Legal Business

Middle East: Dentons ends period of upheaval in Kuwait with decision to close local office

Middle East: Dentons ends period of upheaval in Kuwait with decision to close local office

Dentons’ partnership has voted in favour of shutting its Kuwait office following a review, bringing to an end a turbulent chapter in the region.

The firm, which has had an office in Kuwait since 2008, only in January entered into a new association with local lawyer Jamal Ahmed Al-Shehab, replacing its association with International Legal Group.

This latest move follows the three-way merger of SNR Denton with international firm Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain, which went live at the end of March. The 2,600-lawyer firm, which will continue to service its Kuwait clients from its other Middle East offices, has not commented on whether it will continue working with Al-Shehab & Partners in the region.

The Kuwait office currently houses a five-strong team led by managing partner Stuart Cavet, and advises local businesses and international investors in the public and private sectors on inward and outward bound investment. The firm did not confirm whether there would be any redundancies in Kuwait or whether local lawyers will be relocated as a result of the decision by partnership.

A statement released by the firm said: ‘We regularly review our global and regional presences to determine how best to serve our clients’ needs and, accordingly, to set our investment priorities. In this context we have decided to cease operating in Kuwait shortly.

‘However, we remain committed to the representation of clients on our many Kuwait-related matters, and we will – as we have done very successfully over many years – continue to serve their needs through our capabilities in our other Middle East locations as well as from our offices in other regions, such as London and Washington, DC.

‘As one of the oldest and largest international law firms in the Middle East, Dentons continues to view the region as a strategic priority, as reflected by the recent addition of a number new partners within the region, with further growth planned.’

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Clutch of firms including Bird & Bird, Dentons and Sidley make key hires

The lateral hires market has over the past week continued to defy an overall drop in activity as Bird & Bird, DWF, Dentons, Sidley Austin and Baker & McKenzie all made strategic hires.

Late last week 234-partner Bird & Bird was joined by Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) franchising partners Graeme Payne and Victoria Hobbs – a not unexpected move after the recent hire of high profile FFW IP and IT head Mark Abell, with whom the duo worked on a number of mandates and were widely tipped to follow. Last year the pair advised luxury shirt brand Thomas Pink on a franchise deal leading to the opening of stores across India.

David Kerr, CEO of Bird & Bird said: ‘There are clear synergies between the nature and type of clients that they have worked for and Bird & Bird’s areas of industry and practice focus.’

Meanwhile in the North of England, acquisitive DWF on 9 May announced the recruitment of a five-partner team from Eversheds.

The fast-expanding firm took on a 12-strong Newcastle real estate team led by partners Adam Heather, Gavin Jackson, Mitch Brown and former Eversheds Newcastle head Adrian Stanley. Brown was Eversheds head of affordable housing and has taken up the same position at DWF.

Fifth partner, Eversheds head of affordable housing litigation, Suzanne Gregson, will join DWF’s Manchester office.

The new hires bolster DWF’s 218-strong national real estate team as the firm eyes top 20 UK law firm status post the wholesale acquisition of Cobbetts in February, which placed it firmly in the top 25. Nic Crocker, national head of real estate at DWF, said: “These individuals bring with them a wealth of experience across a number of key areas, and will provide invaluable support to the team as it continues its push towards top 20 firm status and beyond.”

Across the continent, Dentons is forecasting growth in Germany and has announced its first lateral hires since the tripartite merger with Paris-founded Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain in March. Frankfurt partners Michael Graf and Robert Bastian joined from Haarmann on 1 May. Graf, who has experience advising multinational enterprises and private equity funds on international tax law, has joined the firm’s German tax practice group, while Bastian, who specialises in private equity law and M&A, has joined the German private equity group.

Andreas Ziegenhagen, managing partner for Germany, said: ‘Their arrival marks an important step for our German teams, especially in the context of the Dentons combination, as we will be able to increase the quality of our cooperation both in Germany and globally. The signs point towards growth in Germany and I am confident that Michael and Robert will take advantage of the growing opportunities here.’

Elsewhere, activity in Asia continues apace where US firm Sidley Austin has ramped up its Singapore practice with the hire of Morgan Lewis & Bockius M&A partner Gregory Salathé. The firm became one of four international outfits to be granted a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) license in February this year, allowing it to advise on local law.

Salathé, who focuses on Asia-based cross-border M&A deals, funds and private equity, is an important strategic hire for the firm, which recently announced it was to re-launch its funds practice in Singapore with the hire of Clifford Chance partner Han Ming Ho.

Asia Pacific managing partner Thomas Albrecht said: ‘Greg has extensive experience representing clients in Asia-related cross-border M&A transactions and understands exceptionally well the myriad issues that private equity and hedge funds face when they make downstream investments in the region.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Baker & McKenzie – now with upwards of 3800 lawyers – has hired DLA Piper life sciences partner, Amanda Turnill to co-chair the firm’s Australian Life Sciences group with partner Ben McLaughlin.

With more than 20 years’ experience as a product liability litigator and regulatory lawyer, Turnill – who was the global co-chair of life sciences at DLA – has advised pharmaceutical, medical technology, biotechnology, and other life sciences companies all over the world.

McLaughlin said: ‘Before becoming a lawyer, Amanda was a registered nurse so she has been able to combine her knowledge of health issues and her interest in the life sciences industry with law. It’s this depth of experience that makes Amanda one of the most highly sought after lawyers in this industry.’

According to Motive Legal Consulting’s London Lateral Hiring Trends Bulletin for January to March 2013, ‘Q1 2013 was the second-worst Q1 for seven years, ‘beaten’ only by the depths of the recession.’


