Legal Business

Allen & Overy loses litigation partner Florent to Baker McKenzie’s City hiring spree

Allen & Overy loses litigation partner Florent to Baker McKenzie’s City hiring spree

Allen & Overy (A&O) has lost its second London partner in as many weeks with the defection of Marc Florent (pictured), head of the Magic Circle firm’s UK insolvency litigation practice, to the expansive City office of Baker McKenzie.

The rare London exit nevertheless follows the news last week (19 August) that A&O’s head of fraud Mona Vaswani was leaving after 26 years to join US rival Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

The moves come as A&O has still yet to make an announcement over a potential transatlantic tie-up with the litigation-heavy O’Melveny & Myers after nearly 18 months of speculation.

Florent had been at A&O for more than 19 years and has been a partner since 2002. Before that he worked at fellow Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for nearly 10 years.

He is experienced in banking and finance litigation with a particular focus on wholesale and retail banking sectors, asset management, funds and sponsors on cross-border matters.

Steve Abraham, Bakers’ London and EMEA head of dispute resolution, commented: ‘Marc is a great addition to our growing and highly successful dispute resolution team in both banking and finance litigation and broader commercial litigation. Marc is a top tier and highly experienced practitioner whose joining will help us to go from strength to strength.’

Bakers’ financial institutions group global chair Jonathan Peddie said the hire would add significantly to the firm’s contentious offering.

In the last 12 months Bakers has made ten London partner hires, including Prabhu Narasimhan from White & Case (tax), Philip Thomson from Ashurst (corporate/energy, mining & infrastructure), Philip Annett from A&O (financial services), Caitlin McErlane from Sidley Austin (financial services), Peter Lu from White & Case (corporate M&A), Rob Mathews from White & Case (capital markets), David Becker from White & Case (capital markets), Mathew Dening from Sidley Austin (structured capital markets) and Haden Henderson from Ropes & Gray (capital markets).

Former Ropes & Gray partner Tony Horspool also joined the banking and finance team as a consultant specialising in restructuring in August.

Last year A&O lost Daniel Busse, the head of its German dispute resolution team, who left to form his own boutique, as well as intellectual property partner Nicola Dagg, who joined Kirkland & Ellis last October.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Ince appoints London managing partner duo as City players hire globally

Revolving doors: Ince appoints London managing partner duo as City players hire globally

After an eventful few months following its acquisition by Gordon Dadds, Ince has put down some roots with the appointment of Nick Goldstone and Michael Volikas as joint managing partners of the London office.

The move came after Gordon Dadds last month posted a 69% revenue hike from to £52.6m and a 73% rise in profit to £15.2m on the back of its £43m acquisition of Ince.

Ince’s former head of dispute resolution, Goldstone specialises in media-related disputes, reputation management and human rights. Volikas was previously global managing partner for the Ince & Co shipping group where he acted mainly on dispute resolution matters.

Goldstone told Legal Business: ‘We intend to be one of the go-to firms, not just for law, but for professional advice. We think we offer a fairly unique offering and intend to keep growing our sectors.’

He said he intends to move the firm forward and work through all the opportunities that have been created by last year’s merger. The firm aims to build out its core areas of strength in shipping, energy and insurance as well as its corporate, commercial and property sectors.

Goldstone is confident the current political and economic climate will bring in more work. ‘So far as the Strait of Hormuz is concerned and the trade war that’s potentially building up between the United States, China and the sanction issues with Iran – these create problems and opportunities. We are well-equipped to help our existing client base and new clients deal with these issues.’ Goldstone said.

Adrian Biles, the chief executive of both Ince and Gordon Dadds, will focus on the firm’s international outlook.

Meanwhile in Frankfurt, DLA Piper bolstered its tax practice with the hire of Ulf Andresen from PwC where he headed the Frankfurt transfer pricing group and the German financial services transfer pricing group.

Andresen has experience in structuring and implementing cross-border activities, evaluating tax accounting impact and defending these structures in audits. The move is part of DLA’s plan to expand its capabilities in transfer pricing, an area of law which is becoming increasingly important due to changes in the international tax landscape.

