Legal Business

Dentons double merger adds 300 lawyers to create ‘first truly national US law firm’

Dentons double merger adds 300 lawyers to create ‘first truly national US law firm’

Dentons will have more than 1,000 lawyers across 33 US markets following the latest in a long line of tie-ups announced since the start of the summer.

After expanding in South America, Asia Pacific and Africa through ten mergers since July, the globetrotting firm has announced it is to combine with 175-lawyer Midwest firm Bingham Greenebaum and 140-strong Pennsylvania-bred Cohen & Grigsby.

Subject to approval by the partnerships and expected to launch in January 2020, the tie-up with the two US shops is the first step in what chief executive Elliott Portnoy (pictured) described as a plan to ‘create the first truly national US law firm’.

‘Clients want to work with a firm that can support the wide variety of specialties they demand in the markets where they do business but today no full service law firm has offices in all [of the] 20 largest US legal markets,’ said Portnoy, describing the rationale behind what the firm dubbed ‘Project Golden Spike’.

Borne of the 2012 merger between Indianapolis-bred Bingham McHale and Louisville-based Greenebaum Doll & McDonald, Bingham Greenebaum has six offices across Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, covering transactional, litigation, estate planning, tax and employee benefits.

Cohen & Grigsby launched in 1981 and has offices in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Naples, Florida, with a focus on mid-market M&A and private equity. It also covers areas including employment, IP, real estate, public finance, litigation and bankruptcy.

At launch, the combined firm will have almost 1,100 lawyers across 33 US markets.

The combinations announced today will have a different structure than usual in that lawyers at member firms will get dual partnership status, becoming partners at the newly formed Dentons US while remaining partners at their existing firm. Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew told Legal Business: ‘Individual firms will maintain their client relationships, control rates, governance, determine who will be a partner, but also be part of a national and global firm. Everyone who is a partner in the US will be a member of two partnerships.’

He said that the idea for the project was first conceived about two years ago with the realisation that US firms were small in proportion to the size of the market. ‘It is odd, since all of the largest US companies are spread all across the country.’

‘We have spent one-and-a-half years understanding how we can build from scratch the first national firm in the US to objectively improve client service,’ said Andrew. ‘If you can do that, revenue and all those things will follow. This became the number one highest priority for the firm.’

He added that the project was named Golden Spike to mark the 150th anniversary of the railway line that ‘brought the US together’.

The two firms announcing the combination with Dentons today, which will be known as Dentons Bingham Greenebaum and Dentons Cohen & Grigsby, helped conceive the project alongside two other firms that are expected to officially join the project next year. Andrew said Dentons was in conversations with ‘more than half a dozen’ other firms.

These latest mergers mean Dentons has left further behind the 10,000-lawyer mark across 73 countries. The expansion spree began at the end of July, when Dentons announced it was merging with New Zealand firm Kensington Swan.

In the following two months, nine other mergers followed in Honduras, South Korea, Uruguay, Argentina, as well as five African countries.

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

Dentons furthers pan-African play as it announces five new local deals

Dentons furthers pan-African play as it announces five new local deals

Dentons is showing no sign of slowing its expansion spree of late, making it ten tie-ups in less than two months after announcing it is to enter another five African countries and add a further 54 lawyers to its ranks.

The 10,000-lawyer firm said it is to combine with a firm each in Angola, Morocco, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia, building on what chief executive Elliott Portnoy described as a strategy to ‘become the first pan-African law firm, owned and controlled by Africans’.

Subject to a vote by the partnership which will take place before 25 September, the African firms Dentons is to add to its global verein this time around are: ten-lawyer LEAD Advogados in Angola; 12-lawyer Sayarh & Menjra in Morocco; 17-lawyer Fernanda Lopes & Associados Advogados in Mozambique; four-lawyer Kyagaba and Otatiina Advocates in Uganda; and 11-lawyer Eric Silwamba, Jalasi and Linyama Legal Practitioners in Zambia.

Dentons Africa chief executive Noor Kapdi told Legal Business: ‘We collected client data and based on that data we were able to identify which jurisdictions our clients are most interested in and prioritise those jurisdictions.’

He pointed to client interest in the oil and gas resources of countries like Angola, as well as the infrastructure projects in countries including Mozambique. In Morocco, where the firm already had a representative office in Casablanca, the combination with Sayarh & Menjra will allow Dentons to practise local law.

