Legal Business

‘Ultra-focused on culture and hungry to build’ – McDermott’s new London head sets out stall

Earlier this month McDermott Will & Emery announced that leveraged finance partner Aymen Mahmoud will take the reins from Hamid Yunis as managing partner of the US firm’s London office.

Mahmoud (pictured), who has been at the firm since 2020 after joining from Willkie Farr & Gallagher, will take the helm on 1 June, while also continuing as co-head of the firm’s London transactions group and the finance, restructuring, and special situations group.

Yunis, who served as London managing partner since 2019, has steered the firm through five years of growth, during which lawyer headcount has risen by around 30%. He will now transition back to a full-time fee-earning role.

In a conversation with Legal Business, Mahmoud explained that the firm reviews its leadership regularly, typically reassessing every three years. ‘I was asked to step into the role as part of the usual leadership change to drive the next period of growth, and am honoured to be trusted with it,’ he said.

The leadership refresh has also seen private equity veteran Graham White take on the mantle of London senior partner, having joined the firm in March after a seven-year hiatus. He was most recently London managing partner at Fried Frank, and has a history of building City practices, notably at both Kirkland & Ellis and Linklaters.

Mahmoud said that talks with White began around a year ago. ‘I brought Graham into the firm because he has a really complementary skill set with our existing bench; with what we want to have going forward,’ he said. ‘He is a really fantastic person – giving us a nice cultural fit’.

The pair are behind much of the recent recruitment at the firm, including the hire of Fatema Orjela, who joined the transactions practice from Sidley last month, and also featured as a deal star in LB’s ‘Alphas Revisited’ feature last year.

Mahmoud said: ‘It’s a lot less risky to hire people that you know and who have a successful track record. But we are not limiting ourselves. We want to bring in and develop the best talent in the market who are hungry to continue to build with us just as we are extremely hungry to build, and we have huge capacity to do so.’

‘We are ultra-focused on culture, as an office and as a firm, and every person we bring in needs to fit into that culture,’ he continued.

As of May 2024, the firm’s London office houses 103 fee-earners, including 30 partners, and has welcomed 15 new partners since 2021. The latest addition to the roster is Adrian Cohen, who has joined as a senior consultant from Proskauer Rose where he was a partner, following a thirty-year stint at Clifford Chance. Last week the firm also announced that Chris Kandel – who was featured in LB’s Banking and Finance perspectives last year – is joining from Morrison Foerster alongside finance colleague John Burge.

There have been losses though, with Tom Whelan, the former head of the private equity and corporate transactions group, departing to join Reed Smith in February.

Globally, McDermott has seen five-year growth of 96%, with only Kirkland & Ellis surpassing it at 106%. Only four other firms in the 2023 Global 100 have achieved growth of more than 75% – King & Spalding (77%), Willkie Farr & Gallagher (79%), Holland & Knight (82%) and Cooley (87%).

Mahmoud – who describes his leadership style as ‘authentic, energetic, and strategic’ – said that the firm is committed to ongoing expansion in London, with further hires anticipated in the coming months, but stressed that these will be strategic. ‘If we double or triple the size of the London office, that’s great, but what we will not do is grow for the sake of growth,’ he said.

‘There is a strategic focus on where we want to grow in line with our power alleys, in line with our existing client relationships, and in line with clients we want to target that we think have great adjacencies with our existing business.’

When asked about his vision for the firm in the next few years, Mahmoud said the firm does pay undue attention to revenue, profitability and headcount projections. ‘We care more about sustainable and strategic growth – we want to increase all those metrics, but without putting an external target on it as such. We’ve been beating internal targets year on year for some time.’

Recent mandates for the the firm have included advising data analytics platform Kpler on annual recurring revenue (ARR) financing from global PE houses Bain Capital Credit and Apax Credit, led by Mahmoud in London alongside teams in the US and France. The firm’s London arbitration team also recently advised UAE-based oil and gas company Crescent Petroleum and Crescent Gas Corporation in enforcing a $2.4bn arbitration award against the National Iranian Oil Company.

On juggling his new position with his client work, Mahmoud said: ‘Our firm’s priority is always our clients and that will be where my focus is, but management of the firm in London exists alongside that, just as for each of our other office managing partners.’

