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.

Legal Business

Akin Gump revamps associate pay to reflect volatile pound post Brexit vote

Akin Gump revamps associate pay to reflect volatile pound post Brexit vote

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has reviewed its associate salaries and will pay junior lawyers according to exchange rates in light of a volatile pound. This means the firm’s London-based newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers will see salaries swell to $180,000, which at current exchange rates is nearly £150,000.

Associates and counsel at Akin Gump in the UK will receive the same salary as their US colleagues based on the variable exchange rates. The rate will be reviewed every quarter.

Akin Gump London senior partner James Roome said: ‘As a matter of policy, we aim to pay people the same in London as if they were in New York and in order to achieve that in today’s market conditions, we have decided to pay them by reference to prevailing exchange.’

In contrast, a NQ at Slaughter and May earns £71,500, while at Clifford Chance an NQ earns £85,000 before bonuses.

Roome (pictured) added: ‘A really important part of our strategy is to attract and retain the best people. We came later to the market than the English firms, they got here first, and maybe that’s part of the cost for us is to make sure we pay them well.’

Earlier this summer, Akin Gump followed Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Cahill, Gordon & Reindel in increasing pay for junior lawyers in the US, after Cravath, Swaine & Moore was the first to up associate and counsel pay packets from $160,000 to $180,000.

Legal Business

ABS rising: Burford Capital launches its own law firm with Akin Gump hire

ABS rising: Burford Capital launches its own law firm with Akin Gump hire

After receiving a licence in January, Burford Capital has launched its own Alternative Business Structure (ABS) Burford Law, with the hire of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld‘s Tom Evans.

Described by The Legal 500 as ‘extremely smart’, commercial litigator Evans has a broad range of experience in international arbitration, litigation and mediation. He joins Burford Law as a counsel. He was of Counsel at Akin Gump.

A spokesperson for Burford Capital said Evans will help provide services to clients which have judgments in need of enforcement.

He added: ‘We’re confident that Tom’s capacity to work in conjunction with Burford enforcement specialists and international local counsel will make for a faster, more seamless and generally happier outcome for clients.’

Earlier this year Burford Capital appointed Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson’s former head of competition and antitrust Craig Arnott as its new managing director after the sudden resignation of Nick Rowles-Davies.

The litigation funder has had an expansive 12 months, having invested €30m in US competition law boutique Hausfeld so it can open in Germany. Announced in October 2015, Burford’s investment was the largest-known facility established to fund litigation in Germany, where Hausfeld claimed there is significant demand, particularly in anti-trust litigation. The office opened in January this year.

Meanwhile in February this year Welsh firm Capital Law launched a £50m commercial litigation funding service, marking the first time a UK law firm established its own disputes funding pot. The fund is secured and will be managed by Capital Law directly, rather than by an external litigation financier obligated to other equity and asset management partners.

For more on third party funding see the feature: ‘The bigger short – third party funding bets on new markets and models’

Legal Business

Akin Gump and Proskauer pick apart Dentons’ City private equity team

Akin Gump and Proskauer pick apart Dentons’ City private equity team

Two leaders in Dentons‘ private equity practice in the City have quit the firm, with Igor Krivoshekov departing for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Eleanor Shanks set to join Proskauer Rose.

Krivoshekov, who was a partner at now defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf before joining Dentons six years ago, has built a strong private equity practice handling oil and gas M&A during his time at the firm. He has been one of the leaders of Dentons’ PE practice in London, which over the last five years has improved its standing in the City market for mid-market deals.

Shanks, who worked closely with Krivoshekov, made partner at Dentons in 2014 after just two years at the firm. She started her career at Norton Rose Fulbright, before a six year stint at US firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

The hires come amid a rapid expansion of Akin Gump and Proskauer’s City offices, with Akin Gump expanding out its London private equity practice following its landmark takeover of now defunct Bingham McCutchen’s $50m London office in 2014. The bulk of the Bingham team was an esteemed restructuring practice headed by James Roome, Barry Russell and James Terry, but also contained a strong regulatory team. Earlier this year the firm landed Jones Day arbitration star Hamish Lal, who headed that firm’s construction group before his switch.

‘Igor will continue our recent growth trajectory in London and will be instrumental in the ongoing expansion of our international energy offerings,’ said Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith (pictured). ‘He advises on highly complex private equity transactions and, with his extensive history of deal making, will be an invaluable resource to our clients, particularly those in the energy space. I look forward to welcoming him to Akin Gump.’

Krivoshekov has handled deals across a swathe of jurisdictions, including the US, the UK, Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. His clients include L1 Energy, an investment group set up by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s fund Letter One, Altera Capital, Partners Group and Aton Capital Partners. In early 2015 he and Shanks led for L1 Energy on its $5.7bn acquisition of RWE Dea, the oil and gas unit of Germany’s largest power generator, RWE. Akin Gump has also advised Letter One in the past, from its US offices.

