Legal Business

Jones Day’s EMEA private equity ambitions grow with hire of BLP’s Weir and McKeeve

Recognised as a strong choice for UK mid-market buyouts and cross-border transactions, Jones Day’s London private equity team has expansive ambitions with the hire this week of Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) corporate finance partner Michael Weir on the heels of former BLP colleague Raymond McKeeve.

Weir, who was made a partner at BLP in 2012 and specialises in private equity with a particular leaning towards large real estate funds, joins the top 10 Global 100 firm three months after McKeeve, who he worked with on mandates including Dunedin’s £44m buyout of Red Commerce in 2011, and Darwin Private Equity on its £10m acquisition of organic baby food business Plum Baby in 2010.

He will work no doubt be working closely with Jones Day’s London-based partner Neil Ferguson, a rated private equity lawyer with a particular focus on real estate related transactions including joint ventures, fund formations and reconstructions. Adam Greaves, head of Jones Day’s UK private equity practice, said: ‘[Weir’s] impressive industry experience, particularly working with large real estate funds, will significantly add to the firm’s existing capabilities and adjacent service lines.’

The hires come as 2357-lawyer Jones Day, which in the UK is rated by Legal 500 as a sixth-tier private equity practice (in common with BLP), looks to extend its capability across Europe, with now said to be a good time to do it.

Greaves told Legal Business: ‘In a boom market it is hard to get good people to answer the phone. Now people are more receptive.’

Jones Day is looking increasingly to the emerging markets, with Greaves adding: ‘An increasing number of private equity firms and other asset managers are looking beyond their traditional markets to high-growth and emerging economies, including countries whose legal systems are still maturing.

‘This creates opportunities for global law firms like Jones Day, with capabilities across all relevant and adjacent service lines, to deliver real value and the addition of Raymond will help us do that.’

Further European growth is on the cards and this year Jones Day enjoyed a 4% increase in revenues in 2012-13 and a 5% increase in profit per equity partner (PEP) to $1.7bn and $915,000 respectively.

In January, the firm hired a banking team from White & Case into its German office, including Annica Lindegren, Ulf Kreppel and Nick Wittek.

As for BLP, the firm is regrouping and consolidating after a difficult year that has seen its profits drop by almost 40%.

Recent departures include Richard Todd, who left the 786-lawyer firm to join Mayer Brown’s banking and finance group earlier this week; former Managed Legal Services head Patrick Somers who has joined DLA Piper and contentious tax head Liesl Fichardt who left for Clifford Chance.

Legal Business

US lateral spree: Jones Day closes in on 50 hires for 2013 as King & Spalding continues to crank up City offering


In its 49th lateral hire of 2013, Jones Day has hired Latham & Watkins finance partner Brian Conway to its London banking and finance practice. His hire comes amid a spate of lateral hires to take place between US-based international firms recently.

Conway is the tenth partner to join one of the firm’s global banking and finance practices this year, following the hire of former co-chair of Miami-based firm Akerman Senterfitt’s Rafael Aguilar who joined Jones Day’s recently launched Miami banking and finance practice in July.

More recently, Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) corporate finance partner and global head of private equity Raymond McKeeve left to join the private equity practice in London last month.

Conway’s appointment comes as the firm continues to strengthen its banking and finance practices worldwide with an increased focus on leveraged acquisitions across European jurisdictions.

Conway has 20 years’ experience of representing financial institutions on domestic and international cross-border financing transactions, including leveraged and Islamic finance.

Before Latham, he spent 13 years at White & Case, where he was a partner and helped build the firm’s banking and finance practice in Singapore and establish the leveraged finance practice in Asia.

Jones Day London head John Phillips said: ‘Brian will prove to be a significant boost to our finance capability in London. He is highly experienced in leveraged acquisition finance, which will be beneficial to our global clients as they look to execute deals in Europe’s largest financial hub. The City is a magnet for major multi-jurisdictional financial transactions and Brian has taken a lead role in some of the most significant leveraged financings led out of London over the past decade.’

Meanwhile, King & Spalding‘s lateral hiring programme in the City continues with the addition of Mayer Brown finance partner Angela Hayes to launch its London financial services regulatory practice. The hire is the seventh in a series of partner additions to the London office since the beginning of 2012, bringing the current number of partners to 16. Hayes was head of LG’s financial services regulatory group before joining Mayer Brown in 2008.

Most recently, King & Spalding recruited Egishe Dzhazoyan from Steptoe & Johnson in June, where he was a dispute resolution partner in London and co-head of the Russia and CIS group. He joined former Steptoe colleague Tom Sprange, as well as Jane Player and Sarah Walker, who joined from Bird & Bird last year.

Financial services regulatory becomes the firm’s second City practice launch this year after the firm opened its London trade practice in May with the hire of Bird & Bird’s head of international trade and customs, Iain MacVay. At the time, King & Spalding told Legal Business its ambition was to double its City base to around 60-75 fee earners by the end of 2014.

King & Spalding’s financial institutions practice co-leader Richard Marooney said: ‘Angela is a strong addition to our financial institutions practice. She expands our roster of finance partners who provide highly sophisticated work for our clients. Financial services regulatory law is a highly complex area of the law—made even more so with the enactment of the Financial Services Act 2012 and creation of the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority—and we are fortunate to have Angela join us.’

‘It is now the time for us to invest in a financial regulatory practice,’ said London co-managing partner Garry Pegg. ‘Regulatory work was once looked upon as a loss leader for global firms like us, but now in tougher economic climates, with financial institutions having been through highly visible public turmoil, the work has assumed a new and critical importance to our clients.’

