Legal Business

Regime change – The scorched-earth approach to legal education reform

Regime change – The scorched-earth approach to legal education reform

Its supporters are accused of advocating reforms not fit for purpose, posing a threat to the standing of the profession; its detractors are derided as ‘dinosaurs’, apologists for inequality and ‘buggers’ who moan about everything.

Four years since the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced plans to shake up legal education in England and Wales with the introduction of a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), the debate is as passionate as on day one. And as deeply entrenched.

Legal Business

Freshfields recruits Linklaters’ alternative legal services head as chief operating officer

Freshfields recruits Linklaters’ alternative legal services head as chief operating officer

Linklaters’ global head of alternative legal services has quit just months into his role to become chief operating officer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Mark Higgs (pictured), the former head of Ashurst Advance who was hired by Linklaters in April to spearhead its flexible lawyering platform, Re:link, is joining Freshfields in December. He had been chief operating officer of Re:link and became global head of alternative legal services at Linklaters in October.

In a statement, Linklaters said Higgs had joined to the firm to support the launch of the firm’s flexible resourcing platform. Linklaters director of legal operations Stewart Chippindale will continue to provide senior leadership and strategic direction for alternative resourcing, including Re:link, innovation and knowledge & learning.

The firm said: ‘Since launch, Re:link has significantly surpassed its client and consultant targets and its experienced team will continue to provide our clients and our practices with market leading support. We thank Mark for his help on the project.’

At the time of his appointment at Linklaters, Higgs told Legal Business: ‘I have been speaking with Gideon [Moore, managing partner] and members of the board throughout 2018 as they shaped their idea. To join a firm like Linklaters to launch and lead a new area was a one-off opportunity.’

Claire Wills, Freshfields’ London managing partner, commented: ‘We’re delighted to have Mark on board at what is an incredibly exciting time for the London office, as we prepare for our move to 100 Bishopsgate. His experience will be invaluable in helping us drive forwards our business and operations strategy.’

For Freshfields, the hire is another signal of its intent to increase its firepower on both sides of the Atlantic following the hire last month of a four-partner M&A team in Wall Street from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

The team – led by prominent M&A veteran Ethan Klingsberg and including partners Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese and Paul Tiger – is viewed as a trophy acquisition for Freshfields’ US corporate offering, which has struggled to gain momentum in recent years.

It follows the departure, however, of the Manchester-based global head of service and transformation who became chief information officer last December, Jon Grainger, to Slater and Gordon as chief information officer last month.

Elsewhere, the former chief executive of Peerpoint, Allen & Overy’s new law operations, Richard Punt quit the Magic Circle firm for Thomson Reuters in January.

Legal Business

Deal watch: Simpson Thacher conjures Blackstone and Alibaba mandates as Linklaters and CC lead on British Steel takeover

Deal watch: Simpson Thacher conjures Blackstone and Alibaba mandates as Linklaters and CC lead on British Steel takeover

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has picked up two high-profile mandates advising Blackstone on the acquisition of MagicLab alongside the Hong Kong listing of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

Elsewhere, Linklaters and Clifford Chance (CC) led on Chinese steelmaker Jingye Steel and Iron’s acquisition of British Steel.

Alibaba this week said it was set to raise up to $13.4bn in a secondary listing in Hong Kong, including an international offering of 487.5m ordinary shares and a Hong Kong public offering of 12.5m ordinary shares.

Simpson Thacher is advising Alibaba with a team led by Chris Wong and Daniel Fertig in Hong Kong. Chinese firm Fangda Partners is also advising the group on legal matters pertaining to Chinese law.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, meanwhile, is advising the underwriters with a team led by M&A partners Teresa Ko, Calvin Lai and Xu Jason. King & Wood Mallesons is advising the underwriters on Chinese law.

Earlier in the week, Jingye Steel agreed to acquire British Steel’s steelworks in Scunthorpe, UK mills at Teeside Beam Mill, Skinningrove and its subsidiary businesses in France and the Netherlands. Following months of uncertainty, the sale is said to have saved 24,000 jobs in the UK. Jingye is planning on investing £1.2 billion over the next decade as well as upgrading plants and machinery.

Linklaters advised Jignye with a team led by London corporate partners Chris Staples and Hugo Stolkin, Hong Kong partner Crystal Chen and restructuring and insolvency partner Matthew Harding.

Staples commented: ‘This is a landmark deal with Jingye’s commitment to significant investment in British Steel ensuring the long-term future of the business.’

The official receiver and special managers of British Steel were advised by CC, with partners Philip Hertz, David Lewis, Nick Rees and Iain White in London leading on the transaction. Paris partner Laurent Schoenstein and Amsterdam Partner Greg Crookes led on the sale of British Steel France Rail Holdings and the sale of FN Steel.

Jingye is a multi-industry group specialising in steel and iron as well as in powder metallurgy, 3D printing, tourism, hotels, and real estate. It distributes to 80 countries, producing 15 million tonnes of steel a year for an annual turnover of about £10bn.

The deal, signed on 10 November 2019, is subject to conditions such as regulatory approvals and employee consultation procedures.

Simpson Thacher also won a mandate advising Blackstone on its proposed acquisition of a majority stake in MagicLab for the value of approximately $3bn.MagicLab owns and operates dating and social networking apps including Badoo, Bumble, Chappy and Lumen. Founder and CEO Andrey Andreev is selling his stake and stepping down from his role as CEO and will be replaced by Whitney Wolfe Herd.

The Simpson Thacher team was led by M&A partner Anthony Vernace and included M&A partner Robert Langdon and corporate partner Clare Gaskell.

Baker McKenzie is advising the majority shareholders of MagicLab. The team is led by M&A partner David Scott and includes partners Leif King and Lawrence Lee in Silicon Valley.

Scott commented: ‘MagicLab is a fantastic business, with terrific brands and huge potential. The Blackstone acquisition is a great opportunity to further develop the platform. It’s been a real pleasure to partner with Andrey and the MagicLab team on this one.’

The deal is expected to close early next year.

Finally, Latham & Watkins advised Interswitch and its shareholders on a partnership with Visa. Visa will acquire a minority equity stake in the business which is valued at $1bn, making it one of the most valuable African Fintech businesses.

The team was led by London corporate partners Kem Ihenacho and Linzi Thomas and included partners James Inness and Christian McDermott. A Morrison & Foerster team led by London corporate partner Andrew Boyd advised Visa. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

Legal Business

Linklaters ExComm bag £25m amid surge in revenue from US and AsiaPac, LLP accounts reveal

Linklaters ExComm bag £25m amid surge in revenue from US and AsiaPac, LLP accounts reveal

The 12 members of Linklaters’ executive committee and senior partner Charlie Jacobs saw a 17% pay increase to more than £25m last year, the firm’s LLP accounts show.

Published this week (4 November), the accounts also revealed double-digit revenue growth in the firm’s non-European offices in the year to April 2019. Asia Pacific turnover surged 15% to £226m, while its three American offices in Washington DC, New York and Sao Paulo billed £103m, 11% more than the previous year.

The UK and continental Europe were the biggest contributors to the firm’s global turnover, rising 6% to £684m and £594m respectively. Middle East revenue rose 11% to £18m.

Overall the firm added more than £100m to its top line as revenue rose 7% to £1.63bn from £1.51bn, posting the strongest performance in its peer group as profits per equity partner grew 10% to £1.7m.

Off the back of the strong financial performance, Jacobs and the firm’s ExComm, which includes managing partner Gideon Moore, the practice and regional heads, and the heads of business support operations, collectively brought home £25.3m, up from £21.6m in the year to April 2018.

This week’s accounts also report operating profits of £556m for the 2018/19 financial year. The figure is 18% up on the number reported in the accounts last year but almost £200m short of the £751.6m pre-tax profits posted by the firm in July.

A spokesperson for Linklaters told Legal Business that as in previous years there were a number of partners who were treated and paid as equity partners but ‘for local bar rules or tax treatment’ counted as salaried employees in the accounts: ‘They get the same amount as equity partners on the lockstep: that in accounting terms is regarded as a cost.’

According to the accounts, the average number of equity partners at Linklaters in the year to April was 307 compared to the 433 the firm reported in July. Staff costs rose 6% to £786m as lawyer headcount grew 2% to 2,549 and business support staff 1% to 2,218.

The firm’s strong growth in Asia came at the end of the first year of its joint operation agreement with Shanghai outfit Zhao Sheng, which allowed Linklaters to practise Chinese law in the Free Trade Zone.

Speaking to Legal Business in July, managing partner Gideon Moore said he was ‘super delighted’ with the arrangement: ‘It has allowed us to recruit and retain very good people. It is something that clients really appreciate.’

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Rich pickings for A&O and Linklaters on €120bn tech listing as Addleshaws wins Battersea redevelopment

Dealwatch: Rich pickings for A&O and Linklaters on €120bn tech listing as Addleshaws wins Battersea redevelopment

The European teams of Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters are set to bring in a total of more than €4m in legal fees after acting on the largest European listing of the year.

Meanwhile in London, Addleshaw Goddard and Norton Rose Fulbright acted on the £600m financing of the latest phase in the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.

Last week (11 September) South African internet group Naspers floated its internet group and technology investment business Prosus on Euronext Amsterdam, with a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, giving the company a market capitalisation of €120bn.

A&O’s Amsterdam partner Tim Stevens led the team advising Prosus and Naspers on Dutch and US law and the firm is expected to receive €3.8m in fees according to the listing prospectus.

Linklaters’ Amsterdam partner Alexander Harmse and London partner Mike Bienenfeld acted for the financial advisers, bringing an estimated €925,000 to their firm. Linklaters’ South African alliance firm Webber Wentzel advised on South African law and is expected to receive €3.3m.

The listing, that sees Naspers retain control of about 73% of Prosus, made the company the third largest listed group in Amsterdam behind British-Dutch giants Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

In the City, Addleshaw’s real estate partner Luke Harvey led the team advising Battersea Phase 3 Holding Company on the financing of the third phase of the 42-acre development. NRF worked alongside Addleshaw on the deal.

The financing will be used to help create a new pedestrian high street called Electric Boulevard, and a mixed-use development including shops and homes.

Addleshaw also advised on the previous phases of the £9bn development, which is set to be completed in 2021.

Last year the firm advised as Malaysia’s asset manager Permodalan Nasional Berhad and state pension fund The Employees Provident Fund took a £1.6bn stake in the project. Battersea Power Station Development sold the commercial assets of phase two of the project, including a six-acre site hosting the former coal power station on the south bank of the river.

Legal Business

Linklaters mourns death of high-profile M&A partner Iain Wagstaff after cycling accident

Linklaters mourns death of high-profile M&A partner Iain Wagstaff after cycling accident

Linklaters partner Iain Wagstaff, one of the firm’s most prominent deal lawyers, has died at the age of 44.

The City firm confirmed to Legal Business today (6 September) that Wagstaff passed away on the weekend of 31 August following a cycling accident. The corporate and private equity specialist, who was married with two children, was a well-known figure in Linklaters’ flagship corporate practice.

‘It is with enormous sadness that we can confirm the death of Iain Wagstaff, a partner, friend and admired colleague at the firm,’ commented senior partner Charlie Jacobs in a statement. ‘The firm’s thoughts are with Iain’s family as well as with his many friends at Linklaters and beyond the firm. Iain was an exceptional lawyer and a great friend to me and so many others. He will be very greatly missed.’

Wagstaff spent his career in private practice at Linklaters, joining the Magic Circle firm as a trainee in 1999 after graduating in law at Nottingham University and attending Nottingham Law School. He was later seconded to Goldman Sachs in 2001 and Citigroup in 2004-05. He made partner at the Magic Circle firm in 2010 and established himself as one of its most productive names after acting for a string of Linklaters’ marquee plc and sponsor clients.

He was often cited as one of the next generation of leading corporate partners at the firm by colleagues and peers.

The list of clients Wagstaff acted for include retail group intu Properties, which he advised on the proposed £3.4bn takeover by rival Hammerson in 2017 and the potential offer by Brookfield, Peel and Olayan last year. He also represented Siemens in the £950m acquisition of Rolls-Royce’s energy gas turbines business and the £1.7bn acquisition of Invensys’s rail automation business; as well as Arcus Infrastructure on the £1.1bn sale of a 65% stake in Forth Ports to PSP. Wagstaff also acted on a number of substantial initial public offerings, including Just Eat and Investec.

Legal Business

Wealth of experience: Fieldfisher hires private client duo from Linklaters

Wealth of experience: Fieldfisher hires private client duo from Linklaters

Fieldfisher has hired Linklaters’ head of trusts Peter Golden to lead up its private client team.

Golden will replace partner Penny Wotton, who will be remain in the team and focus on the firm’s charity client base and building out the private client practice. He will be joined by Alistair Robertson, who will be promoted from managing associate to partner in the move.

The firm declined to comment on whether any other lawyers would also be transferring.

Linklaters hired Golden from Forsters in 2016 to head up its trusts practice as part of a strategy to reposition the Magic Circle firm for private client work. He advises offshore ultra-high net worth and UK-based foreign nationals on trust, private client and charity matters.

Golden commented: ‘I am very excited to be joining Fieldfisher, which I believe will provide an ideal platform for me to develop the firm’s private client base and promote its reputation for providing specialist advice to ultra-high net worth clients.

‘I am looking forward to working with Penny and the existing team of private client experts in a new, ambitious environment with the tools and support necessary to grow the practice.’

Robertson advises international individuals, families, trustees, family offices and private banks on succession planning, personal taxation and trust law with a focus on ultra-high net worth individuals in the Far East.

Elsewhere in private client moves, Clyde & Co last week said it was transferring the team it acquired following its merger with Simpson & Marwick in 2015 to Scottish firm Gillespie Macandrew in Edinburgh. The move was part of Clydes’ strategy of focusing on its core sectors of insurance, energy, trade & commodities, transport and infrastructure.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: US moves for Baker McKenzie and Linklaters as Morgan Lewis makes City play

Revolving doors: US moves for Baker McKenzie and Linklaters as Morgan Lewis makes City play

US and City firms have extended their reach in key jurisdictions with Baker McKenzie making a move in Silicon Valley and Linklaters hiring in New York, while Morgan, Lewis & Bockius welcomes infrastructure partner from US rival Latham & Watkins in London.

In London, Morgan Lewis hired infrastructure partner Ayesha Waheed from Latham & Watkins. Waheed focuses on international energy and infrastructure transactions and has experience working through Europe as well as emerging markets in Africa and Asia. She has acted for developers and lenders in oil and gas, power generation, and infrastructure projects around the world and has advised on all aspects of international project financings and privatisations.

London managing partner Frances Murphy told Legal Business: ‘Our goal in the London office continues to be growth and concentrating on qualitative hires that move our existing practices on that base while also being very responsive to client demands, needs and expectations.’

‘As far as we’re seeing currently from client instructions and interests, there’s a deep appetite for strategic investments in strategic geographies. I can only anticipate from that, that we’re going to be seeing the corporate group move from strength to strength. We’ve already moved from seven to ten partners.’ Murphy added.

Baker McKenzie, meanwhile, bolstered its M&A capabilities in Silicon Valley following the hire of Leif King. He joined the firm from Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where he was head of corporate and M&A.

Head of corporate & securities in North America Alan Zoccolillo told Legal Business: ‘As we continue to focus on building out core transactional practice, we saw a great need on the West Coast in the US to build out our tech practice. We hope [King’s] hire will be the first in building a more robust team on the West Coast to help augment our other M&A teams in New York, London and other key centres around the world.’

He added: ‘This is the busiest August I can ever remember. We’re seeing an uptick in work across all sectors, in both strategic M&A and private equity.’

The hire of King follows several recent hires, in line with firm’s strategy to grow its transactional practice in key business centers around the world. These include the hires of life sciences lawyers Randy Sunberg and Denis Segota and Wall Street M&A lawyer Mark Mandel in New York, as well as Peter Lu, Rob Mathews and David Becker in London.

In New York, Linklaters hired Jason Behrens and David Miller from Schulte Roth & Zabel. Behrens has experience in structuring, formation and negotiation of private closed ended funds and acts for sponsors raising funds in a variety of asset classes, including real estate and private equity.

Miller has experience in representing employee benefit plan trusts, funds of funds, foundations, endowments and family offices on their investment into funds and their secondary market transactions.

Linklaters global head of US practice Tom Shropshire told Legal Business: ‘One of the core tenets of the firm-wide strategy is to expand our funds capability and build out our relationships with key clients operating throughout the funds environment. The US market is a key market for both the upstream and downstream sides of funds activity. We want to expand the group to have a broader client base, doing a wider range of work than it had done historically.’

Global head of investment funds Matthew Keogh added: ‘Private equity, real estate, infrastructure and credit funds have raised a lot of money in last four to five years and there are a number of factors which drive that, some of those are macro. We’ve seen a trend for increasingly large funds for top sponsors and those funds to be raised in an environment of high demand.’

Scotland saw a busy week for lateral hires. Clyde & Co announced it was transferring its private client team, led by partner Nikki Dundas, to Scottish firm Gillespie Macandrew in Edinburgh.

The private client team of five, which will operate under Gillespie Macandrew from 2 September 2019, became part of Clyde following its merger with Simpson & Marwick in 2015. Clyde wants to focus on its core sectors of insurance, energy, trade & commodities, transport and infrastructure, while Gillespie Macandrew advises on all areas of land and rural business, private client, commercial real estate, tax and disputes.

Clyde & Co managing partner for Scotland David Tait commented: ‘Gillespie Macandrew is an excellent fit for Nikki and her team and allows them to carry on providing high quality private client work for their clients.

Leading Scottish independent Brodies, meanwhile, added to its employment and immigration practice with the hire of Elaine Mcllroy. Mcllroy has over 17 years of experience as an employment and immigration lawyer and previously led the UK immigration team and Scottish employment practice at Weightmans.

Head of employment Tony Hadden told Legal Business: ‘We wanted to service immigration law requirements from our clients as the seemingly never ending saga of Brexit continues. We’ve had huge number of queries from clients with EU nationals and as Brexit became less and less certain we realised we had to bring in a team to help with those queries.’

Legal Business

Linklaters leads Magic Circle pack amid solid 2018/19 trading but uncertainty looms over the City elite

Linklaters leads Magic Circle pack amid solid 2018/19 trading but uncertainty looms over the City elite

Lawyers are a pessimistic bunch by nature and, with the big four Magic Circle firms posting another year of solid but unspectacular revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) growth, the consensus view is that 2018/19 could have been a lot worse.

Amid a wider slowing of the UK economy and Europe’s deal markets in the face of Brexit and a range of cross-border headwinds, the City’s big four international players posted another year of the moderate results that have defined their post-banking-crisis form.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Kirkland and CMS drink in $3bn pub group takeover as Slaughters and Latham analyse Moody’s disposal

Dealwatch: Kirkland and CMS drink in $3bn pub group takeover as Slaughters and Latham analyse Moody’s disposal

In the customary rush to get deals over the line before the summer lull, the City and US elite have this week lined up on big-ticket transactions including the sale of Moody’s Analytics to Equistone and Slug & Lettuce owner Stonegate’s $3bn acquisition of pub company Ei Group (EIG).

Kirkland & Ellis fielded a team led by corporate partners David Holdsworth and Stuart Boyd to advise buyer Stonegate as it acquired EIG, the largest owner of pubs in the UK. Stonegate, which was formed when funds managed by private equity group TDR acquired 333 managed pubs from Mitchells & Butler, also owns high street brands including Walkabout and Yates.

CMS advised EIG with a team led by partners Gary Green and Gordon Anton. An Ashurst team led by M&A partner Tom Mercer advised Nomura International, Goldman Sachs International and Barclays, the buyer’s financial advisers, on the recommended cash offer.

Meanwhile, Slaughter and May advised longstanding client Moody’s on the sale of its Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Services (MAKS) business to Equistone Partners Europe Limited, a deal which is expected to close later this year.

Latham & Watkins acted for Equistone on the deal, with a team led by London corporate partner David Walker and including London finance partner Charles Armstrong.

Co-head of Slaughters’ infrastructure group, Michael Corbett, told Legal Business: ‘It’s a significant reflection of Moody’s evolving strategic priorities. They’re in the business of producing high value analytical services to their customers, and the so-called knowledge services that’s been disposed of was non-call for Moody’s activities. It was consistent with a strategic repositioning. It was significant because it’s a global business with a multitude of jurisdictions involved and that always creates some complexity in a context of a carve-out business disposal.’

He added that M&A has shown decent levels of activity in spite of the effect the current political uncertainty has had on sterling.

‘A lot of the work we do has a cross-border element and frankly a majority of the work we do is not necessarily domestic UK, but overseas assets and global businesses,’ said Corbett.

MAKS provides outsourced research and analytical support to banks, asset managers and consulting firms through delivery centres in India, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and China. The sale proceeds and repatriated offshore cash will be used to repurchase around $300m of Moody’s outstanding stock.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Addleshaw Goddard also this week landed lead mandates as the European arm of Australia’s Macquarie Group acquired British telecoms company KCOM in a £627 million cash-only deal.

Freshfields advised (MEIF) Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 6 with a team led by corporate and M&A partners Stephen Hewes and Andrew Hutchings.

Addleshaw’s corporate partner Richard Lee and employment partner Jonathan Fletcher Rogers led the team advising KCOM group which operate in Hull, Yorkshire.

Finally, Linklaters’ partner Richard Coar led a team advising SSE Renewables, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Red Rock Power on the refinancing of the 588MW Beatrice offshore wind farm off the coast of Scotland. The firm said the deal shows a strong need for offshore wind assets established by an experienced sponsor group. Norton Rose Fulbright advised a consortium of 29 commercial and institutional lenders and 24 hedging banks in the deal, led by the firm’s head of energy, infrastructure and natural resources in London, Rob Marsh.