Legal Business

Investing in London: Cooley sets City agenda with turnover targets and committee appointments

Investing in London: Cooley sets City agenda with turnover targets and committee appointments

Having made its audacious entrance into London’s legal market in January, US tech giant Cooley has begun rolling out the agenda for its new 55-lawyer UK practice, including appointing two City lawyers to its management committee, a further two to its compensation committee, and setting a revenue target for the team.

With the partnership comprising a 15-strong team hired from Edwards Wildman’s beleaguered London office and a further five from Morrison & Foerster (MoFo), and led by Justin Stock, MoFo’s former corporate head, Cooley chief executive Joe Conroy (pictured) says the firm will be making ‘significant investments’ to its new base at Old Broad Street. This has already seen the appointment of former MoFo corporate partner David Bresnick and former Edwards Wildman commercial litigator Laurence Harris to its management committee while a further two lawyers from the London office will be appointed to the compensation committee.

Ballpark predictions for turnover, meanwhile, are upwards of $40m for the London office (the firm’s total revenues stood at around $674m for 2013), and for the practice to expand ‘pretty aggressively’, as evidenced by Conroy’s assertion of further hires to come in the first quarter.

With Cooley boasting a well-established reputation as one of the premier names in California’s legal technology community, Conroy is now keen to ensure operations in London run smoothly.

‘You don’t run a business this big and hold hands with every partner – but people can still pick up the phone to me. You cross cultural divides with that. A lot of US firms have cultural distances. There are permanent differences. UK lawyers relate differently to economics, timesheets and you want consistencies with how you compensate people and decide hours. You can’t just say what works in San Francisco will work here.’

Conroy further asserts his already publicised ‘sticky culture’ theory. ‘Firstly, every partner here can go do something else but they don’t have many choices to do what we do here. Secondly, it’s about having that compensation culture and putting your money where your mouth is. Whether people are contributing by bringing in business, servicing business, proliferating business – every partner is incentivised to create opportunities for other partners. There’s an ownership concept there. And lastly, we haven’t ever tolerated partners that don’t act right – I call it my hand truck speech – no matter how much business you develop, if you can’t act in the right way, it’s gonna be you, me, the hand truck and your stuff going out. Life is too short.’

‘People feel really bought in – from partner to secretary – law firms particularly in the US are not great places for non-lawyers to work because they don’t feel like teams – there’s big bright lights in between partners and everyone else. Preserving that bought in feeling as you grow is a huge challenge.’

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

For more in-depth analysis on Cooley’s launch in London, see Can Cooley make good on its City ambitions?

Legal Business

Can Cooley make good on its City ambitions?

Can Cooley make good on its City ambitions?

Sarah Downey talks to chief executive Joe Conroy about its high-impact City launch

‘Eight years ago, I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me – I couldn’t even get my face slapped,’ says Cooley chief executive Joe Conroy on his attempts to establish a London presence for the Palo Alto-based leader.

It’s difficult to picture such a scenario now. Despite its late entrance in the UK, Cooley is undoubtedly a major force in the US, being well-established as one of the premier names in California’s legal technology community. After much speculation and one or two false dawns, largely due to long, drawn-out negotiations with prospective laterals, the firm announced in early January it would create a 55-lawyer UK practice, including a 15-strong partner team from Edwards Wildman’s beleaguered London office and a further five from Morrison & Foerster (MoFo).

Legal Business

‘A watershed moment’: Q&A with Cooley’s CEO on the firm’s London launch and philosophical decisions

‘A watershed moment’: Q&A with Cooley’s CEO on the firm’s London launch and philosophical decisions

Joe Conroy, chief executive of tech focused Californian firm Cooley, talks to Tom Moore on why it was harder to open in London than China and how the collapse of Edwards Wildman‘s city office created a ‘significant opportunity’ that led to a 55-lawyer launch.

What made you decide to open in London?

We made a philosophical decision to be a global firm. Our clients and our matters are increasingly global and you’re not going to be a global firm without having a robust presence in the London market as it’s a gateway to some of the other markets in Western Europe.

For a firm in our space to be global you’ve got to be muscular in London and in China. We’ve done well in China, but London’s a much harder market for us as it’s a much more heavily lawyered market so it took us longer to find the right group of folks. This is a watershed moment for Cooley.

How important was the Edwards Wildman and Locke Lord merger, and the instability it created, to your launch?

Whatever instability existed was an opportunity for us and, as it turned out, a significant opportunity for us. It gave us the opportunity to have a very advantageous economic head start to our play here in London.

How quickly can you make up ground on your competitors in the City?

We’ve been placing a lot of work on behalf of our clients with firms in London for years so I don’t see it as making up ground because the play for us all along has been to be something unique: a top 30 firm in the US that’s very experienced and branded around technology, innovation and high growth companies.