Sebastian Rice, co-head of Akin Gump’s London office, added: ‘Igor has worked with leading private equity houses across Europe on some very significant transactions, in particular in emerging markets. His credentials across private equity, energy and emerging markets fit very well with the firm’s focus internationally, and we will be delighted to have him on our team.’

For Proskauer, the arrival of Shanks follows a rapid scaling up of its private equity practice since the hire of City heavyweight Steven Davis from King & Wood Mallesons in 2014. This year, the firm has already added leveraged finance partner Ben Davis from Reed Smith and private equity real estate duo Jo Owen and Vikki McKay from DLA Piper in London. ‘Eleanor’s strong track record advising private equity players further strengthens our position in the industry as we continue to expand our presence in Europe,’ said Davis.

Dentons said in a statement: ‘We have been steadily growing our corporate and private equity practice in the UK over the last few months with several key lateral partner hires, including David Collins – who now heads up the department – as well as Stephen Levy, Martin Mankabady, Nikolas Colbridge and Jonathan Cantor. ‘Under David’s leadership we continue to focus on strengthening our corporate and private equity offering to clients, and our capabilities, combined with our international reach, mean we are very well placed to take advantage of new opportunities in the market. We want to thank Igor and Eleanor for their contributions to the firm and wish them well.’

Legal Business

Continued integration: Akin Gump solidifies takeover of Bingham’s London outpost with office move

Continued integration: Akin Gump solidifies takeover of Bingham’s London outpost with office move

More than 18 months since combining in the City, the 21-partner team that left now defunct US law firm Bingham McCutchen for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has moved in with its colleagues as the firm puts all its London lawyers under one roof.

The partners are part of a 28 partner team which moved from Bingham to Akin Gump, and included five partners in Hong Kong and two in Frankfurt. The London team had continued to operate out of Bingham’s old offices near Bank but now Akin Gump has leased a further two floors at its base at 10 Bishops Square, London, so that the group can unite under one roof. The firm has added the ninth and third floor to its current operations on the seventh and the eighth, giving the firm space for around 110 lawyers throughout the building.

The former Bingham office, led by City restructuring heavyweight James Roome (pictured), moved en masse to Akin Gump in September 2014 in one of the City’s biggest ever lateral recruitment plays. The team, worth around $52m in revenues, doubled the size of Akin Gump’s London presence before US rival Morgan Lewis & Bockius swooped in to take over the rest of the firm.

In the first full year since the merger of the two London offices, Akin Gump’s revenue jumped from $35.8m to $91m in 2015. The ex-Bingham group will now give up its offices at 41 Lothbury, London, to make the 15-minute walk over to the enlarged offices near Liverpool Street.

Moving into Akin’s two floors at 41 Lothbury is another expansive US firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which will double the size of its London square footage when it moves over from 99 City Road. Under the leadership of Graham White, who joined the firm from Kirkland & Ellis in October 2014, Fried Frank has reshaped its London offering with a string of lateral hires, including the arrival of a funds team led by Mark Mifsud and Kate Downey from his former shop in May 2015.

Roome told Legal Business: ‘It’s a huge relief after working together for 18 months and now Sebastian Rice, won’t have to spend his entire time walking between Liverpool Street and Bank! This gives us a lot more possibilities and more time to speak face to face. It’s not as much space as we would have liked, but when the opportunity arises [for more space], we will take advantage of it.’

Rice added: ‘We continue to integrate the practices in London and internationally and there is no doubt this move will further assist us in that. We see this as a very positive move for the firm in London and look forward to developing further our client offering.’

Legal Business

Akin Gump more than doubles City revenue in first full year since Bingham acquisition

Akin Gump more than doubles City revenue in first full year since Bingham acquisition

Revenue at US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld rose by 7% to $930m in 2015, with London contributing $91m following the acquisition of Bingham McCutchen’s London office at the end of 2014. The City revenue figure is up more than two and half times what the firm posted the year prior.

The increase in global revenue, up $62m on the $868m achieved in 2014, helped the firm to boost its net profit to $401m, up 13% on the previous year. However, a rise in costs meant that profits per partner only rose by 1.5%, or $29,000, to $1.913m.

Akin Gump has one of the biggest US firm offices in the City following the hire of 18 London partners, including a well-respected restructuring team led by James Roome (pictured), from Bingham McCutchen. Akin Gump’s London office’s revenue of $91m in 2015 was up from $35.8m in 2014. Two of the best performing areas have been energy and restructuring, with the huge fall in oil prices over the past 12 months resulting in a barrage of financial restructuring work. One highlight was the firm’s instruction in April 2015 by bondholders on the recapitalisation plan for troubled oil and gas company Afren, which later entered administration.

