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’ (£) 

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Linklaters hires in Germany as Akin Gump takes Addleshaws litigator

Revolving doors: Linklaters hires in Germany as Akin Gump takes Addleshaws litigator

In a busy start to the year, Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons have added to the benches in Europe, while Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Eversheds and DLA Piper have hired in the UK.

In Germany, Linklaters has taken on DLA Piper’s international group head of real estate Carsten Loll, as a partner in the Frankfurt and Munich offices. Loll will work closely alongside German practice group head Wolfram Kruger. His appointment brings Linklaters’ partner count in Germany to 64 partners.

Akin Gump hired disputes partner Kambiz Larizadeh from Addleshaw Goddard to strengthen its London offering. He focuses on high value, cross border commercial litigation and international arbitration matters, and has particular experience with regards to Russia and the Middle East. The exit follows the resignation of fraud specialist Mark Hastings who quit for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in December 2016.

Simmons expanded its investigations practice this week in Amsterdam with the addition of litigation partner David Schreuders, who joins from DLA Piper. Schreuders is experienced in several jurisdictions both in advisory work, including corporate investigations, as well as compliance audits and litigation.

Withers has rehired private client partner Jeremy Arnold who returns to the firm from Waypoint Capital. Arnold, who was an associate at Withers from 1985 left the firm to go in-house in 2006, when he moved to Barclays to help establish its wealth advisory arm.

In Nottingham, Eversheds has added a corporate partner with the hire of Ian Moore, who was most recently managing director at Scottish sportswear brand Dhu. Moore was a corporate partner at Norton Rose Fulbright between 2007-2012.

Meanwhile in Leeds, DLA strengthened its intellectual property (IP) practice. The firm hired Clarion Solicitors’ founder and former head of the IP practice Leigh Martin. Before seven years at Clarion, Leigh had been a partner in DLA Piper’s IP group from 2000 to 2004. He does international work in patents, designs, trademarks, copyright, database rights and confidentiality.

Legal Business

US partner promotions: MoFo and Akin Gump make up one each in London

US partner promotions: MoFo and Akin Gump make up one each in London

Morrison & Foerster and Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld have both promoted one woman each to their London offices in their 2017 rounds.

Commercial litigation lawyer Gemma Anderson became a partner in MoFo’s London office on January 1. Specialising in complex contractual and financial matters, technology disputes, and contentious insolvency and restructuring issues, Anderson is dual qualified in England & Wales and New Zealand. The single promotion in London is the same as last year when the firm promoted capital markets lawyer Scott Ashton in a global round of 12.

Alongside Anderson, the firm promoted one other in Europe as part of its 15 strong promotion round. Technology lawyer Christiane Stuetzle, the firm’s co-chair of global film and entertainment, has become a partner in the firm’s Berlin office. Two partners have been made up in MoFo’s offices in Washington DC, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Tokyo. New York, Palo Alto, San Diego, Northern Virginia and Denver will each receive one new partner.

Sophie Donnithorne-Tait has been promoted to partner in Akin Gump’s London office. She became partner on January 1 and is the only lawyer to be promoted across Akin Gump’s European offering. Last year the firm made up three partners in the City.

New York saw the majority of Akin Gump’s promotions with six taking up the role of partner. Washington DC will gain Annisah Iman Um’rani as a partner while Mahmoud Baki Fadlallah will be based both in the firm’s Dubai and Washington DC offices. Daniel Moffett has become a partner in Akin Gump’s San Antonio office.

Other firms recently making their global promotions round include Hogan Lovells, Jones Day and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. As part of a round of 29, Hogan Lovells appointed three in the City while Jones Day made up five London partners as part of a 47-strong global round and Cadwalader made up 10, including two in the City.



Legal Business

Revolving doors: Akin Gump strengthens trade practice in London, while Mayer Brown expands pensions

Revolving doors: Akin Gump strengthens trade practice in London, while Mayer Brown expands pensions

In a busier week for laterals, US firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Mayer Brown strengthened their London benches, while several UK firms including Shepherd and Wedderburn, Clyde & Co and Ince & Co target growth in Scotland, China and Singapore, respectively.

Akin Gump announced Jasper Helder as the latest addition to its City office. Specialising in international trade and corporate compliance matters, he joins Akin Gump from Baker & McKenzie where he headed their EUMEA trade and commerce practice. He has particular experience in Russia and the Middle East advising on EU and UN sanctions compliance for Iran, Russia and Syria.

Also in London, Mayer Brown hired Jay Doraisamy from Dentons as a partner in the pensions practice. Before Dentons, she was the head of London pensions at Eversheds and her 22 years’ experience includes funding, benefit redesign projects, scheme closures and amendments, and defined benefit/contribution schemes across sectors such as energy, banking, transport, chemicals, manufacturing and water.

Meanwhile, UK firm Shepherd and Wedderburn grew in Scotland this week through acquiring north-east boutique firm The Commercial Law Practice (CLP) and with it partners Mike Anderson and Keir Willox who will join Shepherd and Wedderburn in Aberdeen, and Ma’aruf Razzak who will become a director. The firm re-entered the Aberdeen market earlier this year hiring John Rutherford, previously at Pinsent Masons and former managing partner of Mackinnons Charles Scott.

Also expanding internationally, Clyde & Co’s joint law venture (JLV) in China, Clyde & Co Westlink, appointed new corporate and M&A partner Yang Liu from HaoLiWen Partners. Alongside corporate transactions, Liu also has experience in shipping, international trade and logistics.

Clyde & Co Shanghai partner Michael Cripps, said: ‘Clyde & Co is one of the very few international law firms that have been approved by the Ministry of Justice to establish a formal joint law venture in China, and with the arrival of Yang I believe we can further leverage on his expertise to boost our corporate strength in the market.’

Also in Asia, UK law firm Ince & Co this week added Nicholas Lum to its benches, to lead the firm’s China practice in Singapore. He joins the team as a disputes partner in shipping and international trade from Oon & Bazul.

Recognised by The Legal 500, he focuses on international trade and commodities, shipping and shipbuilding and general commercial disputes. His appointment follows Ince’s recent expansion, with a total of 22 new partners globally in the last 18 months, including 12 new hires.