhile,  Akin Gump has snapped up Julian Nichol from Bracewell in London as a partner in its global project finance practice. Nichol will focus on transactional energy and natural resources matters, having previously headed the EMEA power group and co-headed the firm-wide oil and gas practice at Bracewell. He advises investors from across EMEA looking to invest in the US and around the world, as well as international investors looking to invest in EMEA.

Elsewhere in London, Eversheds Sutherland lost real estate partner Anthony Van Hoffen to fellow City firm Lewis Silkin, while Carl Rohsler, Squire Patton Boggs’ head of IP litigation and gambling regulatory practices, left for Memery Crystal.

The week saw a flurry of activity in Europe, with Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Dentons and Orrick all adding laterals across the continent.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Frankfurt-based employment partner Timon Grau left to join fellow Magic Circle firm Linklaters in its employment practice out of Düsseldorf and Frankfurt.

Matthew Devey, who will be head of Linklaters’ employment practice group from 1 May onwards, said of Grau: ‘His expertise in fields that are of crucial importance to our German clients in particular – such as dealing with trade unions and works councils, matters concerning corporate bodies, compliance and crisis management as well as restructurings – will brilliantly add to our strengths in the field of providing strategic advice to international clients and dealing with cross-border matters.’

Meanwhile Herbert Smith Freehills boosted its Paris real estate practice, hiring Anne Petitjean as a partner from White & Case, where she had been a counsel for 11 years, advising on French and foreign investment funds, as well as institutional investors and developers on acquisitions of real property portfolios investments and project management.

Orrick’s hiring of Geneva and London-based arbitration partner James Hargrove was another loss to Eversheds Sutherland last week. Hargrove has advised on numerous arbitrations and litigation matters involving tech and telecoms, commodities and trade, energy, construction and financial sectors in London, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and other jurisdictions.  He also has a particular track record in Russia and CIS-related disputes.

Australian hires have focused on disputes, with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Ashurst both making lateral hires in the space within a week.

Quinn Emanuel hired Michael Lundberg, former partner in charge and head of disputes at King & Wood Mallesons’ Perth office and head to its own team in Perth.

Meanwhile Ashurst bolstered its Canberra disputes bench with dispute resolution partner Melanie McKean from Norton Rose Fulbright. With 18 years under her belt, she has advised corporate and private clients, as well as acting on major investigations for the Australian government.

TMT partner Angela Summersby also joined Ashurst in Canberra from HWL Ebsworth to advise on Australian Government contracting, intellectual property, privacy and business process outsourcing.

Meanwhile Clyde & Co has made a key hire for its Middle Eastern strategy, appointing Marla Valdez as managing partner of its associated office with Fatma Al Mamari Advocacy and Legal Consultancy Firm in Oman. Formerly a partner at Dentons in Oman, Valdez will be joined by legal director Stephen McKenna, who is relocating from Clyde & Co’s Abu Dhabi office.

Legal Business

As the City elite gets coy on associate salaries, US rivals are winning the battle for young talent

As the City elite gets coy on associate salaries, US rivals are winning the battle for young talent

Madeleine Farman assesses the impact of another round of pay rises on the City market

As US firms continue to hike associate pay for UK lawyers, members of the City’s legal elite are getting increasingly coy over what they are offering their junior ranks… but are such tactics sustainable in the long run?

Legal Business

Akin Gump reveals trainee salary increases, as NQ pay remains static yet competitive

Akin Gump reveals trainee salary increases, as NQ pay remains static yet competitive

Akin Gump has increased trainee salaries by 12% and 8% for first and second years respectively, with the group representing the first trainees the US firm has taken on, while its newly qualified (NQ) pay remained static this financial year.

The trainees, who are set to qualify this autumn, are Akin’s only trainee intake and were formed when it took over Bingham McCutchen’s London office in 2015.

Despite only starting a trainee programme in 2015, Akin is raising incoming first-year trainee pay from £43,000 to £48,000, and second-year salaries from £48,000 to £52,000.

The US firm’s first-year pay packets are also competitive, equal to that of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, and only trumped by Debevoise & Plimpton at £50,000, according to Lex100.

NQ pay at the firm remains £112,500 at current exchange rates. The firm last increased NQ remuneration levels in September 2016 from £100,000.

This, however, remains one of the most competitive NQ rates on the market, with peers such as Jones Day last week announcing an increase of up to £100,000, while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom pays NQs up to £118,000, according to Lex100.

The firm has up to four trainee places available for its next intake in 2019, receiving around 300 applications per year, and the salary increases will be effective from September 2017.

Akin’s director of international legal recruiting and development in London Victoria Widdows said trainees at Akin ‘quickly become an integral part of the London office and we want to ensure that salaries are reflective of this at the top end of the market, as is the case with our NQ salaries’.

Legal Business

A $50m hike sees Akin close on $1bn mark but City revenues slide; Cads shrinks again

A $50m hike sees Akin close on $1bn mark but City revenues slide; Cads shrinks again

US restructuring and energy leader Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld piled $50m on to its top line in 2016 to take revenues to just under $1bn, despite a slide in City income.

While revenue for the 2016 year hit $980m, up 5.3% on its 2015 tally of $930m, the law firm’s City arm saw its local income fall from $91.4m to $87.9m. The Texas-bred practice dramatically upgraded its City practice in late 2014 when it absorbed the bulk of Bingham McCutchen’s City arm, shipping in a 22-partner team to double the size of its London practice.

The firm-wide increase in revenue has been accompanied by a rise in profit per equity partner (PEP), up from $1.9m in 2015 to $2.1m this year, with revenue per lawyer remaining broadly static.

Akin Gump’s London co-head, Sebastian Rice, told Legal Business that a run of marquee restructuring jobs through 2015 accounted for the comparative 2016 dip in City income. At the end of 2015, Akin Gump’s restructuring team headed by James Roome (pictured), concluded a major case involving three former Icelandic banks: Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir. The team represented holders of $33bn in bonds following the collapse of the banks.

Rice described the restructuring work as ‘keeping about 20 lawyers extremely busy’, adding: ‘At the end of 2015 it really hit its peak. Things took a few months to ramp up. By summer 2016 things were back in full swing.’

Roome commented on the slow start to 2016, saying: ‘All the junior people were hugely relieved to get a break!’ Rice and Roome both attributed the firm-wide revenue growth to Akin Gump’s focus on core product lines like financial restructuring, international trade and tax. Noted Rice: ‘We don’t pretend to be all things to all people around the world, we just focus on the things we are highly regarded for.’

In terms of key City appointments in the past year, Akin Gump hired arbitration partner Hamish Lal from Jones Day, corporate partner Igor Krivoshekov from Dentons and trade partner Jasper Helder from Baker McKenzie. Addleshaw Goddard litigator Kambiz Larizadeh is set to arrive next month, becoming the firm’s 37th partner in London.

The results come as US law firms begin releasing annual financial results, indicating how the world’s largest legal market fared in the 2016 year. While Weil Gotshal & Manges has just confirmed a robust performance in 2016, its New York peer Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft this week said that turnover dropped 2.5% to $452m in 2016, against $463.5m the previous year. PEP increased 2.7% to $2.1m, while overall headcount fell 2.2% to 438.

The shrinking revenue coincides with the closure by Cadwalader of its offices in Beijing and Hong Kong, which was announced in the autumn, with the firm also set to shut its Houston arm as it refocus its efforts on its core Wall Street financial client base.

For an extended look at Akin Gump’s City ambitions see ‘The third wave’ (£)