Akin Gump’s global partnership expanded at a much slower rate in 2015 than the previous year, given its ambitious City acquisition in 2014, adding 18 partners to the ranks to take the firm to a 322-strong partnership. The London office continued to grow, adding two partners during 2015 to take it to 36 partners. Across the network, Akin Gump generated $1.09m per lawyer in 2015, up 3% on last year.

Roome told Legal Business: ‘Just as we joined the price of oil took a big leg down so it’s been a busy time for us from the restructuring side. While you’re not seeing household names, we have been acting for large amounts of oil field service companies and exploratory companies that have been affected by the price drop.’

Co-head of the London office Sebastian Rice added: ‘We’re very pleased with the results. It’s been a fantastic first year. We didn’t set ourselves any financial targets but if we had done we would have surpassed what we would have expected to do. James and the team arrived at the tail end of 2014 so we still had a lot of investment, time and effort with integration. That explains the discrepancy in revenue and profit.’

Legal Business

Arbitration investment: Jones Day construction head Lal departs to join Akin Gump

Arbitration investment: Jones Day construction head Lal departs to join Akin Gump

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has made a key hire to enhance its international arbitration offering in London with the appointment of Jones Day construction head Hamish Lal (pictured).

Lal advises on high-value international projects in the oil, gas, nuclear, offshore wind, PFI and major projects sectors. Notable mandates include advising a sovereign developer on a series of complex delay/disruption disputes in Qatar; advising the employer on the world’s largest offshore wind farm project; and acting on on the Iraq Crude Oil Export Expansion Project.

Having joined Jones Day in 2009 from Dundas & Wilson, Lal is cited by the Legal 500 as being ‘especially good on delay analysis and disputes.’

In 2014 Akin Gump announced it would more than double the size of its City office with a 22-partner team from Bingham McCutchen’s London office, a move expected to push Akin Gump’s London office into the top 20 international firms in London by turnover.

At the start of this year the firm also made its largest ever number of partner promotions in the City, with three lawyers joining the partnership, in a round of 12.

Akin Gump chair Kim Koopersmith said: ‘Akin Gump is committed to developing one of the world’s leading international arbitration practices. With Hamish on board, we are further strengthening our offering, broadening our market-leading energy practice and continuing to grow our capabilities in London and across Europe and the Middle East.’

The firm’s litigation head Stephen Baldini added: ‘Hamish has established himself among the world’s top lawyers in his field. With his global perspective and background in the energy and infrastructure sectors, he brings a very desirable dimension that few can match.’

Other recent arbitration moves include Clyde & Co hiring Berwin Leighton Paisner’s co-head of arbitration and energy Richard Power in October.



Legal Business

City focus: A quarter of Akin Gump partners made up in London in latest promotions round

City focus: A quarter of Akin Gump partners made up in London in latest promotions round

Just over a year since US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld took over Bingham McCutchen’s $50m London office, the firm has made its largest ever number of partner promotions in the City, with three lawyers joining the partnership.

With 12 lawyers joining the Akin Gump partnership on 1 January, a quarter reside in London, making the City the focus of the firm’s promotions round this year. The firm made up 14 lawyers in last year’s round, none of whom came from London.

Seeking to build on the momentum generated by its Bingham tie-up, a move that more than doubled the size of the firm’s presence in the City, London pipped Dallas, Houston and New York to receive the most partner promotions. Those US cities each saw two lawyers made up to partner.

There was a focus on building out the firm’s cross-border transactions capability, with London deal advisers Sophie Jermine and David Sewell both made up to partner. London-based Rosemarie Paul, a financial regulatory lawyer, also made the cut.

Jermine is most well-known for her role on the IPO of Game Digital in 2014, acting for one of the video game chain’s largest investors, and counts IT giant Oracle as a client. Sewell, who has built his transactions practice upon private equity M&A, counts US private equity house Riverstone among his clients.

Paul, who sits in the firm’s litigation practice, is a former member of the enforcement and financial crime unit at the Financial Services Authority and advises clients on UK financial regulatory matters.