Meanwhile in Brussels, Baker Botts has recruited heavyweight competition law specialist Georg Berrisch as a partner in its Brussels office from Covington & Burling. Berrisch is a recognized expert in competition law, state aid and trade matters in the European Union and has experience of developing political strategies in complex contentious proceedings before the European Commission, the Court of Justice and the General Court of the EU.

Most recently, he represented Ryanair in its appeal against the EU Commission merger control decision made earlier this year, which prohibited Ryanair from acquiring control of Aer Lingus. He joins Baker Botts partners Catriona Hatton and Paul Lugard, who opened the office last September.

‘Our goal since opening the Brussels office has been to provide our clients the type of quality legal representation on complex antitrust and trade matters expected of a global firm such as Baker Botts,’ said Hatton, the partner in charge of the London office. ‘Georg, as a skilled EU litigator with a great track record in competition and trade matters, adds significant strength to the Brussels office, not only for the EU market but also for clients across the Baker Botts global network.’

Meanwhile, Pillsbury has ramped up its London intellectual property (IP) office in a bid to add international and industry experience in contentious and non-contentious IP matters. The firm has hired a team of IP lawyers from Gowlings, including partner and founder of Gowlings’ London office James Tumbridge and partner Paul Harris.

Pillsbury chair James Rishwain said: ‘The addition of such experienced litigators to Pillsbury’s IP practice reinforces the firm’s capability to offer global counsel to international clients anywhere in the world. Their extensive experience on contentious IP matters and their government advisory work adds considerably to Pillsbury’s existing strengths in IP and global sourcing.’

Legal Business

BLP loses head of private equity Raymond McKeeve to Jones Day

With all eyes on Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) the news that corporate finance partner and global head of private equity Raymond McKeeve has left to join US firm Jones Day’s London office could, in many ways, not have come at a worse time.

Acknowledged by Legal 500 as ‘a leading private equity specialist’ McKeeve advises many of the leading private equity houses, including Blackstone Private Equity, Darwin Private Equity and KKR.

McKeeve, who joined BLP in 2009 during a sustained period of intense lateral hiring by the firm was, alongside Graham White, a leading figure in Linklaters private equity team before joining Kirkland & Ellis in 2006. He joined BLP after a period working as an investment professional for property mogul Robert Tchenguiz.

At Jones Day he will be working with Adam Greaves, Jones Day’s UK private equity chief, who said he is ‘delighted to welcome a lawyer of Raymond’s calibre to our growing EMEA private equity and finance practice’. Partner-in-charge of London for Jones Day, John Phillips, added: ‘With Raymond’s wealth of experience advising the private equity community both in the UK and internationally, he will be an exceptional asset to our global private equity client base especially in this changing and increasingly complex deal environment.’

McKeeve’s departure from BLP comes after it emerged last month that lateral corporate and finance hires Patrick Somers and Andrew Bamber had both left the firm. BLP is also engaged in a redundancy consultation which saw it cut 102 jobs last month.

Financially the firm has reported a drop in revenues of 5% down to £233m, the worst financial performance of the top UK 25 firms. However it has remained tight lipped on its profits, with profit per equity partner understood to be down by at least 35% to £430,000.

Legal Business

Trainee Retention: Hogan Lovells, Travers and RPC reveal numbers


The trainee retention rates rollercoaster continues to bring with it good news and bad as today firms including Hogan Lovells, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) and Travers Smith are on something of a high.

Top 50 UK firm Travers Smith has posted a 95% retention rate while at transatlantic firm Hogan Lovells – where out of a total of 33 trainees, 28 offers were made and 25 were accepted – the firm achieved a retention rate of 76%.

City firm RPC also today unveiled an 80% retention rate after offering 13 out of its 16 trainees a newly-qualified (NQ) position. RPC’s managing partner Jonathan Watmough (pictured) said the results are a ‘testament to the rigour of both our recruitment process and the quality of our trainee programme that we’re consistently able to retain a high percentage of our intake each year.’

Watmough added: ‘Given the massive over-supply of aspiring lawyers in the market simply getting a training contract these days is far harder than it was a decade ago, and the bar for qualification is rising year-on-year. We invest a lot of time and energy into our trainees – having spent time with them, I can say with confidence that this represents a key investment in the future success of our firm.’

These developments follow a more variable picture last week, when Osborne Clarke attained a 100% retention rate but Shoosmiths only 41%.

Osborne Clarke took on all eight of its trainees who qualify next month. This group of trainees is the first to qualify under the Q3D programme, which maintains regular assessment of junior lawyers once they have qualified by testing them in specialist areas. The programme is run in conjunction with BPP Law School.

‘Qualification is a massive milestone in a lawyer’s career, and I would like to congratulate each of these impressive NQs on achieving positions within the firm. At Osborne Clarke we see education and training of our people as a key and ongoing priority – both during their training contracts and also beyond, as seen in our education and development programme Q3D,’ said Nick Johnson, training principle at the firm.

The NQs will be spread across the firm’s offices, with three in London, four in Bristol and one in Reading.

Last week also saw Stephenson Harwood announce it is to retain 80% of its trainees, offering positions to eight out of ten. Three are going into the commercial litigation group, one apiece in finance, corporate, real estate, marine and international strategy, while the eighth trainee is to work in the firm’s Singapore office.

These retention rates are in stark contrast to Shoosmiths, where only nine of its 22 trainees achieved a NQ position, giving it a retention rate of just 41%.

Legal Business

Jones Day keen to boost London headcount after departures

Jones Day, one of the largest law firms in the Global 100 by headcount, is most commonly recognised for its US strengths, but John Phillips, partner-in-charge of the London office, says the firm is keen to expand its UK offering: ‘We have to develop in London and turn it into a main office. The plan is to recruit more people, more lateral hires.’