If you look at the work that comes out of the US, those clients all have significant interests in Europe and the vast majority of that goes through this town. We’re going to be representing European clients but we’re also over here to continue servicing the best clients in the States in their most business critical litigation matters.

What would be a success for Cooley in the London market?

For us, a healthy office is partners generating their own revenues and having the capability to lawyer matters coming from other offices. The people we picked up in London all have significant practices and we think Cooley will be a boon to their practices in terms of giving them a heightened brand and a whole slew of US clients that are going to be doing deals over here. We’re going to be representing European clients but we’re also over here to continue servicing the best clients in the States in their most business critical litigation matters.

If we’re able to have an office here that allows us to continue to move upward financially as a firm and have our brand at the higher end and serve the higher end needs of our most important clients, and do it in an integrated way, as it’s really important for a US firm to keep its eye on being integrated, that’s success for us.

This is a large investment. What concerns do your partners have?

100% of partners voted to open in London. I wouldn’t say it’s a large investment as we’re a very conservatively managed firm and we don’t have any debt and didn’t take on any debt to do this. Whatever the start-up costs are will come out of our cash flow. We’ve just finished our best year in the history of the firm.

Our partners do ask ‘how big do you have to be in London?’ I tell them that you have to match the market and that’s our play. For us to be able to service a high growth, high innovation technology client base, you’ve got to have robust corporate M&A and litigation practices. Even though we’re starting with a 55-lawyer office, we’re looking at a much bigger office than that.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

For more coverage of Cooley’s London launch, see Planning to ‘make a big impact’.

Legal Business

Planning to ‘make a big impact’: Cooley raids Edwards Wildman and MoFo’s City offices to launch in London

Planning to ‘make a big impact’: Cooley raids Edwards Wildman and MoFo’s City offices to launch in London

US firm Cooley has made its long-awaited entrance to the London legal market, taking partners from Morrison & Foerster and Edwards Wildman Palmer to create a 55-lawyer UK practice.

The office, the firm’s first in Europe, will be headed by Justin Stock, the former head of Morrison & Foerster’s London corporate practice, who is joined by corporate, technology and IP partners David Bresnick, Chris Coulter and Ed Lukins and Nicholas Bolter. 

They are joined by former Edwards Wildman litigators Laurence Harris and Kevin Perry and a five-partner reinsurance group led by David Kendall, Edwards Wildman’s former head of international insurance and reinsurance.

Cooley has taken on all of Edwards Wildman’s old office space at 69 Old Broad Street and carried out a complete refit. The building will house 20 partners across corporate, technology, IP, litigation, competition, insolvency, employment and privacy practices.

‘Cooley plans to make a big impact in London,’ said Joe Conroy, Cooley’s CEO. ‘We have brought together partners who are the very best in their fields, and who share our values and approach to achieving success for our global client base. From our San Francisco and Silicon Valley roots, we have grown to 850 lawyers, solving complex business and litigation issues for the world’s most dynamic companies.’

Stock added: ‘We have substantive strengths in areas essential to Cooley’s global client base. We are ready to build a thriving and successful UK-based practice together. We intend to take the momentum of this launch and continue to attract top legal talent with the same drive and spirit.’

The vice-chair of Cooley’s business department and partner in charge of its Washington DC office, Ryan Naftulin, will relocate to London. As a US liaison partner, his focus will be on office integration and building opportunistic growth for the firm.

Morrison & Foerster, which lost five partners to Cooley, is now understood to have eight partners left in the City plus managing partner for Europe Paul Friedman who is also based in San Francisco. Edwards Wildman, which completed its merger with fellow US firm Locke Lord over the weekend, would have been left with just two partners in London after a string of departures depleted the office prior to Cooley’s launch.

The full list of Cooley’s London partners comprises:

London Head

Justin Stock, head of corporate at Morrison & Foerster.

Partners – Corporate

David Bresnick, corporate partner at Morrison & Foerster with a focus on Eastern Europe and Turkey. Joined MoFo in October 2012 from CMS Cameron McKenna, where he headed the firm’s private equity group.

Ed Lukins, a corporate partner at Morrison & Foerster. Formerly a partner at Norton Rose and Simmons & Simmons.

Chris Coulter, a technology transactions partner at Morrison & Foerster specialising in software and digital content licensing rights.

Ann Bevitt, an employment and privacy partner at Morrison & Foerster for the past 12 years.

Jon Yorke, an insolvency partner at Edwards Wildman for the last three years.

Sarah Pearce, an IP partner at Edwards Wildman who joins Cooley’s technology transactions group.

Ryan Naftulin, US Liason partner at Cooley who relocates from Washington DC, where he was partner in charge. Naftulin, a Cooley lifer, is the vice chair of the firm’s business department. He joined the firm in 1998.

Litigation

Nicholas Bolter, an IP partner at Edwards Wildman and former partner-in-charge of the London office.

David Kendall, former head of international insurance and reinsurance at Edwards Wildman, and who had been at the firm since 1988.

