Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Reviewing the M&A landscape

Milbank’s Lisa O’Neill, Andrea Hamilton and Lara Watt on developments in the M&A market as well as the strength of their team

Reflecting on the M&A landscape over the last few years, Lisa O’Neill, partner and co-head of the corporate group in Milbank’s London office, was struck by the scale of change driven by global events. ‘The Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the inflationary environment and impact on lending, the proliferation of foreign investment controls and foreign subsidies regulations, an increasing focus on ESG – the list goes on. These macro-economic and policy developments have affected the market significantly and driven increasing client need for top-tier advice within the more complex landscape,’ she explains. ‘In addition, within the legal sector there are increased demands for broader inclusion among practitioners and greater DEI efforts overall; this change is also being reflected in the M&A community.’

Legal Business

‘A close-knit group’: Milbank acquires Dickson Minto’s seven-partner London office

One of 2022’s hottest merger rumours came to fruition today (13 December), as Milbank confirmed it was acquiring the London office of Anglo-Scottish firm Dickson Minto.

Legal Business first reported murmurings of a merger in the summer, when concerns were raised about matching Dickson Minto’s private equity specialism with Milbank’s bank-side lender practice. At the time, Dickson Minto had also being linked with Fried Frank, although sources claiming familiarity with the deal said those talks had collapsed.

In any case it will not be a wholesale merger, as Dickson Minto’s Edinburgh office will remain independent, with the London team joining Milbank early next year.

Dickson Minto’s London team comprises seven partners, 20 associates and ten business services professionals. Concerns over practice synergies aside, the buyout will add considerable depth to Milbank’s City outpost, which currently boasts 33 partners according to its website.

Milbank’s global head of corporate, Norbert Rieger, said: ‘The addition of this team will significantly add to our ability to act for clients around the globe on private equity related transactions. It is a logical next step after our expansion in the PE space in the US, Germany and Asia.’

Alastair Dickson, co-founder of Dickson Minto, paid tribute to the outgoing practice: ‘I am very pleased that the London private equity practice of Dickson Minto will join Milbank – the partners, lawyers and other staff have been a close-knit group for a long time and it’s extremely satisfying to see their desire to stick together and continue to grow as a group.

‘The move will benefit our longstanding clients who will continue to receive the same high level of service from the same people but now combined with Milbank’s M&A and private equity practice in other jurisdictions as well as with the added advantage of its global expertise in a whole host of adjacent practice areas.’

Dickson added he would be working with Milbank to achieve a ‘seamless transition’, and also confirmed that Dickson Minto would retain a ‘close working relationship’ with the departing team.

The acquisition compounds not only the continually rising prominence of US firms in London, but also the primacy of US firms when it comes to transatlantic tie-ups. For more on this subject, read our history of transatlantic mergers, State of the Union.

Legal Business

Milbank’s City revenue outstrips global growth as Mayer Brown nears $1.5bn global turnover

London outpaced global growth at Milbank following a quieter year for standout laterals, as US outfits continue to post impressive results in the City.

Milbank’s London revenue reached $171.2m in the last financial year, an increase of 10% on $156m in 2018.

Globally, turnover was up a more subdued 3.4% to $1.069bn while firmwide profit per equity partner (PEP) increased 1.3% to $3.9m.

The figures show a comparative slowdown for the firm following a strong spell. Last year Milbank passed the $1bn mark following 13% growth globally as City revenue hiked an eye-catching 25%, driven in part by the arrival of new teams in London. Over the last five years, Milbank has upped City revenue an impressive 55%.

‘In terms of revenue, being up 10% is an exceptionally strong showing from our team,’ Milbank’s co-managing partner of London Julian Stait (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘The previous year we grew 25% and part of that was us adding a restructuring team from Cadwalader and a capital markets team from Shearman & Sterling, both of which significantly impacted headcount and revenue.’

Over the last two years at Milbank, headcount has grown 37%, with leveraged finance, capital markets, financial restructuring and litigation being the primary beneficiaries. During 2019/20, the firm has added five partners with Lisa O’Neill, Mona Vaswani, Sarbajeet Nag, William Charles and Miko Bradford all joining the firm’s City bench.

Looking ahead, the firm is sanguine about 2020: ‘From a transactional perspective we remain very bullish,’ Suhrud Mehta, Milbank’s co-managing partner in London told Legal Business. ‘The practice is very European and international and the reach of the firm in terms of clients we have access to is still hugely under-exploited.’

‘We’ve had a number of years of exceptional performance,’ Stait added. ‘The London office is a key driver of success at the firm and the firm will continue to invest in the London office.’

