Legal Business

‘Nobody will want to feel like they are the poor cousin’: Freshfields reignites talent war with £150k NQ pay hike

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has broken ranks from its Magic Circle peers on associate salaries, increasing newly-qualified (NQ) pay from £125,000 to a new high of £150,000.  

The move puts clear water between the firm and Slaughter and May, Linklaters, ‎A&O Shearman, and Clifford Chance, all which pay their NQ lawyers £125,000.

Freshfields trainees will also benefit from pay increases, with first-year trainee pay rising from £50,000 to £56,000, while second-year trainee salaries are up from £55,000 to £61,000.   

 Commenting on the pay rises, London managing partner Mark Sansom said: ‘We’re committed to embedding a culture that supports our people to deliver their best, knowing their contribution is valued and rewarded. Being part of Freshfields means working alongside the best lawyers in the market and being fairly recognised for excellent client service on the most complex and high-profile legal work.

‘This move follows a year of strong growth for the London business, thanks to the dedication of all our people. It also reflects our confidence in the firm’s continued market leadership across all our London practices, further boosted by the success of the material investments in the US and other markets.’  

The salary hike will pile the pressure on the rest of the Magic Circle to offer competitive renumeration for junior talent, particularly considering the competitive pay packages on offer at their US counterparts.  

Speaking to Legal Business, David von Dadelszen, a director at Jameson Legal, said: ‘Based on previous experience, I imagine the whole Magic Circle will ultimately fall in line. There will probably be some outliers who will say they won’t get into a salary war. But eventually they will end up paying the same as there is such a heated market at NQ level. Nobody will want to feel like they are the poor cousin.’ 

With Paul Weiss already shaking up the City recruitment market with its rapid London expansion, this latest move by Freshfields is set to have even more of a knock-on effect on the Silver Circle and other City firms, as NQs eye up and array of lucrative offers post-qualification.

‘As always, it will impact City firms outside the Magic Circle which don’t pay as much. There will always be NQs prepared to move for money,’ von Dadelszen adds.

For more, see Market forces: Paul Weiss, Kirkland and the war for London talent

Legal Business

‘Feels good to be bold’ – Freshfields executes on New York private capital ambitions with hire of Latham PE pair

In what will be viewed by rivals as a further shot across the bows, Freshfields has continued to make determined inroads with its US strategy, this time hiring private equity M&A partners Neal Reenan and Ian Bushner in New York from Latham & Watkins.

The investment is another coup for a firm that has become no stranger to putting its money where its mouth is on executing a bullish American strategy, and is especially striking, given the increased demand for quality private capital practitioners as client demand continues to escalate.

Reenan, who before joining Latham’s Chicago office in March 2020 had a more than 17-year stint at Kirkland & Ellis, will be joining as global co-head of private capital alongside Charles Hayes in London and Arend von Riegen in Frankfurt.

For his part, Bushner is also a Kirkland alumnus, having been a partner there for six years from April 2014, and helping to set up the Chicago powerhouse’s Boston office in 2017. He also joined Latham in March 2020 and will be head of US private capital at his new firm. Both partners will be relocating to New York to help galvanise the City stalwart’s private equity standing in that all-important financial centre.

Speaking with Legal Business, global co-head of Freshfields’ private capital group, Charles Hayes, was upbeat, describing the fruition of Freshfields’ long-sought ambition of having big PE names on the ground in New York as ‘a massive moment’ for the firm.

Hayes noted: ‘These hires put us in a unique place ahead of the rest of the group that used to be known as the Magic Circle. We were aware that there was a gap with no dedicated PE M&A team in New York, and these gentlemen provide that and build out that capability.’

He added: ‘Hiring partners previously at Kirkland and Latham, which nobody could question are our natural competitors, is a neat and logical statement of intent.’

‘It feels good to be bold and making strategic moves,’ Hayes concluded.

While Freshfields’ corporate offering in Wall Street has proved more painstaking to build than other practices, the firm in 2021 pulled off the marquee hire of Cravath M&A heavyweight Damien Zoubek to co-head its New York corporate practice alongside Ethan Klingsberg.

And Klingsberg’s 2019 hire, leading a prominent Cleary M&A team including partners Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese and Paul Tiger, is still seen as a trophy acquisition.

That was the most significant US transactional move since Freshfields made its first substantive foray into New York corporate in 2014 when it hired former Fried Frank senior partner and head of global capital markets Valerie Ford Jacob along with two other corporate partners – Michael Levitt and Paul Tropp. The arrival of Peter Lyons, Shearman & Sterling’s former global public M&A head, the same week and the willingness to pay select recruits above the top of its lockstep were signals that Freshfields meant business where some peers lacked the same courage of their convictions.

Legal Business

‘Not just merger control’: Freshfields eyes opportunities in rising tide of antitrust regulation

Off the back of Freshfields’ recent recruitment of former FTC commissioner Christine Wilson into its US antitrust practice as a senior adviser, LB looks at the growing importance of competition law, and what it means for the firm’s global strategy

Freshfields has in recent years arguably made greater strides than most peers in investing in its US business. Insiders stress that this is part of a worldwide push for ‘global elite’ status – a strategy that sees the firm aim to be, in the words of global antitrust, competition, and trade group head Alastair Chapman, ‘a US firm for US clients, a European firm for European clients, an Asian firm for Asian clients, and a global firm for all our clients’.

Legal Business

Freshfields snaps up former FTC commissioner to bolster US antitrust offering

In a boost to its Washington DC presence, Freshfields has hired former Federal Trade Commissioner, Christine Wilson, as a senior adviser in its antitrust practice.

The firm has made a concerted effort to build out its antitrust offering in both the US and Europe over the last year. In October 2023, it appointed former senior director of mergers at the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, Colin Raftery, to the firm’s London office. While in June 2023, antitrust litigators Heather Lamberg and Justina Sessions joined the firm’s Washington DC and Silicon Valley antitrust practices. Antitrust and foreign investment practitioner Charlotte Colin-Dubuisson also joined the firm’s Paris office in January 2024.

Wilson resigned from the Federal Trade Commission in March 2023 following heated disagreements with her fellow commissioners. Announcing her resignation in the Wall Street Journal, Wilson said: ‘Much ink has been spilled about Lina Khan’s attempts to remake federal antitrust law as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. Less has been said about her disregard for the rule of law and due process and the way senior FTC officials enable her. I have failed repeatedly to persuade Ms. Khan and her enablers to do the right thing, and I refuse to give their endeavor any further hint of legitimacy by remaining. Accordingly, I will soon resign as an FTC commissioner.’

Wilson was the only Republican commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission. The remaining commissioners, Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter, and Alvaro Bedoya are all Democrats.

Prior to the FTC, Wilson served as a senior vice president at Delta Airlines. She was previously a partner at both Kirkland & Ellis and O’Melveny & Myers.

Jamillia Ferris, Freshfields’ US head of antitrust, competition and trade said of Wilson’s appointment: ‘Christine is one of the most widely known and respected antitrust and regulatory lawyers in the United States. Her trifecta of experience as a private practitioner, senior government official, and in-house counsel bolsters our US regulatory and litigation practices. As antitrust plays an ever-expanding role around the world, her understanding of the intersection of competition and consumer protection law, policy and politics will enable her to impart mission-critical advice to our clients on some of the most complex and important issues facing these companies.’

Since leaving the FTC in March 2023, Wilson founded the EdenSpring Foundation, an organisation which provides human trafficking and sexual exploitation survivors with faith-based services, including safe housing, medical and legal services, counselling, education and job skills training.  Freshfields has worked with the organisation to provide pro bono services, including helping with its corporate formation.

Commenting on her move Wilson said: ‘Given my twin passions of practising antitrust law at the highest level and fighting the scourge of human trafficking, joining Freshfields made perfect sense.’

‘As a commissioner, my interactions with other regulators around the world underscored the fluidity of today’s antitrust landscape. The truly global nature of Freshfields’ antitrust practice enables the firm to provide the kind of nuanced yet seamless cross-border guidance that I, as a client, prized. And Freshfields has a strong commitment not just to providing pro bono services generally, but to halting human trafficking and seeking justice for trafficking survivors in particular,’ she added.

Legal Business

Life During Law: Georgia Dawson

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I was growing up. I went through periods of thinking maybe I’d become an architect. There’s also this amazing magazine in Australia called Gourmet Traveller. It’s about food and travel, and I thought it would be quite nice to be a journalist for them. I still enjoy looking at architecture and I love the built environment, food, and travel.

I had a conversation with the career counsellor at school. She said, if you’re not sure, then law is a great general degree that gives you options for the future. My dad happens to be a lawyer as well, so I had some familiarity with the law. When I started the degree, I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but I really enjoyed it. I loved the problem solving.

Legal Business

‘The strategy delivers’: Freshfields sees 8% revenue rise but PEP growth stalls

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer today (26 July) announced its 2022/23 financial results, marking a seventh consecutive year of revenue growth for the firm.

Its revenue has increased by 8% to £1.84bn from £1.7bn in the previous financial year, a similar increase to last year’s 10% rise. Freshfields is the last of the four international magic circle firms to reveal its results. However, unlike Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, Freshfields is yet to break the £2bn barrier. In its recently released financials, A&O’s revenue increased by 8% from £1.94bn to £2.1bn, while CC achieved a revenue increase of 5% from £1.969bn to £2.062bn.

Freshfields’ profit per equity partner (PEP) has remained flat with a 1% increase to £2.09m from £2.07m last year, in contrast to last year’s solid 8% growth.

The firm has made significant investments in its workforce and operational model, including embedding cloud-based software Salesforce, making 26 new lateral appointments and 30 internal partner promotions, and launching a shared business services centre in Slovakia.

Global managing partner Rick van Aerssen told Legal Business: ‘We are happy with the strategy and the strategy delivers. We will continue on with our global growth strategy.’

‘With the waters being choppier, we think macro trends typically play to a firm like ours, where we have broad offerings and are at the complex end of the market. Where it matters most, we see people increasingly turn to us,’ he added. ‘That is true in terms of products but also where international interconnections are concerned. Take the US – we want to grow our US business, but we can also offer something to our US clients that a lot of US firms can’t offer in Asia and Europe. That is a growth driver for a firm like ours.’

Key mandates from the last financial year include advising UBS Group on its acquisition of Credit Suisse Group and advising Volkswagen and its subsidiaries on its global emissions litigation. The firm was also lead counsel defending Google in the Google digital advertising antitrust litigation and advised the independent directors of Qualtrics on the $12.5bn sale of the company.

The firm also published its second diversity and inclusion annual review. Key highlights include 48% of new partners joining the global partnership being women and doubling the number of black associates at the firm over the last two years. It has also achieved their 5% LGBTQ+ global partnership target three years ahead of schedule.

In its statement, the firm was keen to highlight its US growth ambitions, noting that over the last three years it has delivered advisory services to 70% of the 1,000 largest US corporates in the US and/or globally. It also noted that it has made 14 lateral partner appointments in the US over the last year.

Although unable to give a figure for how much of the global revenue the US offices contributed, Aerssen said: ‘It’s not growth in one area at the cost of one area, we believe in growing the business as such because there are many pockets where we think we can win work.

‘At any given time, we are looking at opportunities to grow the business, we’ve made 14 lateral partner hires in the last year in the US. We’ve always been clear that that is a key pillar of our growth strategy. We want to grow more in the US and internationally, but we don’t have a target number because it’s also a question of opportunity. What this shows is that ultimately the quality of the business is driven by the quality of our lateral hires, we’ve been very fortunate with our lateral hires that we have had such a high quality come into the firm.’

However, the US is not the only Freshfields office looking to grow. ‘London is a key market and still a growth market,’ Aerssen concluded.

Legal Business

‘Our strategy is targeted and curated, and 100% client-centric’: Freshfields continues US hiring spree

Following the recent hires of David Sewell and Damian Ridealgh to its New York office, Freshfields has announced six new partner hires across the US.

Heather Lamberg and Tina Sessions have joined the firm’s antitrust team in Washington DC and Silicon Valley. Lamberg, who previously worked at Winston & Strawn and Shearman & Sterling, advises on a range of antitrust cases, from class actions to criminal cartel investigations. Sessions, meanwhile, moves from Wilson Sonsini and advises on business-critical disputes with competitors and enforcement authorities, focusing on the technology sector.

Speaking to Legal Business about the hires, Freshfields’s global managing partner Alan Mason said: ‘With US regulatory agencies continuing to increase enforcement, it’s hard to think of a substantive area of law that is of greater focus among clients than antitrust – Heather and Tina bring extensive expertise in this area. They join the premier antitrust litigation practice we’ve built out over the last several years, which is already deeply enmeshed in some of the largest antitrust litigation matters occurring in the United States.’

The firm has also hired a team of four strategic risk and crisis management lawyers: Beth George, Megan Kayo, Janet Kim and Andrew Dockham. George and Kayo have joined the Silicon Valley office.  George has worked previously as the acting general counsel to the US Department of Defense for the Biden-Harris administration, as well as working in the White House Counsel’s Office and the DOJ. Kayo is a cybersecurity and privacy expert, advising clients on breach mitigation, risk management, business continuity and governance around data security.

Janet Kim and Andrew Dockham have joined the firm in Washington DC. Kim has worked previously as a congressional investigator and lawyer for the executive branch, including in the White House Counsel’s Office. Dockham specialises in internal corporate investigations and representing clients in congressional investigations. He has worked as staff director and chief counsel for the senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations.

Discussing the strategic risk and crisis management team’s strategy, US managing partner Sarah Solum said: ‘As companies face an evolving landscape of crisis, this team brings extensive experience and deep understanding of how to navigate crises and manage risk in a global market. Combined with the firm’s existing expertise, this team will provide clients with the counsel they need on strategic boardroom matters that cut across internal investigations, cybersecurity breaches and other areas of crisis management.’

Commenting on how these hires sit within Freshfields wider US expansion plans, Solum commented: ‘Our US strategy is targeted and curated, and 100% client-centric.  We have built — and will continue to add to — a multi-generational bench of elite lawyers delivering business solutions for our clients.’

Mason added: ‘Our sole focus is on assuring that clients have everything they need related to corporate transactions, regulatory matters, and litigation challenges. We’ve already built an amazing team to respond to those client needs, but we always keep an open-mind and an eye on the best talent in the market.’

Legal Business

‘We’re in a really exciting moment for the London market’: Freshfields appoints Mark Sansom as new London managing partner

Mark Sansom will take over from Claire Wills as London managing partner at Freshfields, the firm has announced. The move comes at the end of Wills’ four-year term, and will take effect on 1 May. Sansom will also continue his client work.

An accomplished competition litigator, Sansom has worked closely with Wills, first as a partner and from July 2022 as London head of dispute resolution. ‘Mark and I have been in the trenches together, working with the other practice heads, developing the London strategy,’ Wills told Legal Business. ‘What I am planning to spend my time on now is supporting Mark in action, at the coal face, with my corporate, transactional, and M&A work.’

Wills became London managing partner in February 2019. At that time, one of the main upheavals the firm saw on the horizon was its upcoming move from its Fleet Street headquarters to new offices in Bishopsgate. But then Covid hit, and Wills was confronted with unprecedented challenges.

‘Claire’s a fantastic person to follow on from’, Sansom said. ‘She did an amazing job over the last four years, navigating through the pandemic and all the changes to work. She’s been absolutely exemplary.’

Now, Sansom sees significant opportunities. ‘Going forwards, as we come out of that crisis period that the whole industry had to go through, we’re in a really exciting moment for the London market.’

‘You only have to look at what other firms are doing in terms of their investment decisions at the moment: all of them are doubling down on London.’

Freshfields has already increased its investment in London in recent years. The office brought in three lateral partners in 2022 – its first since 2018. ‘We also focus on the internal pipeline’, Sansom explained. ‘There are a lot of folks who have been with Freshfields for their whole careers, and we want to make sure they can succeed. But we are certainly going to invest, and you can expect to see more lateral hires in the future.

‘We’ve got to make sure that we focus on the right things over the next few years, to capitalise on the opportunities. It’s everything from M&A to private capital, disputes and mass claims, antitrust, and more.’

Both Sansom and Wills also stressed the firm’s desire to build globally. ‘We’ve always had a really good US practice’, said Wills. ‘But in the past it had been a bit more acting for European or Asian businesses looking to do something in the US. Now, we’re acting for top US-headquartered global companies on their most important US matters.’

‘We have a great opportunity to link together the transatlantic piece of our network’, Sansom agreed. ‘Transatlantic M&A is going to be super important, across a wide range of sectors. But there are other things as well. You look at foreign direct investment control, regulatory work – all of it has become more significant and more complex over the last few years.’

‘On the disputes side, mass claims are going global. We’ve got almost a US-style class action regime growing up here in the UK, and there’s now a real chance of similar claims playing out on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. Also with regulatory enforcement. Antitrust, too – it’s a hugely challenging global environment.’

Legal Business

Local talent: Freshfields launches support services operation in Slovakia

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has launched a global support services hub in Slovakia, set to employ more than 50 business professionals.

The new centre, located in Bratislava, will provide a joined-up service with Freshfields’ pre-existing support hub based in Manchester.

Freshfields said the new centre will ‘progressively employ’ more than 50 finance, HR and other support staff. Both Bratislava and the Manchester operation will use local talent to provide a broad skillset of financial, language and marketing services.

Managing partner Alan Mason said: ‘We’re committed to investing in the best business services talent and infrastructure to serve our clients to the highest level and the launch of our Bratislava shared services centre is the next step on that journey.

‘Like Manchester, the access to a pool of talented people in Bratislava is significant, with local talent and language skills a decisive factor in our choice of location.’

In September, Freshfields hired former Red Bull executive Štefan Fijko as global head of finance operations, and he will take on management responsibilities for the new Slovakia centre. He commented: ‘We have all the tools to create an efficient and stimulating work environment here in Bratislava. A place where it will be fun to work and become part of our successful journey.’

Dentons, DLA Piper and CMS are among the few international firms to have a legal presence in Slovakia. In March, White & Case span out its 11-lawyer Bratislava office, with independent firm Aldertree launching in its place.

Legal Business

CC and Freshfields dish out US associate bonuses to match American rivals

Clifford Chance (CC) has become the second Magic Circle firm to dish out competitive year-end bonuses to US associates, after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer matched US competitors’ rates last week.

Both firms will pay their junior lawyers a lump sum based on their year of qualification. At both CC and Freshfields, newly qualified (NQ) associates will receive a prorated bonus of $15,000, the 2021 class of associates will receive a $20,000 pay-out, while at the top-end, seven and eight-year associates will receive $105,000 and $115,000 respectively.

Freshfields first confirmed its bonus scheme in a memo sent on 1 December, while CC’s announcement also came in the form of a memo, sent by Americas managing partner Evan Cohen yesterday morning (6th December).

Baker McKenzie set the ball rolling earlier this year, announcing its bonus rates on 21 November. While Bakers’ NQs will miss out on a lump sum, its 2021 cohort will also receive $20,000 while those who qualified in 2015 will similarly pocket $115,000.

The Magic Circle firms’ new bonus schemes match the scales awarded by Wall Street stalwarts Cravath, Cleary Gottlieb, Davis Polk, Paul Weiss, Willkie Farr and Cadwalader, according to Above the Law.

The news comes as the Magic Circle firms continue their attempts to crack the US amidst a highly competitive market for talent. Both firms have made strides with high-profile US hires of late: Freshfields made the headline hire of former Cravath M&A partner Damien Zoubek in September 2021 and added private equity partner Allison Liff from Weil a month later. CC likewise hired Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt managing partner Paul Seraganian in New York in November 2021.