James Crabtree, an insurance and reinsurance partner at Edwards Wildman.

Mark Everiss, an insurance and reinsurance partner at Edwards Wildman.

Chris Finney, an insurance and reinsurance partner at Edwards Wildman.

Mark Deem, a litigation partner at Edwards Wildman.

Laurence Harris, a litigation partner at Edwards Wildman and former deputy managing partner.

Richard Hopley, an insurance and reinsurance partner at Edwards Wildman.

Akash Sachdeva, a qualified barrister and an IP partner at Edwards Wildman.

Kevin Perry, a litigation partner at Edwards Wildman and former co-chair of its litigation department.

Becket McGrath, a competition partner Edwards Wildman and former co-chair of its antitrust practice group.

James Maton, a litigation partner at Edwards Wildman.

tom.moore@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Edwards Wildman loses associate quartet to City firms as tensions mount over potential Cooley takeover

Edwards Wildman loses associate quartet to City firms as tensions mount over potential Cooley takeover

Having endured a spate of high profile partner exits during the summer, US firm Edwards Wildman has now seen four associates depart from its London office, and join the ranks of Eversheds, Travers Smith, Pinsent Masons and automobile giant Nissan in recent weeks as uncertainty over Cooley talks continues.

Eversheds confirmed it had hired corporate associate Andrew Overend into its corporate and commercial team in mid-September, where he now reports to Richard Moutlon, head of Eversheds’ UK private equity team.

Travers Smith also recruited, and hired IP associate Jonathan McDonald who started at the firm this month also. Pinsent Masons further confirmed it had hired an associate from the US firm but would not provide the individual’s name as an official starting date had not yet been set.

The last known associate departure saw commercial litigation specialist Richard Tyler turn away from private practice altogether and head in-house as legal adviser for automobile manufacturing giant Nissan. Having joined only days ago (22 September), he now works with Nissan legal affairs manager Ruth Walkden.

Other associate exits in recent months included commercial litigation lawyer Rhys Davies, who joined the recently-departed insurance heavyweight Francis Mackie at Weightmans.

The catalyst to recent partner and associate departures for the London office is said to be over feelings of disconnection from the US side as well as issues in relation to pay. An ex-partner says: ‘The London office was doing increasingly well and dragged down by the US offices doing less well. Because it was one profit pool, we were effectively sending profits to the US and getting paid well below market as a result’.

Partners at the firm are also said to be in talks with fellow US firm Cooley, with negotiations led by commercial litigation head Laurence Harris. However, while it is expected that the majority of the near 20-strong partnership will join Cooley, it is understood there is uncertainty and tension over when the takeover will happen.

A partner at the firm says: ‘That deal is not done. There is no signed document yet that says Cooley will hire most of the London office. The truth is that no one knows what will happen. Cooley may launch in London in October, or they may launch next year, or maybe in two years, but there’s a lot of uncertainty over when this deal with Edwards Wildman partners will happen, and if it will happen. It was the same when Cooley tried merger talks with Olswang several years ago and nothing ever came of it. People are just waiting and hoping’.

Such discussions have been ongoing as the Boston-headquartered Edwards Wildman just weeks ago announced plans to combine with Dallas-bred Locke Lord, forming a $675m practice that would sit just outside the top 50 of the Global 100.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

First Edwards Wildman City fallout since ‘revolt’ as Cooley one of three US firms circling

First Edwards Wildman City fallout since ‘revolt’ as Cooley one of three US firms circling

In many ways the only real surprise about the departure of Edwards Wildman senior London venture capital partner Shawn Atkinson to Orrick is the speed with which it has been announced, after Legal Business revealed on Tuesday (17 June) that the US top 100 firm is in talks with five London partners following a string of exits, with Cooley and two other US firms said to be circling.

It is not yet known if Atkinson, who serves as co-chair of Edwards Wildman’s venture capital group, the cross-border group and its Central & Eastern Europe group, was one of the partners directly involved in the talks, after a statement from Edwards Wildman on Tuesday said: ‘..a few partners may consider leaving in the near term.’

Located at Old Broad Street, the five partners in question are understood to be unhappy over the lack of support from the US together with issues of ‘disconnection’.

One person familiar with the situation claimed that Edwards Wildman is looking to sell off its 25-partner City office altogether, a claim it has strongly denied.

Three other US firms are said to have been circling, including California-headquartered firm Cooley, which is known to be looking to launch in the City.

On Atkinson’s hire, Orrick’s chairman Mitch Zuklie said: ‘Well respected for his deep knowledge of the technology and emerging companies market, Shawn adds to our London team tremendous complementary strength representing investors in growth equity investments and emerging markets. We are excited to be able to offer his talent to our clients, particularly at a time when the market is white hot.’

This is the second lateral Orrick has made to its London office this year, following the move of Stephen Phillips from White & Case to co-head Orrick’s European restructuring practice in February.

Sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk