Legal Business

Rolling up the sleeves: Eversheds sets out corporate ambitions with hire of Simmons’ UK corporate head

Rolling up the sleeves: Eversheds sets out corporate ambitions with hire of Simmons’ UK corporate head

Eversheds Sutherland is ramping up its City investment plans as the firm looks to become a leading player in the global upper mid-market corporate space.

The firm said today (4 November) it had hired the former head of UK corporate at Simmons & Simmons, Giles Dennison (pictured), in London. Dennison was a Simmons lifer, becoming partner in 2005 before heading the corporate team since 2012.

Dennison is Eversheds’ second corporate partner hire in London in the last year, following Stuart Womersley from Addleshaw Goddard last November, and becomes the firm’s 18th corporate partner in the City. Eversheds’ co-head of global corporate and M&A Richard Moulton, however, told Legal Business he wants that group to expand to 25 partners in the next three to four years.

‘We want to keep building and investing in the City, and following the US merger with Sutherland [Asbill & Brennan in 2017] we want to be a leading global player in the upper mid-market, £200m to £1bn deal range,’ he commented. ‘We do deals larger than that, we’ll do some smaller than that, but that’s the sweet spot and where we want to position ourselves. No firm is dominating in there.’

Moulton believed there was no market leader in that space because of its fragmentation and prevalence of smaller firms. Eversheds’ lead sector groupings for the corporate team included financial services, energy, technology, and diversified industrials.

‘If you’re going to dominate in that market or be a leading player, it’s going to be firms that really crack the global piece, particularly when you’re acting for the larger corporates,’ he added.

Dennison told Legal Business his client base includes UK and US corporates from the TMT, consumer, diversified industry and healthcare sectors, which would be particularly bolstered by Eversheds’ US presence.

‘I spend a bit of time out there but it’s not the same as having the access to the network here,’ he said. ‘There’s a sense of ambition and growth here and a feeling that both as a corporate group and as a firm, they’re on a journey.’

Moulton said Eversheds’ M&A group was as busy as it had ever been despite the patchier market, given the firm’s broad international work which left it less exposed to uncertainty such as Brexit, while mid-market deals tended to always be busier than large cap anyway.

Highlight deals in the past year or so include advising Dairy Crest on its £975m sale to Canadian dairy company Saputo, advising the shareholders of John Guest Holdings on its £687m sale to Reliance Worldwide Corporate, and Rolls-Royce on the £500m sale of its unprofitable commercial marine division to Nordic technology company Kongsberg Gruppen.

The firm would also look to invest in its broader network, having made eight other corporate hires across the US, Manchester and Europe – particularly the Netherlands and Germany – in the last 12 months.

‘It’s hard yards but we’ve got a hungry group of partners who are very ambitious and rolling their sleeves up,’ Moulton added. ‘It’s a little bit of new kid on the block and taking people on in the City.’

Legal Business

Joining the club: Eversheds hires Hong Kong litigation partner from Slaughters

Joining the club: Eversheds hires Hong Kong litigation partner from Slaughters

Eversheds Sutherland has recruited Slaughter and May litigation partner Mark Hughes in a rare departure for the Magic Circle firm.

Hughes acts on litigation cases in Hong Kong as well as the wider Asia-Pacific market, while also acting on international arbitration matters and cross-border investigations by criminal and regulatory authorities.

Eversheds managing partner for Asia, Stephen Kitts, told Legal Business the firm had been looking to add international arbitration capability in Hong Kong for a while, having slowly built an 18-strong disputes group there, including five partners. The firm opened in Hong Kong ten years ago with just six people, and had grown to about 145 – doubling over the last three years. ‘We’re a relatively young brand in Hong Kong and a bit of a challenger,’ he commented. ‘It’s been a bit of an iterative process but disputes are very important for the firm: we have a top-10 global practice by headcount.’