Kapdi said he saw room for expansion in all those countries: ‘That’s just a natural consequence of combining with Dentons: those firms will become immediately identifiable by thousands of lawyers all over the world who have clients working in those jurisdictions. That drives growth.’

The latest mergers follow the firm’s combinations in Argentina and Uruguay, announced last week, and those in Honduras, South Korea and New Zealand earlier in the summer.

Dentons created a separate governance structure for its African business in 2017, spinning it off from its European regional management and appointing Johannesburg-based Kapdi to lead it. The firm has rapidly expanded in the continent adding Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe to its existing offices in Egypt, Morocco and South Africa.

Looking at the next stages of the firm’s African expansion, Kapdi said Dentons was looking at Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria, where plans are already at an advanced stage, as well as Tunisia and Algeria.

Speaking to Legal Business earlier this year, Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew promised: ‘If you look at a map, any place we’re not, we are making an effort.’

Legal Business

Dentons makes it five mergers in a month with Argentina and Uruguay tie-ups

Dentons makes it five mergers in a month with Argentina and Uruguay tie-ups

Dentons has capped off an expansive summer, even by its own standards, announcing it is to enter Argentina and Uruguay through its fourth and fifth combinations respectively in just over a month.

The 10,000-lawyer firm announced today (4 September) it will add another 80 to its ranks by absorbing Rattagan Macchiavello Arocena in Buenos Aires and Jiménez de Aréchaga, Viana & Brause in Montevideo.

Subject to a partner vote taking place over the next two weeks, chair Joe Andrew (pictured) said the move would make Dentons ‘the first truly pan-Latin American and Caribbean firm in the history of the legal profession’.

‘We already have coverage in Mexico, central America and most of the Caribbean,’ Latin America and the Caribbean chief executive Jorge Alers told Legal Business. ‘So the last remaining area where we needed to establish a presence was South America.’

In Argentina the firm will initially focus on M&A and environmental work, but Alers said that it could soon expand into other areas: ‘While we may start with a more focused platform, what we have seen in the region is that, because of the global platform of Dentons, we are often able to expand to include new areas and practices.’

He pointed to the firm’s Chile practice, which in its first year of operation almost doubled its size to around 60 lawyers. The firm also has offices in Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, as well as a strategic alliance in Brazil.

The mergers come just over a month after the firm said it was merging with New Zealand firm Kensington Swan bringing its lawyer headcount in the region to over 500.

In the following seven days, it announced a tie-up with Gustavo Zacapa y Asociados in Honduras and Lee International in South Korea.

Speaking to Legal Business last month, Andrews said: ‘The more places you are the more pressure there is to be in even more places. In May 2016 we had no presence in South America, now we have more presence in South America and the Caribbean than anyone else.’

Also in 2019, Dentons combined with MawereSibanda in Zimbabwe and acquired Norton Rose Fulbright’s Venezuela business.

Andrews concluded: ‘If you look at a map, any place we’re not, we are making an effort.’

Legal Business

Dentons to enter New Zealand legal market through merger with 100-lawyer Kensington Swan

Dentons to enter New Zealand legal market through merger with 100-lawyer Kensington Swan

Dentons is to grow its global headcount further past the 10,000-lawyer mark after announcing a merger with 113-strong full-service New Zealand firm Kensington Swan.

The combination, announced today (31 July) and subject to approval by partners, will see Dentons enter the New Zealand legal market, with offices in Auckland and Wellington, nearly three years after launching in Australia.

The tie-up will mean Dentons’ regional headcount will pass the 500-lawyer mark and was a long time in the making, with the two firms having been in merger talks for about a year. The partnerships are expected to approve the move by mid-August.

‘There are close synergies between the [Australian and New Zealand] economies in relation to the agricultural base, financial base, manufacturing base and mining resources,’ Dentons Australia region chief executive Doug Stipanicev told Legal Business. ‘They are both Commonwealth countries and very closely aligned economies. There is a natural synergy between our clients in Australia investing in New Zealand and what will become our clients in New Zealand investing in Australia’.

Dentons already has a small base in Auckland, launched in 2018 and staffed by four patent attorneys, but with no lawyers practising local law.

The global giant first entered the Australasian region in 2016 by merging with Australian firm Gadens. Announced in November 2015 as part of a three-way union that also included Singaporean practice Rodyk & Davidson, the deal had run into delays over the partnership structure of the Australian firm, which operated different financial centres across its network.