Legal Business

McDermott hires London M&A partner from Cooley as global revenue nears $2bn mark

McDermott has announced today (28 February) that Michal Berkner has joined the firm as a partner, bolstering its transactions practice in London.

She joins from Cooley, where she led the cross-border M&A practice, including negotiated and unsolicited transactions and joint ventures. Her clients include strategic and private equity buyers and sellers in public and private transactions.

Recommended in The Legal 500 for her work on mid-market deals, Berkner’s experience sits within the life sciences, healthcare and technology sectors.

Her recent mandates include advising clinical-stage biotech company VectivBio on its acquisition by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in a deal valued at around $1bn. She also advised Redx Pharma, another clinical-stage biotech company, on its all share merger with Jounce Therapeutics in a $425m contingent value right transaction.

Hamid Yunis, London managing partner, commented: ‘She is an accomplished partner with an impressive reputation. Additionally, her practice provides tremendous synergies with our M&A, private equity and life sciences groups both in the UK and across our international network. She will also be instrumental in helping to grow our global M&A practice.’

Berkner is dual qualified in New York and England & Wales.

The hire coincides with McDermott’s release of its firmwide financial performance for the calendar year 2023 last week. It revealed a 6% increase in revenue to $1.9bn, just shy of reaching the $2bn mark and slightly slower than the previous year’s 9% revenue growth. Meanwhile, profit per equity partner experienced a double-digit surge of 13% to $3.8m, surpassing last year’s 9% rise.

Chair Ira Coleman expressed optimism for the year ahead: ‘McDermott delivered strong financial results and our multi-year, cross-border growth continued in 2023. With our innovative management model, we’re focused on making industry-leading, strategic investments in our business from talent to technology, AI and infrastructure. These investments allow us to meet our client’s demands for excellence with focused teams and creative, business-first solutions.’

In London, the firm suffered a setback last week as Tom Whelan, the head of its private equity and corporate transactions group, departed to join Reed Smith. However, towards the end of last year, McDermott made a strategic hire by bringing in Rob Marshall from King & Spalding to lead its executive compensation and benefits group.

Legal Business

Rising stars: David Gibson – ‘There are so many great new technologies and medicines with potential to make a difference to populations and treatment pathways but key challenges remain in regulating them’

David Gibson, senior associate at McDermott Will & Emery

Why did you decide to specialise in life sciences law, and what’s the best thing about being a life sciences lawyer?

I find the subject matter fascinating, and I am genuinely curious about new technologies and medicines and how they can be used, shared and applied to improve healthcare for patients across the world. We are often involved in helping our clients with strategic projects and transactions, partnering with other organisations and bringing products to market and to scale – often across different jurisdictions. As a transactional and projects lawyer, I enjoy working with clients to bring the commercial, financing, regulatory and other legal elements together: it is an area of law that has a bit of everything!

Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Private Client Team of the Year

We are delighted to announce the winner of Private Client Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

This award recognises the top private client teams in the country, either offshore or onshore, handling high-value work in the areas of estates, charities, family, contentious and non-contentious trusts and probate, as well as personal tax, particularly to high-net-worth individuals and families.




Sponsored by

Winner – Baker McKenzie

Bakers claims that it is ’unmatched in the market in terms of our international coverage and ability to serve the world’s wealthiest families’ and, on the evidence, such claims are justified, according to our judges. The global firm’s offering comprises lawyers (litigators and tax experts), accountants, transfer pricing specialists, economists and VAT/customs experts, to provide a one-stop shop for clients with complex structuring needs.

Recent work includes acting for a well-known and successful ultra high-net-worth individual in global litigation that has been running since 2010. The client is seeking to recover more than $15bn in assets that belonged to his father, the deceased founder of an Asian conglomerate, and are now held by various trustees, individuals and companies. Two separate claims are underway in Bermuda (and are believed to be the largest trust dispute ever in that jurisdiction) in addition to similar US proceedings. The firm successfully obtained summary judgment in 2019 (Wong v Grand View Private Trust Company Limited), which is currently being appealed. The Bermuda claims raise novel, Privy-Council-worthy questions of trust law, particularly involving non-purpose trust structures.