Co-managing partner Konrad Rohde told Legal Business: ‘We have a transfer pricing practice already in the UK and China. We’re very strong in terms of transfer pricing in the US and we also have capabilities in Italy. We have a lot of clients that do international reorganisations and transfer pricing is a huge driver for that. We also see a lot of opportunities to interface with other areas we practice in, in particular intellectual property, corporate and also white collar crime.’

‘We think that it will help us grow the practice but also give us an edge in comparison to other firms. If you look at law firms in Germany, very few typically cover transfer pricing. This will really give us a good footprint in the German legal market’ Rohde added.

Elsewhere, in Hong Kong, Allen & Overy appointed restructuring lawyer Ian Chapman to the partnership and its Asia Pa00cific restructuring and recovery group. Chapman has over 30 years of experience advising publicly-owned and private companies on complex and high profile restructurings and insolvencies in Asia.

Meanwhile, Burness Paull, has enhanced its tech sector capabilities with the hire of IP, commercial and competition partner Colin Miller from DWF.  He has acted for clients including C-Trip/Skyscanner, Expedia Group, Zoopla, uSwitch and Administrate, as well as the Oil & Gas Technology Centre.

Finally in China, Linklaters’ Shanghai free trade zone joint operation partner Zhao Sheng has hired Vivian Cao to its Beijing competition practice and corporate M&A lawyer Colette Pan to it Shanghai office. Cao has international and domestic competition law experience while Pan specialises in China-facing financial institution, tech and fintech M&A and financial regulation. Both partners join from Fangda Partners and are PRC and New York State qualified.

Legal Business

Legal 500 Data: Behind the story

Legal 500 Data: Behind the story

This issue holds our annual Global 100 survey results, but which Global 100 firms top The Legal 500 for number of top-tier recommendations?

To view the editorial commentary of the rankings go to:

Legal Business

Not easy out there: A&O adds £75m to its top line amid muted PEP showing

Not easy out there: A&O adds £75m to its top line amid muted PEP showing

Bringing up the rear of the Big Four City firms to post solid but unspectacular financial results, Allen & Overy (A&O) has increased its top line by 5%, sending revenue up by £75m to nearly £1.63bn.

A&O’s £1.627bn turnover relegated it from second to third largest Magic Circle firm in revenue terms after Clifford Chance (£1.693bn) and Linklaters (£1.629bn) but above Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (£1.472bn).

A pacier 8% growth in profit before tax to £708m was more heartening, even as profit per equity partner (PEP) rose just 1% to £1.66m amid a 2.4% uptick in headcount for the year. The firm has 2,300 lawyers and 550 partners.

Andrew Ballheimer, A&O’s managing partner, pointed to significant investments in the firm’s global platform and in its new consultancy business, A&O Consulting, part of the City giant’s advanced delivery services business which also includes Peerpoint, aosphere, and Fuse. Those businesses have grown more than 20% in the last year.

Geographically, Asia has been a particular standout along with other emerging markets, while international capital markets, and corporate were the most prolific practice areas.

‘We have acted on more deals, by a significant margin, than anyone else around the world and are ramping up the international platform,’ Ballheimer told Legal Business. He said multi-jurisdictional transactions were a main driver for the firm: ‘Very few law firms have a comparable offering.’

On the firm’s outlook, and market sentiment more broadly, Ballheimer commented: ‘The pipeline is good, but it’s not easy out there. There are headwinds including increased protectionism and the threat of trade wars. But if we focus on clients and ensure our platform is high quality, our business will be ok.’

He added: ‘Activity in the M&A market has to come to an end eventually, it’s been the longest bull-run in memory. Our business is in a good place but there is an understanding that it is not at all easy out there. We aren’t being complacent.’

Looking ahead, investments in innovation and technology, as well as diversity and inclusion, will be focal points for the firm. Deal highlights for 2018/19 include advising BMW on its €3bn acquisition of its passenger car joint venture with Brilliance China Automotive, Blackstone on its €1bn acquisition of a majority stake in Luminor Bank from Nordea and DNB and Virgin Money on its €4.4bn merger with CYBG.

The results follow hot on the heels of Linklaters’, which by far outstripped its peer group against every metric with a 7% revenue uptick to £1.63bn and double-digit profit growth.

Legal Business

A&O pips Links to the post in Magic Circle NQ pay hikes

A&O pips Links to the post in Magic Circle NQ pay hikes

Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the latest Magic Circle firm to hike its salary for newly-qualified solicitors (NQs) to £100,000, narrowly beating a similar commitment from final holdout Linklaters.

The move will see NQs take home a minimum of £100,000, including bonus, marking a 20% uptick on the £83,000 salary set by A&O less than a year ago.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last month became the first of the Magic Circle firms to tackle head-on the increased competitive pressure from US counterparts, raising its NQ salary by £15,000 to £100,000 plus discretionary bonus.

Clifford Chance (CC) followed suit a month later with £100,000 including bonus, a package matched by Slaughter and May the following week.

An A&O spokesperson said of the salary increase: ‘We have always been committed to rewarding our people fairly and competitively. This year, to maintain this position, newly qualified lawyers will receive a minimum total cash of £100,000, comprised of salary and a sign-on bonus.’

An announcement from Linklaters will now be imminent in order to keep pace with City peers and US rivals. The firm last October announced the second increase in its trainee and newly qualified (NQ) salaries, with the latter taking home £83,000 in basic pay.

The Magic Circle firms have this year upped their promotion efforts with A&O, CC, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughters collectively making up 120 partners in 2019, a significant 35% increase.

This year, the group also made up noticeably more women lawyers, after an embarrassing 2018 for many.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Allen & Overy horizon scans to the workplace of the future

Sponsored briefing: Allen & Overy horizon scans to the workplace of the future

A Q&A with Sarah Henchoz, head of employment at Allen & Overy

Sarah Henchoz is a partner and head of Allen & Overy’s London employment team. In this interview, she draws on her experience to explain how the massive shift in workplace culture will define the future world of work.

Legal Business

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

Allen & Overy has promoted 14 London partners amid a scaled up 34-strong global round while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has promoted its first City partner in three years.

The Magic Circle firm made heavier investment in new partners than last year and also significantly improved the promotion of women, minting eight females – equal to 24% of the newest partners – of which two are part-time. Last year, A&O made up only two women in its 20-strong round, having the same month vowed to redouble its diversity efforts.

Notably, Shruti Ajitsaria, the head of its tech innovation space Fuse, was promoted to partner.

Ajitsaria said: ‘After training at A&O, I think it’s fair to say I have taken a slightly alternative career path. The success of Fuse is testament to the spirit of innovation which runs throughout the firm – from management to our trainees and across our global offices.’

Jonathan Brayne, chairman of Fuse, added: ‘Shruti has been fundamental to the highly successful launch and operation of Fuse, A&O’s tech innovation space.  I’m confident she will take it to another level as a partner and will find new ways of keeping Fuse – and with it Allen & Overy – in the vanguard of legal market tech innovation.’

The firm has a target of having 30% female partner candidates by 2021 with a view to having 30% women in its partnership overall. The other London promotions saw five made up in banking, four in corporate, two in international capital markets (ICM) and two in litigation.

Skadden, meanwhile, has promoted Denis Klimentchenko from counsel to partner for its City M&A bench, a rare investment for the firm having bypassed London altogether for two-years running.

While a show of support for the London office, the 11-strong global round is scaled back from previous years when 14 were made up in 2018 and 12 were promoted in 2017. Klimentchenko is the first promotion in London since Sandro de Bernardini was minted to Skadden’s City M&A team back in 2016.


The full list of A&O partner promotions:

Arnold Keizer, litigation, Amsterdam

Hilde Van der Baan, litigation, Amsterdam

Sarah Wilson, banking, Bangkok

Thales Mertens, litigation, Brussels

Kyle Nevin, banking, Dubai

Anthony Traboulsi, banking, Dubai

Zeid Qursha, corporate, Dubai

Tina LeDinh, corporate, Ho Chi Minh City

Oleg Khomenko, banking, London

Catherine Lang-Anderson, banking, London

Nick Lister, banking, London

Ed Moser, banking, London

Jodi Norman, banking, London

Michael Bloch, corporate, London

Kate McInerney, corporate, London

Hugh Robinson, corporate, London

William Samengo-Turner, corporate, London

Shruti Ajitsaria, Fuse, London

Peter Crossan, ICM, London

Suril Patel, ICM, London

Brandon O’Neil, litigation, London

Robbie Sinclair, litigation, London

Yannick Arbaut, banking, Luxembourg

Jacques Graas, corporate, Luxembourg

Paul Peporte, ICM, Luxembourg

Santiago de Vicente, real estate, Madrid

Paolo Nastasi, corporate, Milan

Bulat Zhambalnimbuev, corporate, Moscow

Magnus Mueller, tax, Munich

Xavier Jancène, real estate, Paris

Aloysius Tan, ICM, Singapore

Tokutaka Ito, corporate, Tokyo

Bartosz Merczynski, litigation, Warsaw

Maura Rezendes, corporate, Washington DC


The full list of Skadden partner promotions:

Christopher Barlow, M&A, New York

Julie Cohen, litigation, New York

Elena Coyle, financial institutions, New York

Alec Jarvis, tax, New York

Denis Klimentchenko, M&A, London

Joseph Larkin, litigation/corporate restructuring, Wilmington

Christopher Murphy, tax controversy, Palo Alto

Alisha Nanda, litigation, Boston

Christine Okike, corporate restructuring, New York

Paloma Wang, capital markets, Hong Kong

Geoffrey Wyatt, mass torts, insurance & consumer litigation, Washington DC

Legal Business

SRA attempts to prosecute A&O lawyer over controversial Weinstein gagging deal

SRA attempts to prosecute A&O lawyer over controversial Weinstein gagging deal

An Allen & Overy (A&O) solicitor has been recommended for prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over a controversial non-disclosure agreement (NDA) drafted for film producer Harvey Weinstein.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip confirmed today (3 April) that it aims to prosecute an unnamed lawyer from the firm, and is awaiting confirmation from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) as to whether the prosecution will proceed. Such considerations from the SDT tend to not take longer than six months.

A&O was dragged into the spotlight a year ago, after it was revealed the City firm had drafted an NDA for Weinstein in 1998 after Zelda Perkins (pictured), who worked at the producer’s company Miramax, alleged Weinstein had sexually harassed a colleague.

Last April, A&O employment partner Mark Mansell (who was involved in drafting the agreement) was grilled by a Women and Equalities select committee as part of a probe into the ethics of NDAs. The SRA announced it was investigating A&O shortly after.

The case against the unnamed lawyer is one of 13 NDA-related investigations the SRA is currently pursuing. In March 2018, the SRA issued a warning notice reminding lawyers of their responsibility to ensure that such agreements are not used to prevent the signatory from reporting to the regulator or police in the event of alleged sexual misconduct.

Philip today (3 April) commented: ‘There is no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, there has been a lack of clarity [before the guidance]. There is now more of a discussion and heightened awareness about this and [solicitors] are less likely to engage without thinking very carefully about it.’

He added: ‘I don’t think an ex-employee who leaves the business should be left in any doubt who they can and cannot tell.’

An A&O spokesperson said: ‘We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.’

For in-depth coverage of the Weinstein NDA and the controversy over the profession’s role in concealing harassment, see last year’s piece ‘Draining the swamp’ (£)

Legal Business

No Kira in latest Fuse cohort as A&O announces new start-ups set to join incubator

No Kira in latest Fuse cohort as A&O announces new start-ups set to join incubator

Leading AI platform Kira Systems will not feature in the latest cohort of tech companies in Allen & Overy (A&O)’s  Fuse incubator, making room for more nascent start-ups to enter the Magic Circle firm’s tech space.

In September of last year Kira secured $50m in private equity backing in what was a benchmark for the legal tech sector, while Kira enjoyed year-on-year revenue growth of more than 100% for 2017. Meanwhile Bloomsbury AI, which was purchased for $23m by Facebook in July of last year, has also left Fuse.

However the departures made space for new entrants. Apiax, Define, HighQ and Scissero will all join the programme, alongside Fuse veterans Avvoka, Legatics and Nivaura. Scissero is an AI platform that aims to automate the drafting of legal agreements, while HighQ operates as a project management platform and Apiax looks to turn financial regulations into machine-readable rules. Define looks to speed up the legal drafting process for lawyers.

Kira, meanwhile, counts Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and DLA Piper as clients, and is widely considered the leading machine-learning contract analysis start-up in the sector. The decision to leave Fuse undoubtedly signals an increasing maturity for the much-touted company.

Applicants opened for the third cohort of Fuse in January of this year, while the incubator occupies an increasingly competitive space, with Magic Circle counterpart Slaughter and May announcing its own incubator Collaborate last month.

Shruti Ajitsaria, head of Fuse, commented: ‘A large part of the success of Fuse relies on identifying cohort members which will have a good synergy with A&O lawyers and our clients. I believe we have found that with this new cohort.’

Legal Business

Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

Slaughter and May has announced today (27 February) its much-anticipated legal tech incubator, Slaughter and May Collaborate, with the firm primed to select about six legal tech companies for its first cohort.

Magic Circle counterparts Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters, meanwhile, have both featured in fintech company Nivaura’s $20m funding round as the City elite bustle to achieve a technological advantage.

Collaborate is the first tech incubator at Slaughters with an exclusively legal focus, following the firm’s fintech effort, Fast Forward. The incubator will use a cohort model that will expose participants to clients and lawyers within the firm.

Collaborate will also feature an advisory panel of the firm’s top blue-chip clients, with GlaxoSmithKline, John Lewis Partnership, Santander, Standard Chartered and Vodafone all providing feedback on their technological needs. The programme will not include permanent office space or look to take equity in applicants.

Slaughters’ head of innovation Jane Stewart (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We spoke to a lot of tech companies who had participated in existing incubators to get an idea of what they wanted out of it, we really wanted to find out what was practically useful. One surprising thing that came out of that was companies don’t consider office space something of high importance.’

Part of the offering from Slaughters will include two mentors assigned to each Collaborate member, one coming from the innovation team and another a practicing lawyer relevant to the company’s business. Applications are open until 27 March, with the firm hoping to get the programme underway in April.

Collaborate is mostly aimed at early and mid-stage ventures rather than established businesses, but applications are open to all stages of maturity.

Steward added: ‘Already we have had a very established company express interest.’

Elsewhere, Linklaters and A&O both featured in a funding round for leading fintech prospect Nivaura, a longstanding participant in A&O’s Fuse tech incubator. The funding round raised $20m for the start-up, and was led by the London Stock Exchange Group.

For Linklaters, the investment marks a first for the firm, having never before taken equity in a technology start-up. A&O, meanwhile, has a longer relationship with Nivaura, with the firm investing approximately £100,000 in the company prior to Nivaura entering A&O’s tech incubator Fuse. The latest funding round has seen the firm increase its equity in the company, but the stake remains a small percentage of Nivaura’s overall shareholding.

‘They have a unique proposition,’ A&O debt capital markets partner Philip Smith told Legal Business. ‘They have granulised the various steps involved in a capital markets transaction, from the inception to the finalisation. There are other companies we are working with and we have considerable interest in investing with the model we have developed alongside Nivaura.’

Founded three years ago, Nivaura focuses on the deployment of digital investment banking platforms for banks. Compared to the fledging legal tech scene, fintech remains a more mature and sophisticated market, with Nivaura now set to rapidly expand its leadership, business development and technical teams to focus on large-scale projects throughout 2019.

‘The investment gives us an opportunity to help Nivaura,’ Linklaters capital markets partner Richard Levy told Legal Business. ‘It also gives us the opportunity to be at the centre of innovation. We look at start-ups in different ways and would consider future investments as part of a wider collaboration with a company.’

The funding round also saw US law firm Orrick, Santander InnoVentures and Transamerica Ventures invest, and is the latest influx of capital into the space after Slaughters stepped up earlier this month to help AI company Luminance secure a further $10m of funding, giving the company a valuation of $100m.