In December 2016 three of Gadens’ six offices finally joined Dentons – Perth, Sydney and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

In the following two-and-a-half years the firm grew its footprint to 450 lawyers, launching in Melbourne in November 2017 and in Brisbane the following year. In 2018 it also hired 17 partners from ailing Australian shop DibbsBarker, while earlier this year it absorbed Adelaide-based Fisher Jeffries, adding another 13 partners.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Ashurst bolsters project finance as Eversheds expands in the Netherlands

Revolving doors: Ashurst bolsters project finance as Eversheds expands in the Netherlands

In a week dominated by European hires, Ashurst and Dentons turned to the City with hires in project finance and data privacy, respectively.

Eversheds Sutherland, CMS and Pinsent Masons, meanwhile, all expanded on the continent, with Eversheds adding three partners.

Ashurst grew its project finance team in London with the appointment of Adrian Lawrence, who joins from White & Case and focuses on project finance, banking, corporate and capital markets transactions, with an emphasis on oil and gas and petrochemical projects.

Co-head of the global projects practice Joss Dare told Legal Business: ‘He’s been working on some of the largest oil and gas project financings in the world and is an important part of our plans to grow our international project finance capability, building on recent hires.’ He added: ‘Geographically, he does work around the world but a lot of his focus will be working with Matt Wood to build out our Africa practice.’

Lawrence commented: ‘Ashurst has an excellent project development and finance team, with extensive experience advising both project sponsors and lenders on landmark transactions throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.’

Dentons, meanwhile, hired data privacy and cyber security partner Antonis Patrikios in London. Patrikios, who joins from Fieldfisher, has experience in the telecommunications, media and technology sectors.

Head of Dentons’ media and telecoms practice Andy Lucas commented: ‘His hire reflects the demand we’re seeing from our clients for data privacy and cyber security advice, and growing our capabilities in this area is a focus for our UK business to enable us to better support our clients on their global data privacy and cyber security needs.’

In the Netherlands, Eversheds added corporate partner Jeroen Hoekstra and commercial partner Benjamin van Kessel from Nineyards Law, while corporate partner Elmer Veenman joined from De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.

Hoekstra is a founding partner of Nineyards Law, established in 2015, and was previously a partner and co-head of the corporate M&A group at Baker McKenzie. He focuses on joint ventures, M&A, private equity transactions and restructurings. Van Kessel advises on all aspects of intellectual property, information technology and commercial law, while Veenman advises on M&A and corporate transactions.

Eversheds European managing partner Helen Thomas told Legal Business: ‘The Netherlands is an interesting region because it’s had significant economic growth and Brexit will also bring opportunities. There are lots of businesses looking to possibly move operations to the region and Dutch businesses are very active globally. It’s seen as a great place to do business, so strengthening and deepening our corporate commercial team is a response to client needs.’

Elsewhere, CMS boosted its energy and infrastructure projects practices with the hire of Lukasz Szatkowski from Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Szatkowski has more than fifteen years’ experience in transaction, projects and regulatory advice for international and Polish energy companies.

Managing partner of CMS Poland Andrzej Posniak commented: ‘Strengthening the energy team is another element of the development strategy of this practice. We hope that Lukasz, a valued expert in the energy sector, will help us expand both the client base of the firm and the offer for companies operating on this market’.

Pinsent Masons hired capital markets partner Susanne Lenz from Hogan Lovells to its Frankfurt office. Lenz advises global and domestic investment banks as well as corporates on high-yield bonds, IPOs, private placements, rights issues, block trades, dual listings, convertible bonds and debt issuance programs.

Finally, TLT appointed Sean McCay from Squire Patton Boggs as partner. McCay, who is experienced in litigation, will lead the construction team in its Manchester office.

Legal Business

Dentons UK and Middle East revenue nears £230m in first post-Scotland results

Dentons UK and Middle East revenue nears £230m in first post-Scotland results

Dentons’ UK and Middle East revenue rose 13% to £229.8m in 2018/19 but growth in profit per equity partner (PEP) slowed, rising 4% to £676,000 compared to a 36% spike the previous year.

The firm announced today (5 June) the first financial results for its UKME LLP covering a full financial year of operations since the merger with Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens, which went live in November 2017  and added three offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow to the firm’s network.

The 2017/18 financials – which incorporated six months of trading as a combined firm – showed revenue up 22% to £203.1m. Without the merger, that figure would have been 9% higher than the previous year.