The team also advises a selection of the wealthiest clients in the Middle East including advice on fund and other structures for very high value commercial and private projects and continued advice on disclosure, including under the common reporting standard, beneficial ownership registers and the new European Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC 6) now needing consideration in relation to any structure put in place. The firm is coordinating all transactions, including a particular project representing the highest value transaction in the careers of the team, for these clients globally. A worthy winner.

Highly commended – McDermott Will & Emery

McDermott acted for the beneficiary of a Bahamian trustee and her adult children in the landmark UK Court of Appeal case of Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing. This case, which has garnered ongoing media attention, transformed the right of trust beneficiaries to documents and personal data held by trustees and their lawyers.

Led by London co-head of private client Ziva Robertson, the McDermott team secured a momentous victory for Dawson-Damer, seeking the release of personal data held by their trustee’s law firm, Taylor Wessing.

Other nominations


A major highlight for this private wealth-focused firm was its coordination of a global succession plan for the second generation of an Asian family, which involved the development of a family constitution and a structuring exercise involving the reorganisation of 100 companies worldwide.

Gherson Solicitors

Throughout 2019 this firm represented Zamira Hajiyeva, the woman at the centre of the so-called McMafia ‘dirty money’ investigation, including successfully defending an extradition request from the Republic of Azerbaijan.


This respected team acts in a general legal capacity to a major family office as an outsourced legal adviser on a range of issues, including the restructuring of a series of trusts holding a majority stake in a major non-UK listed business.

Taylor Wessing

Representing Equity Trust (Jersey), the appellant, in the Z Trust litigation, running proceedings in the Jersey and English courts in which it successfully argued and established new principles of trust law.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: McDermott hires Hogan Lovells private equity head as Dechert loses partners in London and Paris

The lateral market maintained momentum last week as McDermott Will & Emery hired from Hogan Lovells with both Addleshaw Goddard and Paul Hastings targeting Dechert.

McDermott added Hogan Lovells’ global private equity head Tom Whelan. Whelan, who is experienced in private equity life cycle, has worked with private equity sponsors, multi strategy funds and corporates. His work includes advising on buyouts, M&A, bolt-ons, restructurings and refinancings through to exits.

Hamid Yunis, McDermott’s London managing partner told Legal Business: ‘We are always looking to build upon the strong practices which we have in London and to add top quality lawyers who are equally focused on providing world class client service.’

Addleshaws has hired restructuring partner Paul Fleming who joins the London business support and restructuring insolvency practice from Dechert.

Fleming has been involved in cross-border work, both in restructuring and contentious insolvency matters and advises creditors including institutional lenders and bondholders, stakeholders, insolvency practitioners and directors.

Partner and head of business support and restructuring, Ged Barnes commented: ‘This is the start of an ambitious strategy for the team which will help us to capitalise on our international offices.  Paul’s expertise in cross border insolvencies, funds recovery work and complex, high value insolvency litigation is a great fit with our existing practice.’

Meanwhile, Burges Salmon hired partner Stuart McMillan to its banking team from DLA Piper. He has worked in energy and infrastructure finance and advised banks and borrowers on project finance, acquisition finance and real estate finance deals involving cross-border financing. He will help develop the general Scottish banking practice as well as the firm’s infrastructure, real estate and energy offering.

Burges Salmon managing partner, Roger Bull told Legal Business: ‘Stuart is extremely high quality with a great reputation in the market. From our perspective, he’s got great experience in relation to finance and projects along with some of the other sectors that we’ve been focusing on like energy and renewables. He has those particular skills that will assist and drive our client offer forward in Edinburgh.

‘Banking is performing well. We’re having strong performance across the firm so far this financial year. The banking team are ever expanding their remit, expertise and focus which is very much aligned with Stuart’s appointment,’ added Bull.

Elsewhere, Fieldfisher has hired Paul Stockley as its new co-head of oil and gas. He joins the energy and natural resources group in London from Womble Bond Dickinson where he was head of oil and gas.

Stockley said: ‘The firm’s reputation for all forms of energy and natural resources work is already well-established across the industry and I am encouraged by its ambitious plans for future growth. I look forward to being a part of those plans, leveraging off a tremendous brand and platform.’