He added the firm, which last year hired ex-Securities and Futures Commission in-house counsel John Siu from Herbert Smith Freehills, was continuing to look to strengthen in disputes, particularly in international arbitration. ‘International arbitration has a club-like feel to it and we’re not really in the club yet. We regard Mark joining us as a very positive development, however, because of the fact we can attract someone of his calibre.’

Eversheds has made a number of other disputes plays in recent months. In July, the firm strengthened its City disputes bench with the hire of Claire Stockford as a partner from Scottish independent Shepherd and Wedderburn. Stockford’s hire boosted the disputes team to 28 partners in London. More recently, the firm also made arbitration hires in Paris, with Gaëlle Le Quillec and Julien Fouret joining from French boutique Betto Seraglini.

For Slaughters, the departure comes in a jurisdiction where the traditionally lateral-phobic firm has made moves over the last two years. In March, it hired Jing Chen as a partner from the Listing Division of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, while in April 2018, it hired investigations and litigation lawyer Wynne Mok to its Hong Kong office.

Legal Business

Realistic: Eversheds sets new targets to combat paltry BAME partner numbers

Realistic: Eversheds sets new targets to combat paltry BAME partner numbers

Transatlantic firm Eversheds Sutherland has today (19 September) announced new targets to improve BAME representation across its UK partnership, with the firm’s current figures among the worst in the UK’s top 12.

By 2025 the firm wants 10% of its UK partnership to be comprised of BAME lawyers, with the figure currently standing at just over 5%. Throughout its UK workforce, including partners, the firm wants to hit 14% BAME representation by 2022, with the figure currently sitting at just below 12%.

Legal Business analysis in June showed that across the partnerships of the UK’s top 12 firms, just under 7% identified as BAME, with Eversheds co-chief executive Lee Ranson making clear he wanted the firm to markedly improve its record on diversity.

‘The targets show how serious we are about making our workplace an inclusive one,’ Eversheds partner Naeema Choudry told Legal Business. ‘We did research looking at the industry and at other commercial firms and looked across society as a whole and felt these targets are realistic.’

Currently firms are struggling to reconcile diverse trainee intakes with poor BAME representation at partner level. For Eversheds’ 2020 trainee contract cohort, 18% of the candidates identify as BAME, reflecting the industry’s attrition problem on BAME talent. The firm has also committed to disclosing its ethnicity pay gap figures alongside its gender pay gap report starting in 2020.

Choudry is confident the firm can ensure diversity at the junior and senior ends: ‘We’re working with our recruitment agencies to make sure they’re challenging us and we are receiving a diverse pool of talent. There will be other initiatives announced in due course.’

For more on the legal industry’s record on diversity, read Legal Business’ analysis Ticking boxes.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: NRF loses insurance team to DAC Beachcroft as Taylor Wessing taps Fieldfisher for life sciences co-head

Revolving doors: NRF loses insurance team to DAC Beachcroft as Taylor Wessing taps Fieldfisher for life sciences co-head

In an otherwise sedate week for City legal recruitment, DAC Beachcroft has proved the exception to the rule for August hiring, adding a seven-strong insurance team from Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) in London.

The team joining DAC was led by insurance litigation partner Kirsty Hick who joined on 1 August and acts for global and London market insurers. She has experience advising on complex coverage and defense issues as well as warranty and indemnity claims. The firm has been trying to grow its high-end international insurance business for the last few years with the London hires being a significant boon to that strategy.

The move follows the hire in May of Liam O’Connell, who was previously head of NRF’s EMEA insurance claims team.

Legal Business: ‘It’s a reflection of how far we have come as a firm, that we can attract the quality of Kirsty and Liam from a firm like Norton Rose to our firm. We can provide them with a very strong platform from which they can further develop their practice.’

‘There’s only three law firms that can genuinely say they offer a full-service to insurance clients and that’s ourselves, Clyde & Co and Kennedys. The market is consolidated around those three firms and as a result some of the other firms are beginning to lose some of their insurance practices’, Pollitt added.

Legal directors Rebecca Bailey and Sarah O’Connell and senior associates Jack Holling, Natasha Marshall and Cathryn Teverson will join Hick at the firm in September.

Elsewhere, Taylor Wessing has hired Alison Dennis from Fieldfisher to co-head its life sciences and healthcare group.

Dennis is experienced in life sciences regulatory and transactional work, and acts for medical device, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The hire of Dennis is intended to fill the whole left by the firm’s previous head of life sciences, Malcolm Bates, who will be leaving the firm for Goodwin Procter. Both Dennis and Bates are currently carrying out their notice periods.

Meanwhile, newly formed London firm Avonhurst has added two ex-magic circle lawyers to its team. Ian Frost joins from Vinson & Elkins but spent over 20 years at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer working on leveraged finance transactions. James Wyatt joins from Linklaters where he was a senior lawyer in global project finance matters, energy and infrastructure sector finance and infrastructure acquisition finance. The firm was formed last month by Jonathan Bloom, previously a capital markets and funds partner at Jones Day. The firm is focused on offering services around legal, legislative and political risk alongside capital markets advice.

Eversheds Sutherland meanwhile hired partners Werner Brickwedde and Simon Weppner in Dusseldorf. Brickwedde joins the corporate team from Clifford Chance and has experience in cross-border transactions while Weppner joins the tax team from Taylor Wessing. He is focused on the tax structure of company acquisitions and investments.

Alexander Niethammer, head of the commercial practice group commented: ‘We can strengthen our position in providing cross-border transaction and tax advice from one of the most important German locations for foreign direct investments.’

Finally, TLT has expanded its real estate capabilities with the hire of Claire Hamilton from JMW in Manchester. Hamilton has experience in property investment, development and finance and also in-house experience from time spent at MCR Property Group.

Legal Business

Eversheds spins off New Law arm to supercharge growth and attract external investment

Eversheds spins off New Law arm to supercharge growth and attract external investment

Hamish McNicol reports on Eversheds Sutherland taking the partnership shackles off its Konexo offering

The alternative legal service provider (ALSP) market is estimated to be worth more than $10bn annually. Research led by Thomson Reuters, called Alternative Legal Service Providers 2019: Fast Growth, Expanding Use and Increasing Opportunity, found that the revenue generated from ALSPs had grown to that amount in 2017, up 13% from an estimated $8.4bn a couple of years earlier.

Legal Business

Eversheds launches in Chicago and dreams of California in first post-merger US moves

Eversheds launches in Chicago and dreams of California in first post-merger US moves

Eversheds Sutherland has chosen one of the most competitive legal markets for its first US office launch since its transatlantic union went live just over two years ago.

The firm in June opened its seventh US base in Chicago, home to strong Global 100 players Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown, and the world’s highest-grossing firm, Kirkland & Ellis. The focus will initially be on real estate, M&A and litigation, targeting the diversified industrials, technology, media and telecoms, financial institutions and energy sectors.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Eversheds ups City disputes investment as White & Case hires Latham duo in Milan

Revolving doors: Eversheds ups City disputes investment as White & Case hires Latham duo in Milan

Eversheds Sutherland has added to recent investment in its London litigation and dispute management practice with a lateral hire from Shepherd and Wedderburn, the sixth addition to the team in the last year.

White & Case, meanwhile, made a notable double-hire from Latham & Watkins in Milan to its banking and M&A practices, as TLT expanded in Manchester with a team hire.

Eversheds announced today [29 July] the hire of Claire Stockford as a partner in its London commercial dispute resolution practice, bringing experience in international arbitration, competition disputes and commercial litigation across a range of sectors.

Her hire takes Eversheds’ London disputes team up to 28 partners, and follows three partner hires over the last year – Jessica Neuberger from Ashurst, Steve Smith from Nomura International, and Thekla Fellas from Fladgate – as well as two internal promotions.

Global co-head of litigation Paul Worth told Legal Business Stockford brought broad international experience in commercial litigation, international arbitration and competition and anti-trust litigation.

‘She’s versatile and experienced. International arbitration is an area that we are, and have been, very busy in in London and beyond, and competition litigation is an area where lots of firms are looking to strengthen,’ he told Legal Business. ‘The team had a busy year and are busy now, there’s plenty of arbitration work, and particularly international arbitration, work going on.’

He said the London disputes practice grew by 12% last year – the firm’s overall non-US business grew 11% to hit £548.8m in the 2018/19 financial year – and would continue to invest, with further lateral hires in Hong Kong, Paris and London imminent.

‘This is one of a number of hires and promotions that we have made and will continue to make to grow our London disputes practice,’ he said. ‘It’s an obvious place to continue to grow our disputes team, although not the only place.’

Elsewhere, White & Case hired Andrea Novarese and Maria Cristina Storchi in Milan. The pair recently advised the banks financing toll road operator Atlantia’s bid for Spanish rival Abertis, and will join Latham’s banking and M&A practices respectively.

Novarese had joined Latham in 2008 when it opened its Milan office, and is reunited with Michael Immordino, White & Case’s Milan executive partner, who left Latham to relaunch White & Case’s Milan office after its closure in 2008.

Immordino commented: ‘Andrea and Maria Cristina are leading lawyers in the Italian market who add experience and depth to our bench in Milan. Their addition continues an exciting period of growth for the office over the past four years where our partner team has grown by seven through a mix of new partners joining and internal promotions.’

Meanwhile in Singapore, Cooley hired corporate partner Ferish Patel from fellow US firm Gunderson Dettmer. Patel, who led Gunderson’s Singapore office, will now take the lead on Cooley’s intention to set up a Singapore base as it looks to expand further in Southeast Asia.

Patel advises high-growth technology companies at all stages of their life cycle, as well as founders, management teams, investment funds and boards of directors.

Cooley global business department chair Mike Lincoln commented: ‘Ferish is well-known and highly regarded for his extensive experience advising high-growth companies and investment funds in Singapore, India, China and elsewhere across Southeast Asia. His practice is synergistic with our deep commitment to the region and building on our momentum.’

Finally, TLT hired two partners as part of a five-lawyer corporate team from HRC Law in Manchester. Richard Life and Mark Traynor join the firm – which this year lifted revenue 7% to £87.6m – and advise in the childcare and nursery, digital, automotive and retail and consumer goods sectors on corporate matters.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Baker McKenzie expands £40m City tax practice as Eversheds makes multiple hires

Revolving doors: Baker McKenzie expands £40m City tax practice as Eversheds makes multiple hires

In a muted week for lateral recruitment, Baker McKenzie and Eversheds Sutherland made hires in the City, while Eversheds also grew on the continent.

Baker McKenzie hired tax partner Prabhu Narasimhan to its London office. Narasimhan joins from White & Case and has experience in advising and delivering cross-border mandates, acting for corporate, private equity and family office clients globally.

Mark Delaney, head of tax, told Legal Business: ‘We went from being a tax practice with revenue of £3m about 13 years ago, to being a £40m standalone tax practice.’

The firm has 16 partners in total and has been growing in areas such as tax disputes, tax advisory, and tax planning as well as seeing an increase in tax transactional work.

‘We are continuing to see a lot of regulatory change, whether that’s Brexit, digital service tax, OECD proposals and around the international tax landscape. Legislative and regulatory change creates demand for our services. The environment for taxpayers – the corporate and the individuals – in terms of tax authority hostility is also still very prevalent,’ he added.

Eversheds, meanwhile, hired Christopher Akinrele to its banking team from Addleshaw Goddard. Akinrele will focus on leveraged finance and has experience advising financial institutions, sponsors and corporate clients in syndicated and leveraged finance transactions.

Finance partner Patrick Davis told Legal Business: ‘We operate our leveraged finance practice on a national and, more increasingly, international basis. We’re seeing a lot of demand for leveraged finance work and wanted to add high-quality bench strength to that team.’

The firm has been expanding its capabilities in the upper mid-market areas of private equity and leveraged finance as well as growing the lender side of the business and capitalising on existing institutional relationships with lender clients, with the hire of Akinrele expected to complement the lender side work the firm is involved in. Despite economic uncertainty, client demand in private equity and leveraged finance was high.

Eversheds head of finance and restructuring Simon Waller commented: ‘Volumes of syndicated debt are down. We see it as flight-to-quality, in that as banks tighten some of their credit processes up they’re looking at quality credit and the work is still around.’

Eversheds also added to its bench in Munich with the hire of Michael Prüßner from Pinsent Masons to its corporate and M&A team from Pinsent Masons. The firm now has 11 partners in its German corporate and M&A practice group.

Finally, TLT grew its banking and finance team with the appointment of Marc Gilston as partner. Gilston, who was previously at Foot Anstey, has experience working with major lenders, corporate investors and businesses.

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

Eating our lunch: Eversheds unshackles New Law offering and sets £100m revenue target

Eating our lunch: Eversheds unshackles New Law offering and sets £100m revenue target

Eversheds Sutherland is spinning off its £40m New Law business in a bid to supercharge its growth to £100m over the next five years, while opening it up to external investment.

The firm today (26 June) launched Konexo, an entity merging its advisory, interim resourcing and managed service offerings – including its ES Consulting business – to act as a global alternative legal service and compliance provider. Eversheds intends to make it a separate corporate structure, initially owned by the partnership but with the potential to attract external investment.

Konexo generates about £40m in revenue, growing 38% in the last year and winning the firm’s single biggest matter during the latest financial year. A five-year strategy plans to take the arm – which will ultimately be an alternative business structure (ABS) and FCA-regulated – to £100m. Konexo has about 300 staff, of which half are contractors, and will be headed by financial services partner Graham Richardson (pictured, middle).

Richardson told Legal Business the firm had been working on the project for the last six to nine months in reaction to increased activity in this part of the market, both from the Big Four accounting firms as well as existing players such as Axiom and UnitedLex.

‘It’s moved on from some small niche players to some very significant offerings. In-house legal teams are wanting these alternatives, there’s increased interest to buy from a broader range than just a traditional law firm,’ he said. ‘There’s a bit of a defensive thing as well: if we aren’t seen as having an alternative provider service the alternatives start eating the main law firm’s lunch. If we keep it in Konexo, then that’s better than losing it to PwC or Axiom, for example.’

Richardson said the five-year growth strategy had identified Asia and the US market as key opportunities, with Konexo launching in Kuala Lumpur shortly and the latter in September. The firm also sees now as the time to expand further into what it says is a £10bn global alternative legal service provider market.

To do so, however, will likely require some form of external investment. Richardson said that making Konexo a separate corporate structure makes that a possibility, and the firm has already spoken to some corporate finance companies. The business is operating profitably but would like more profitable growth before seeking investment.

‘If we were to go to market as of today, certainly there’d be interest and the profitability wouldn’t hold us back,’ Richardson said.

Eversheds has also given Konexo an investment pot for initial recruitment – a new partner-level head of technology and transformation role has been created – from which it could also potentially fund acquisitions. As a standalone entity, Konexo will also be able to re-invest its profit into the business.

Richardson commented: ‘We don’t have a £100m pot to do that. We’ve done well to be given our year one investment that we do have but with an eye to if we need much more in the future we’re set up in a way to go get that. We’ know there’s a good appetite out there, it’s an investible market.’

Eversheds co-chief executive Lee Ranson told Legal Business Konexo would help define the existing services Eversheds had without it getting lost within the context of the broader law firm. He said the demand from clients for these businesses was strong and if firms did not react, other people would.

‘We have to be alive to the fact that the investment in technology that’s needed to deal with some of those things that are happening might not come from the normal law firm offering and we might have to do things differently.’

The move comes as alternative providers ramp up: Axiom announced its initial public offering in February, UnitedLex secured $500m from CVC Capital partners last year, Lawyers On Demand sold to private equity, and Elevate went on an acquisition spree.