The latest results mean the 14 offices in the UK and the Middle East have grown the top line 48% since 2014/15, while PEP has risen by 36% over the same period.

Deal highlights during the last financial year include acting for KKR on its €6.8bn acquisition of Unilever’s spreads business; Deutsche Post DHL Group on the sale of Williams Lea Tag to Advent International; and Centerbridge Partners on the purchase of IBM’s marketing and commerce assets.

Regional chief executive Jeremy Cohen also pointed to appointments to the global panels of BASF, BP, Société Générale and Standard Chartered Bank. He added that the legacy Maclays team contributed to matters including the KKR spreads business deal, the Carillion liquidation and appointment to the government and Network Rail panels.

Speaking to Legal Business, Cohen said it was a ‘good year of progress’ for the 704-lawyer business. ‘We are starting to get much more cross-border work. The merger [with Maclays] has also helped with some of the larger domestic clients. A lot of focus for us now is on what the large multinational clients want.’

The UK LLP hired 12 partners in the year to 30 April, including derivatives specialist Luke Whitmore from Fieldfisher. The year also saw Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew and chief executive Elliott Portnoy re-elected for their third and fourth terms respectively at the helm of the firm after an uncontested election.

Legal Business

Australia pull continues as Dentons, DWF and LOD announce expansion

Australia pull continues as Dentons, DWF and LOD announce expansion

Described in some quarters as an overlawyered market for a country with a population of 25 million, Australia continues to attract investment from the international legal industry in all its shapes and forms. Global giant Dentons, recently-listed DWF and New Law outfit Lawyers On Demand (LOD) have all expanded their presence in the country.

Just over two years after entering Australia through a merger with national firm Gadens, Dentons has hit the 280-lawyer mark in the country after absorbing Adelaide-based Fisher Jeffries. ‘This completes our footprint across the major cities in Australia,’ regional chair and chief executive Doug Stipanicev told Legal Business.

Legal Business

Dentons risks Venezuelan instability to secure Norton Rose Caracas business

Dentons risks Venezuelan instability to secure Norton Rose Caracas business

Dentons has acquired Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF)’s 26-lawyer Caracas office, coinciding with Venezuela’s acute economic and political crisis.

As part of the acquisition, Dentons hired eight partners with a sector focus on energy and natural resources, as well as employment. Currently led by labour partner Juan Carlos Pró-Rísquez, who became NRF managing partner in the country last year, the office is set to become Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons, after a transition period that sees it associated with Dentons’ Colombian business in Bogotá.

Legal Business

Dentons UK top earner reaped benefits of Maclays takeover with 27% pay rise

Dentons UK top earner reaped benefits of Maclays takeover with 27% pay rise

Dentons’ highest paid UK partner took home £1.4m in the year to April 2018 compared to £1.1m the year before, the firm’s first accounts since the merger with Maclay Murray & Spens show.

Covering the firm’s 14 offices in the UK and Middle East, the accounts, published today (30 January), incorporate six months of trading as a combined firm since the tie-up with the Scottish shop went live on 28 October 2017.

Maclay’s assets were valued at £11.5m, which will be paid to its partners. Dentons added three UK offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow through the merger, while the number of equity partners grew from 129 to 176.

Turnover at the combined firm was £205.6m, up 21% from £170.3m the previous year, while operating profit rose 26% to £60.7m from £48.2m. Regional chief executive Jeremy Cohen said that without the merger, revenue would have been up 9%.

Staff costs rose 12% to £95.5m as fee earner headcount grew 13% to 546 and the firm added 35 business support staff to reach 480.

Cash at the end of the year was down 11% to £6.2m from £7m, as an increase in inflow from operating activities to £58.5m from £39.5m was offset by a rise in the outflow for investing and financing activities. In particular the firm invested more than four times the amount of cash, £9.8m compared to £2.2m.

The accounts also show the firm had no bank loans at the end of the financial year, compared to loans for £800,000 the previous year.

‘It is particularly pleasing to have achieved this level of revenue and profit growth during a period of intensive integration activity arising from the merger with Maclay Murray and Spens,’ said Cohen.

Legacy Maclay’s last accounts were also out this week, showing the firm turned over £15.7m in its last few months of pre-merger life, from June to October 2017, while operating profit stood at £3.6m over the same period. In its last full financial year to 31 May 2017, the firm’s revenue was £44.2m and its operating profit £12.1m.