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.

Legal Business

Globe-trotting Dentons primed to secure Norton Rose’s Venezuela business

Globe-trotting Dentons primed to secure Norton Rose’s Venezuela business

Expansive global giant Dentons is positioned for another regional merger, with Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) 26-lawyer strong Venezuelan practice the new addition, as Dentons moves to bolster its offering in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The Caracas-based practice is spearheaded by labour partner Juan Carlos Pró-Rísquez, who became managing partner for NRF in Venezuela in 2018. Pró-Rísquez will now lead the office under the name of Despacho de Abogados miembros de Dentons. Currently, the office is in a transitional structure, which sees it associated with Dentons’ Colombian business in Bogotá. However, it will be fully integrated into the firm’s verein-backed structure in the coming weeks subject to a vote from the Dentons partnership.

‘This first started after we recruited several Norton Rose lawyers in Bogotá,’ Jorge Alers, Dentons’ chief executive for Latin America and the Caribbean, told Legal Business. ‘They integrated very well with the firm so we knew how much of a good fit their former colleagues in Caracas would be.’

The Caracas firm counts eight partners with a business focused on energy and natural resource as well as employment. Venezuela, meanwhile, remains one of the world’s largest oil producers, however, the country is currently looking to diversify its economy in a bid to become less reliant upon global commodity cycles.

For Dentons, the tie-up continues its ultra-expansive strategy, having opened in Nicaragua and El Salvador last year, as well as combining with Delany Law and Dinner Martin in the Caribbean. In Latin America, meanwhile, the 8,700-lawyer firm allied with Brazil’s Vella Pugliese Buosi Guidoni, as well as merging with Gallo Barrios Pickmann in Peru.

NRF, in contrast, has more conservative with its global footprint. The firm closed branches in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi last year while Paul Hastings recruited its Japanese corporate team.

The firm released a statement from chief executive Peter Martyr: ‘Market conditions in Venezuela have been challenging for some time. Therefore, we have reached a mutual agreement with our Caracas partners that Norton Rose Fulbright will no longer maintain a local market presence in Venezuela.’

Alers at Dentons unsurprisingly struck a different note, stressing his firm’s expansion plans in the Latin American and Caribbean region: ‘It not only our strategy to grow globally but also grow continually in Latin America and the Caribbean, where we already have the most legal coverage in the region. This is just another step in our effort to cover the entire jurisdiction.’

Legal Business

Globetrotters in Europe: Dentons and White & Case expand operations as Weil scales back in CEE again

Globetrotters in Europe: Dentons and White & Case expand operations as Weil scales back in CEE again

Global players scaled up their investment in continental Europe this autumn, with Dentons launching its fourth German base and White & Case growing its French team. Meanwhile, Weil, Gotshal & Manges has shut its doors in Prague, its second office closure in central and eastern Europe (CEE) in 2018.

Dentons’ fast-growing German branch hired Taylor Wessing’s former head of competition, EU and trade, Andreas Haak, and employment partner Sascha Grosjean to lead the opening of the new outpost in Düsseldorf in January 2019. Germany managing partner Andreas Ziegenhagen told Legal Business the firm aims to have around 30 lawyers in the city in Germany’s industrial heartland, bringing the total headcount in the country to over 200.

Legal Business

More of Joe ‘n’ Elliott show for Dentons after unopposed leadership contest

More of Joe ‘n’ Elliott show for Dentons after unopposed leadership contest

Globetrotting firm Dentons’ chair Joe Andrew and chief executive Elliott Portnoy have been elected for their third and fourth terms respectively at the helm of the firm after an uncontested election.

Announced today (19 November) the duo ran unopposed and secured the needed backing of more than half of the partnership.

Andrew and Portnoy, who announced they would stand for re-election as early as 2015, implemented the concept of a ‘polycentric’ law firm through a long series of international mergers since the 2010 union of London’s Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) and Chicago’s Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

The firm became the largest in the world by headcount after the tie-up with 4,000-lawyer Chinese giant Dacheng in 2015, when Portnoy’s and Andrew’s terms were reset at the request of the Beijing firm.

Tasked with executing the firm’s global strategy, Portnoy previously served as chair at legacy Sonnenschein and was reappointed to the role after the merger with DWS, a deal which created SNR Denton.

The architect of the firm’s strategy, Andrew previously chaired legacy SNR Denton and was reappointed to the role after Dentons’ $1bn tripartite merger with Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain in 2012, when the firm assumed its current name.

After a quieter 2016 the firm has continued growing its sprawling global network combining with several firms globally over the last two years, including seven firms in Africa, the Caribbean and South East Asia in March .

The firm billed over $2bn last year, with its UK and Middle East business growing its top line 22% to £203.1m in 2017/18. Meanwhile, revenue in its continental European business rose 21% to €288m in 2017 .

That Portnoy and Andrew stood unopposed reinforces the irony of global Swiss Verein firm that heavily relies for direction from its two leaders, leaving open the question of who will have enough clout among its almost 3,000 partners, spread across all corners of the world, to successfully take over when the time comes.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: A&O makes New York push as DLA and Dentons add to European rosters

Revolving doors: A&O makes New York push as DLA and Dentons add to European rosters

It has been lively couple of weeks for lateral hires, with Allen & Overy (A&O) making a significant play in New York as a host of firms recruited across the continent.

Hot on the heels of rehiring financial services regulation head Bob Penn in June, A&O has hired M&A partner Stephen Besen in New York from Shearman & Sterling.

Besen has 35 years of experience advising clients on mergers, tender offers, joint ventures, restructuring and private equity transactions. He also has pedigree in cross-border transactions, in areas including China, India, Latin America and the Middle East.

Richard Browne, A&O’s global co-head of corporate, commented: ‘His depth of experience and insight is a great fit for our international practice and a significant addition for our clients.’

Hogan Lovells made the sole UK hire last week, bringing in Nicola Fulford as a partner in the firm’s London-based privacy and cybersecurity practice.

Fulford, who arrives from Kemp Little, has in-house experience from working at UBS, as well as secondments at Google and IBM.

Eduardo Ustaran, co-director of Hogan Lovells’ privacy and cybersecurity practice, told Legal Business that his division now numbers around 100 lawyers globally. He commented: ‘We were looking for a true expert in the field and someone who had been involved in working with tech companies. Nicola has these qualities and will be a great cultural fit for us.’

DLA Piper was particularly active in Europe, firstly hiring partner Pierre Berger and his seven-strong team of lawyers from Baker McKenzie in Antwerp. Berger and his team have expertise in sectors spanning financial services and insurance.

DLA also strengthened its benches in Germany, hiring corporate partner Roland Maass from Latham & Watkins to its Frankfurt office. Maass had been with the US heavyweight since 2006, with his practice predominantly focused on capital markets transactions. Outside of Europe, DLA hired corporate partner Yang Ge from Shearman & Sterling to its Beijing hub.

Also in Germany, Dentons boosted its real estate practice with the hire of René Dubois from European outfit Noerr. The arrival of Dubois, who will be based in Munich, means Dentons can now offer real estate advice from all three of its German offices: Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich.

Staying with Dentons, the firm also strengthened its Moscow base with the double partner hires of Vladimir Sokov and Sergey Klimenko from Russian firm Pepeliaev Group. Sokov is a corporate and M&A specialist while Klimenko will join Dentons as head of its Russian life sciences practice.

Finally, in France, King & Spalding has appointed a pair of partners to its Paris office. Laurent Bensaid, a corporate partner, has joined from Parisian outfit Hoche Avocats where he was co-head of the firm’s M&A department. Also arriving was Laurent Jaeger, an arbitration partner who joined from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.