Paul Hastings has added to its Paris office with the hire of corporate partner Charles Cardon from Dechert. He has a focus on takeovers, M&A, private equity, and capital markets transactions.

Cardon advises public companies in their takeover bids, issuance of securities, governance matters, disclosure requirements and relationship with shareholders, as well as corporate law matters.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, Alston & Bird has added senior privacy and cybersecurity partner Wim Nauwelaerts from Sidley Austin.

Privacy and cybersecurity co-chair Jim Harvey commented: ‘Privacy and cybersecurity continue to be increasingly critical issues for CEOs and boards, especially among US-based multinationals that view data protection as a global issue.

‘Wim is an internationally recognised attorney in the EU privacy and cybersecurity arena with a well-earned reputation as a trusted voice in advising senior executives in the US, Europe, and elsewhere on strategic business decisions and initiatives involving their companies’ most valuable data assets,’ Harvey added.

Legal Business

‘Necessary bandwidth’: Addleshaws lures deal finance veteran from McDermott

Amid a quiet month for the lateral recruitment market in London, Addleshaw Goddard made the most significant play, bolstering its City banking practice with the hire of leveraged finance partner Peter Crichton from US firm McDermott Will & Emery. Well known in the deal community, Crichton joins Addleshaws’ active mid-market practice led by Alex Dumphy.

Crichton’s career as an acquisition finance lawyer saw him act for AIB, HSBC, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander on Caledonia’s acquisition of the drinks business Liberation Group in 2016 and AIB, HSBC and Santander on the refinancing of the Jockey Club. He has spent around 16 years advising on the debtor side of the loan markets and specialising in leveraged finance, becoming partner at DLA Piper and CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang before joining McDermott before the three-way merger took effect in 2017.

Legal Business

McDermott’s mass lawyer swoop casts shadow over DLA financial renaissance

It has been a bumpy few months for DLA Piper. Just as the dust was settling following McDermott Will & Emery (MWE)’s 20-partner blitz on its US offices, the Chicago-based firm hired another three partners from DLA in London.

What a way to take some of the gloss off a turnaround in global turnover to back above $2.5bn, coupled with double-digit percentage growth in net profit, also announced in April.

Legal Business

DLA loses three real estate partners to McDermott in wake of 50-lawyer exodus

McDermott Will & Emery is darkening DLA Piper’s door once more, with the hiring of another three partners, shortly after bringing in 20 partners from the firm’s US offices.

London-based DLA real estate partners Laurence Rogers, Neville Wright and Tom Calnan are leaving the firm to join McDermott. Rogers specialises in real estate finance, Wright in corporate tax for the finance and real estate sectors, and Calnan in commercial real estate. A DLA spokesperson confirmed the departures but said the firm had no further comment to make.

McDermott declined to comment on the departures.

Rogers and Wright were previously partners at legacy Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) before joining DLA in 2014, with Rogers formerly DLA’s UK head of real estate. Calnan, meanwhile, had been at the firm for little more than a year after joining from King & Wood Mallesons (KWM).

The trio’s loss comes quickly after McDermott brought in a team of 50 lawyers from DLA in the US, in a string of major moves touted as adding $100m revenue to its top line. The Chicago-based McDermott hired a four-partner real estate finance team led by DLA’s New York-based global co-chair of finance, Jeffrey Steiner, in late March, representing the third DLA practice group leader to join McDermott in a short time.

McDermott’s latest raid at DLA compounds a turbulent end to 2017 for the firm, most obvious in the departure of its esteemed senior partner and global co-chair Juan Picón to Latham & Watkins in Spain last November. DLA veteran Andrew Darwin was named his successor in February, following the firm’s first contested senior partner race in a decade.

In April, DLA said its global turnover had bounced back from last year’s drop with double-digit percentage growth in net profit. The firm’s global revenue was up 7% to $2.63bn in 2017, and net profit lifted 10% to $709m. Profit per equity partner (PEP) rose to $1.76m from last year’s $1.66m.

Legal Business

Mass exodus as McDermott bags 50-lawyer team from DLA to add ‘$100m’ to revenues

McDermott Will & Emery has brought in a team – including more than 20 partners – from DLA Piper’s US offices, in a string of major moves touted as adding $100m in revenue to its top line.

The Chicago-based firm announced on 29 March that a four-partner real estate finance team, led by DLA’s New York-based global co-chair of finance, Jeffrey Steiner, would be arriving.

Steiner, who will act as McDermott’s global real estate finance chief, joined the firm alongside fellow partners Scott Weinberg, Dino Fazlibegu and Robert Unger.

Steiner’s arrival represents the third DLA practice group leader to join McDermott in recent weeks, with Michael Poulous, DLA’s co-managing partner for the Americas, joining in March. Michael Sheehan, DLA’s Chicago-based global co-chair of employment, also made the switch last month.

McDermott has indicated that it expects the team to contribute as much as $100m, though DLA has dismissed such projections.

In a statement, Steiner cited McDermott’s ‘highly-respected transactions and real estate teams’ and asserted his team was ‘anxious to collaborate with them.’

Other partners to join McDermott in the US include nine from the employment group. Pankit Doshi, Dave Durham, Chris Foster and Ron Holland have all joined McDermott in San Francisco, Rachel Cowen and Marilyn Pearson in Chicago, Maria Rodriguez and Michelle Strowhiro in Los Angeles and Ellen Bronchetti in San Diego.

Furthermore, a group of seven litigators are transferring to McDermott: Seth Friedman, Jason Gerstein, Tim Hoeffner and Raphael Larson in New York, Larry Wojcik in Chicago, Nicole Figueroa in Dallas and Mike Piazza in Los Angeles.

Additional lawyers who have made the switch from DLA include real estate finance of counsel duo Robert Mower and Michael Twersky, with Kevin Connelly joining McDermott’s Chicago employment group as an of counsel.

The slew of US departures compounds a turbulent end to 2017 for DLA Piper, with the firm losing its esteemed senior partner and global co-chair Juan Picón to Latham & Watkins in Spain.

In February, DLA named veteran Andrew Darwin as its new senior partner after Picón’s departure sparked the firm’s first contested election in a decade.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Dechert hires in Frankfurt, Watson Farley in Hamburg, McDermott in Dusseldorf

In a week of European-focused lateral hires, firms have expanded their German ranks. Dechert hired in Frankfurt, Watson Farley & Williams in Hamburg, and McDermott Will and Emery in Dusseldorf.

Separately, in London, Rosenblatts Solicitors appointed a new commercial litigation partner.

Dechert has appointed Joachim Kayser as a partner to its Frankfurt financial services team. He joined from PwC in Germany where he was head of alternative investments, asset management and regulatory.

Kayser’s practice focuses on legal and operational advice for investment funds, their asset managers, intermediaries and institutional investors on regulatory and tax matters.

Dechert’s Frankfurt managing partner, Achim Putz said the addition of Joachim and his team in Frankfurt will ‘nicely complement our existing German practices in Bonn, Frankfurt and Munich.’

Watson Farley expanded its Hamburg office with the hire of corporate partner Bjorn-Axel Diβars from Latham & Watkins to its energy and infrastructure practice, bring the team to 38 lawyers. Diβars acts on transactional and disputes work, focusing on the oil & gas, international trade and maritime sectors.

Watson Farley’s Germany head, Marcus Bechtel, said the addition of Björn-Axel [Diβars] and the ‘expansion of our German energy and infrastructure practice is an important element of the firm’s growth strategy both internationally and in Hamburg specifically.’

McDermott also bolstered its German practice in Dusseldorf with the hire of antitrust partner Daniel von Brevern. He joins from Linklaters. He has advised on cases such as Vodafone’s $10bn merger with Kabel Deutschland in 2013, and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets on the acquisition of Open Grid Europe in 2012. He has experience in the banking, insurance, energy, pharmaceutical, healthcare and automotive sectors. His clients include Bregal Capital and Energy Exchange.

McDermott’s Germany head, Norbert Schulte said the firm’s antitrust and competition practice has ‘seen a substantial development over the last few years. We are convinced that with Daniel’s contribution this trend will continue.’

In London, litigation partner Donna Goldsworthy joined Rosenblatts from Irwin Mitchell, where she led the commercial litigation team. Donna specialises in F1 and Formula E sports, along with extensive financial services and construction experience.