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.

Legal Business

Dentons delivers 36% PEP turnaround on ‘strongest ever’ financial results in UK and Middle East

Dentons delivers 36% PEP turnaround on ‘strongest ever’ financial results in UK and Middle East

The global management of Dentons are well known sceptics of the significance of profit per equity partner (PEP) but its UK and Middle East business is happily talking up 36% growth in the metric, rebounding from last year’s drop to boast a £651,000 figure.

The firm released today (8 June) what regional chief executive Jeremy Cohen described its ‘strongest ever set of financial results’, in which its top line grew 22% to £203.1m.

This was naturally bolstered by revenue from legacy Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens, which merged with Dentons in November last year. That brought three new offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow into the firm’s network, increasing UK lawyer headcount to more than 800. Partner numbers grew to 207 from last year’s 160.

Cohen said that without the merger, revenue would have grown 9%.

‘As the global platform of Dentons grows and integrates more strongly, we get more opportunities through that,’ he told Legal Business. ‘The UK and Middle East are very international places, so we get more international work.’

The eye-catching rise in PEP follows a disappointing 2016/17, when it fell 9% to £481,000 amid a modest 1% increase in revenue to £166.4m.

Cohen commented: ‘Last year we had made a lot of investment, hired a lot of people, built out our practices, took on a new office in Watford – things we are very pleased to see are growing well.

Since 2013/14, Dentons’ top line has grown 39%, with PEP rising 60%. He added: ‘It’s the five-year trend that tells the real story.’

The firm’s work around the Carillion collapse was one of the key sources of revenues this year. It has been advising the Cabinet Office and the liquidator.

‘The restructuring part of the business is stronger than it has been for some time,’ Cohen said.

On the corporate side, Dentons advised KKR on the due diligence and carve-out aspects of its £6bn acquisition of Unilever’s spreads businesses and real estate investment company Aprirose as it bought QHotels for £525 million.

Dentons has recently reshuffled its regional management. Cohen was in December re-elected regional chief executive until 2021 after his role changed last summer to only cover Europe and the Middle East. The firm established a separate governance for Africa at the same time, led by Noor Kapdi. Dentons also made the unusual move of hiring a non-lawyer to run its day-to-day operations, appointing former RBS director Lisa Sewell as managing director, replacing Brandon Ransley who retired earlier this year.

Cohen concluded: ‘It’s probably been a much stronger market environment this year than many of us would have anticipated. We all have to expect some degree of volatility [for the next financial year]. That does not mean that it won’t be a strong year.’

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: City laterals pick up with hires at Dentons and Eversheds as international moves maintain momentum

Revolving Doors: City laterals pick up with hires at Dentons and Eversheds as international moves maintain momentum

City recruitment picked up after a lull last week as Dentons strengthened its bench in London at the hand of Eversheds Sutherland, which saw moves both ways.

Dentons announced the hire of Howard Barrie, who re-joins the firm after several years at Eversheds Sutherland. Barrie had previously spent 19 years with Dentons in his first stint at the firm, and returns to its finance practice.

Barrie focuses on projects and project finance, as well as structured trade finance and commodity finance. Paul Holland, head of Dentons’ UK and banking finance practice, commented: ‘Paul brings an immense amount of international experience – in particular with regards to Africa – to the table, and we are confident he will help us to further enhance and grow our project finance work across the African continent and elsewhere’

Coming the other way, Eversheds made an addition to its City real estate practice in the form of Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Paul Beausang. He was previously London head of tax at K&L Gates, and specialises in real estate tax structuring and transactional execution.

David Watkins, global co-head of real estate at Eversheds, commented on the hire: ‘The depth and market knowledge of UK real estate structuring offered by our real estate practice is a great match for Paul’s strength and expertise.’

Also in London, Hogan Lovells announced the hire of Jennifer O’Connell as finance partner to its London international debt capital markets practice. Jennifer returns to the firm from an in-house role at CACIB, the corporate and investment banking arm of the Crédit Agricole Group.

International recruitment continued apace last week, with CMS hiring Michał Mężykowski in Poland from Dentons. Mężykowski will join the firm’s banking and finance practice, bringing experience advising financial institutions with a particular focus on the real estate market. Mężykowski had been a partner at Dentons for eight years.

Across the Atlantic, Kennedys bolstered its New York office with the hire of Mark Dessi from US firm Skarzynski Black. Dessi had previously been at Sharzynski Black since 2014, and has experience representing insurers in negotiating and litigating first and third party insurance claims.

Dessi commented: ‘This move appealed to me for many reasons, including joining Kennedys’ impressive financial lines practice. Given the nature of my practice, the breadth and depth of the firm’s global network was especially important.’

Further afield, Stephenson Harwood announced the hire of Kevin Lee to its global private wealth practice. Lee will join the firm’s Hong Kong office from Zhong Lun Law Firm, where he had been since 2015.

Stephenson Harwood partner Ian Devereux commented on the hire: ‘Having a lawyer of Kevin’s quality – seen by many as the premier Canadian tax and private wealth advisor in Hong Kong – enables us to broaden the support we can provide to our clients.’

In South America, Mayer Brown announced the hire of Raúl Fernández-Briseño, who joins the firm as partner in Mexico City. Fernández joins from American firm White & Case, and has experience in transactional matters and financing, particularly in the aviation and private equity industries.

Fernández had spent nearly 20 years at White & Case and will serve as the head of M&A at Mayer Brown in Mexico City. Commenting on his move, Fernández said: ‘Mayer Brown has a sterling reputation among different industries, which view the firm as a fantastic resource for solving complex problems and steering clients through sophisticated transactions’

Legal Business

The wheat from the chaff – Hustling start-ups meet City law

The wheat from the chaff – Hustling start-ups meet City law

In a quiet east London street off the bustling Brick Lane, a few doors from a sign tagged ‘Vegan Hair Salon’ is a co-working space. You meet Gaz, the office’s bulldog, and work among Star Wars figurines, gaming consoles and an electric drum kit.

It has blackboard walls and is suspiciously empty on a Friday afternoon given the barbecue outside. Equidistant from the corporate hub at Liverpool Street and the ‘scene’ of Shoreditch High Street, music plays.