The full list of partner promotions:

Sophie Jermine, London, cross-border transactions

David Sewell, London, cross-border transactions

Rosemarie Paul, London, litigation

Daniel Cohen, Hong Kong, litigation

Dennis Pereira, New York, investment funds

Brad Kahn, New York, financial restructuring

Andrew Lehman, Houston, energy transactions

Ivana Rouse, Houston, investment funds

Elizabeth Scott, Dallas, litigation

John Bain, Dallas, real estate

James Tysse, Washington DC, litigation

Rubén Muñoz, Philadelphia, intellectual property

Legal Business

After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials

After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials

Having recently shut two out of four of its German offices as it refocuses its European strategy, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is opening a new base in Geneva to build its arbitration presence on the continent with the hire of Vanessa Liborio from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Disputes partner Vanessa Liborio Garrido de Sousa will head the new office that will focus solely on arbitration. She will work closely with the firm’s wider arbitration team in France and German including partners Jean-Pierre Martel, Charles Kaplan, Laurent Jaeger, Laurie Craig in Paris and co-practice group leader Siegfried Elsing in Dusseldorf.

The new office is in line with the firm’s strategy to focus on three sectors – technology, energy and infrastructure, and finance – with a focus on its dispute and transactional practices.

‘Many firms are thinking about pulling back in Geneva but for us it’s a logical market to be in based on Vanessa’s skillset and the focus of her clients,’ said Orrick chairman Mitchell Zuklie. ‘We already have a strong litigation practice in the US, and arbitration is strong in Paris and Dusseldorf and a presence in Geneva is crucial for further growth in Europe.’

Although Geneva is traditionally seen as the Swiss centre for private client work, it has enjoyed a long-held tradition for having an arbitration-friendly judicial system along with Paris, New York and London. Orrick said that Geneva was particularly attractive because of its ‘political neutrality and arbitration friendliness’.

Liborio added: ‘I was drawn by Orrick’s global commitment to dispute resolution. The firm’s focus on energy and infrastructure, and finance, its role in some of the most important cross-border matters in France and across Europe and the integrated nature of its practice all make it a very attractive platform for international arbitration.’

Liborio leaves Akin Gump after five years before which she was a senior associate at legacy firm Hogan & Hartson from 2005 to 2010. She has acted as counsel in proceedings before the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the Swiss Chambers of Commerce. She has experience of advising on disputes involving infrastructure, joint venture agreements, sales of goods, collateral management agreements, insurance, aviation and consultancy agreements.

The office launch comes after the San Francisco-bred law firm cut its German network by half, leaving its offering in Europe’s largest economy with two remaining branches in Düsseldorf and Munich. The firm’s largest office outside of the States is in Paris with around 90 fee-earners followed by London which houses 70.

Legal Business

Placed in the ‘bad bank’: Quinn Emanuel, Akin Gump and Bird & Bird lead on $835m Espirito loan dispute

Placed in the ‘bad bank’: Quinn Emanuel, Akin Gump and Bird & Bird lead on $835m Espirito loan dispute

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Bird & Bird have been gifted lead instructions in two separate suits by Goldman Sachs and a group of investors on an $835m loan repayment dispute taken against Pinsent Masons’ client Portuguese bank Novo Banco at London’s High Court.

Quinn Emanuel’s London co-managing partner Richard East and Akin Gump restructuring specialist James Roome have been instructed on the first investor/lender suit, while local counsel is being provided by PLMJ’s head of banking and finance Hugh Rosa Ferreira. Meanwhile, Bird & Bird’s London disputes head Steven Baker was selected by Goldman Sachs to represent the investment bank in the second case.

Pinsent Masons is representing Novo Banco in the dispute with a team including partner Stuart McNeill and national head of banking and finance litigation Michael Isaacs.

The disputes relate to a special purpose vehicle, Oak Finance Luxembourg, which was created by Goldman Sachs to raise funds for Banco Espirito Santo (BES), a Portuguese bank based in Lisbon, for the purpose of financing an oil refinery in Venezuela.

However, in August 2014, Portugal’s central bank announced a €4.4bn bailout of BES that brought about its split into two banks: Novo Banco, which kept healthy operations, and a remaining ‘bad bank’ to keep toxic assets. As a result creditors, including the claimants whose loans were not transferred to the healthy bank, are expected to face significant losses and the loan unlikely to be repaid.

The first suit, which comprises 12 claimants including businessman Paul Singer’s hedge fund Elliott International, argues that the Bank of Portugal’s subsequent decision in December 2014 not to transfer the Oak Finance loan to Novo Banco was ‘based on incomplete and inaccurate information’.

It further added: ‘The Oak Finance investors do not accept that the Bank of Portugal had any legal grounds justifying the December 2014 decision. Although the Bank of Portugal has since been provided with facts that would require it to reverse its December decision, the Bank has refused to do so, instead referring these matters to be determined by a court.’

Damages claimed in the first suit between all 12 claimants total around $613m. Details about the Goldman Sachs suit have not yet been released by the London court.

Firms which last year landed high profile instructions on the break-up of the troubled Portuguese lender included Linklaters and Allen & Overy, with the former acting for BES and Novo Banco and the latter instructed by the central bank.