Revolving Doors is a regular round-up of senior legal moves across the globe. To be included please contact

Legal Business

Dentons strengthens private equity offering with SJ Berwin hire

Dentons strengthens private equity offering with SJ Berwin hire

Dentons has hired SJ Berwin corporate finance partner Nicholas Plant to lead its private equity group in the UK, Middle East and Africa.

Plant’s practice focuses on advising private equity houses on domestic and cross-border leveraged buy-outs. He also advises on general M&A and joint ventures. Most recently, he has been particularly involved in acting for US corporates, healthcare sector clients and on deal-by-deal financings.

Plant has represented some big name private equity clients, including Duke Street last year in its acquisition of LM Funerals for £37.5m and CVC Capital Partners on the $1.7bn acquisition of Samsonite Corporation back in 2008.

Richard Barham, partner and head of Dentons’ corporate practice, said: ‘Nicholas’ first-class credentials coupled with his drive will enable us to strengthen our private equity offering in the UK and beyond. He joins at an exciting time for the firm and will work with private equity colleagues around the world to further develop the Dentons’ global private equity group.’

‘Nicholas’ first-class credentials coupled with his drive will enable us to strengthen our private equity offering in the UK and beyond.”

Plant joined SJ Berwin in 1996 and has been a partner since 2007. His hire comes a year partner Hugh Naylor left the firm to head up the private equity team at boutique corporate firm Trinity International.

Dentons is the new name of the firm formed by the three-way merger between SNR Denton, Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain that went live at the end March.

Legal Business

Dentons wins spot as Network Rail announces panel revamp

Dentons wins spot as Network Rail announces panel revamp

Network Rail has cut its legal roster from 12 to five core firms in a review that sees newly merged firm Dentons appointed to the panel.

Other firms awarded full service contracts for work in England and Wales are Bond Pearce (Bond Dickinson on 1 May), Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard. Maclay Murray & Spens has been awarded the contract for Scottish law matters. All four were reappointed from the previous panel.

The firms will provide legal support to Network Rail’s entire business but with a particular focus on corporate projects, commercial contracts, dispute resolution, employment and property work.

Network Rail has also awarded three further contracts for work in specialist areas – to Clifford Chance for treasury and capital markets work; Kennedys for health & safety and regulatory enforcement; and Winckworth Sherwood for public law matters.

As of April 2012 Network Rail had a legal spend of around £15m per year.

Firms not re-appointed to the full panel are Simmons & Simmons, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Bircham Dyson Bell, MacRoberts, Schofield Sweeney and Winckworth Sherwood.

The tender, which was kicked off at a launch presentation in December, was put out to 20 firms, with a further seven unsuccessful.

The rail company’s review of its advisers, led by group general counsel Suzanne Wise, has centred on developing stronger relationships with its advisers and obtaining better value services.

Wise said: ‘This has not been about dissatisfaction with any of the company’s current suppliers. The decision to significantly reduce the size of the panel will drive efficiencies in line with the company’s business objectives. I wanted to develop deeper, more strategic relationships with fewer firms to drive better value and a more integrated approach to our work.’

A statement issued by Network Rail further explained: ‘Network Rail had found its legal spend spread too thinly across a panel of 12 firms making it difficult to develop a close strategic relationship whilst at the same time eroding the company’s ability to gain maximum benefit from the value added offered by many law firms in the market.’

Before joining Network Rail, Wise was general counsel and company secretary of Premier Foods, where she set up the FTSE 100 company’s first formal panel, appointing Eversheds, Slaughter and May and Wragge & Co.

She joined Network Rail in January 2012, with a brief to complete a wholesale review of the strategic objectives of the legal team, including a strategic vision for legal services.

Legal Business

Landmark three-way merger aims to end Dentons’ Europe woes

At press time, partners at SNR Denton, Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC) were poised to vote through a $1bn, three-way merger using a Swiss Verein model.

A source within SNR Denton said that the union was basically a ‘done deal’ with partners from all firms having met on 13 November to review the business plan behind the proposed merger. SNR Denton and Salans have been in talks for a while and have refused to comment on merger speculation. The addition of FMC to the union emerged in November.

Legal Business

Cohesion critical in proving three into one does go

Cohesion critical in proving three into one does go

By the time you read this Dentons (as anyone sane will call it), a three-way merger between SNR Denton, Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain, should be formally approved (see opposite). That is unless there’s a late spanner in the works, and with merger negotiations you can never be sure.

Legal Business

Trowers unveils new strategy as Adlington bows out

Trowers & Hamlins senior partner elect Jennie Gubbins has told LB that she is looking to raise the firm’s corporate profile in the City and repair its ailing international offering after a bruising few years.

The firm’s current senior partner, Jonathan Adlington, has announced that he will be retiring next year. Gubbins, currently head of corporate at the firm, will replace him in March 2013.

Legal Business

The changing face of the profession

The changing face of the profession

Long live the Verein. The overwhelming majority of firms in this year’s Global 100 report are still single-partnerships, but with seven of the top 100 firms in the world now comprising multiple partnerships, it’s clear that the mantra of ‘one partnership, one firm’ is being challenged.

Legal Business

SNR Denton – Strained Relations

SNR Denton – Strained Relations

It is no secret that legacy firm Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) has had a rough ride. During the 2010/11 financial year, the firm’s UK LLP (including the Middle East and Europe) posted an 8% decrease in revenue to £154.4m, while profits per equity partner (PEP) fell to an unimpressive £233,000. This represented a 34% drop (the second in a five-year period) on the previous year and saw the bottom of the equity take home just £156,000.

The EMEA side to the business sits at number 89 in LB’s profitability table, having performed better than just six firms in the entire top 100. But with profit per lawyer (PPL) at an all time low of £29,000 and a margin of just 13%, this firm has almost been run into the ground.