Meanwhile, US counterpart Mayer Brown also revealed its financial results, with global revenue increasing 7%, bringing it just shy of the $1.5bn mark. The Chicago-based outfit saw similar growth in its PEP figure, which was up 6% to $1.8m. The firm also started the year strongly in the City lateral market, luring energy partner Kirsti Massie from White & Case following a decade at the firm.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: City laterals bounce back with Milbank, Weightmans and Lewis Silkin

City lateral recruitment regained momentum following a slow Christmas holiday break, with Milbank, Weightmans, and Lewis Silkin all making hires in London.

Milbank hired M&A partner Lisa O’Neill from McDermott Will & Emery in London. O’Neill has experience in corporate and energy transactions with clients including FTSE 250 companies, international and independent oil & gas companies, financial institutions, global investment firms and private equity funds.

Global head of corporate group Norbert Rieger commented: ‘The addition of Lisa underscores our commitment to growing our global M&A practice at the highest levels in the market. She is well respected and knowledgeable in a range of industries, and her depth of experience advising corporates on sophisticated M&A transactions will be invaluable to our clients.’

Also in the City, Weightmans doubled up with the hires of healthcare partner Kiran Sekhon and criminal regulatory partner Lili Oliver.

Sekhon joins the firm as a healthcare partner from Capsticks and has over 17 years’ experience in medical defence litigation. Oliver, meanwhile, joins from Clyde & Co where she was head of corporate risk in the safety, health and environmental department.

Partner and head of Weightmans’ London office Tim Lang told Legal Business: ‘Lili and Kiran are true leaders in their fields and great additions to our fast-growing London offering. [We have] almost 20 new partners across the firm this year alone, and we are looking forward to continuing this momentum into next year.’

Elsewhere, Lewis Silkin hired planning partner Sara Hanrahan to its real estate practice group as head of the planning team from Blake Morgan, where she was also head of planning.

Hanrahan has experience in advising clients in the public and private sector on contentious and non-contentious planning matters and has advised private developers, infrastructure and utilities firms, retails and leisure operators and high net worth investors.

Managing partner Giles Crown told Legal Business: ‘We were looking to deepen our offering and fill in gaps in certain key areas and one aspect of that was a fairly long standing search to replace planning expertise. There are a number of aspects of what we were looking for that Sara very ably fulfills.’

The team focuses on four core areas, corporate occupiers, retail including luxury and leisure, development work and investor work including family and high net worth individuals.

Hanrahan told Legal Business: ‘I do have experience in the four areas of real estate that the firm is looking to develop. I think therefore the synergy with the experience I have and the vision that the firm has for the next few years goes together very well.’

In Birmingham, Hogan Lovells office head Michael Gallimore left the firm to join boutique planning law firm Town Legal as partner.

Gallimore joined Hogan Lovells as partner in 1988 and was head of planning between 1998 and 2016 before becoming head of the firm’s Birmingham office in 2017.

Gallimore told Legal Business: ‘I had come to the end of my period heading up the office in Birmingham, so it was a natural point for me to consider what I wanted to do going forward and the opportunity arose to join Town Legal. I was very keen to get back into client facing work and I knew a number of partners from Town Legal.

‘The big advantage of the firm is that it’s absolutely focused on planning work and therefore the level of investment that they’re able to make, the strong commitment and the depth of experience that they’ve got in the planning field was a real attraction. They’re not diverted by other practice areas.’

In December, Hogan Lovells also lost its planning team head Claire Dutch to Ashurst.

Finally, Dentons added partner Robert Weber from White & Case to its corporate practice in Germany.

Weber has more than 20 years’ experience in stock corporation law and related capital markets law. Managing partner of the German office Andreas Ziegenhagen said: ‘The fact that we are investing both in classic fields of advice such as stock corporation law, and in future-oriented, technology-supported legal advice reflects the dynamic development of our German practice.’

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Taking the plunge

The office has made a series of bold lateral hires in the last three years. What is behind this?

Suhrud Mehta (SM), co-London managing partner, Milbank: At one level you could say it has been bold and at another level you could say it just made perfect sense for us to make these moves in areas in which the firm has historically been strong. Until the right people came along, we were not prepared to take the plunge. Taking capital markets first, the focus there was to combine the strong reputation we have in leveraged finance with an equally strong capital markets practice that existed at Shearman & Sterling under Apostolos Gkoutzinis. To take a big slug of that and bolt it on to our existing leveraged finance business here was a very powerful thing to do. The combination has been electric.

Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Technology disputes – A perfect storm of complex technical, legal and business issues

Julian Stait and Tom Canning, litigation partners in the London arm of Milbank, look at the complex field of tech disputes

Disputes arising out of complex technology projects continue to arise with alarming frequency; the more complex the project, the more likely it is that problems will arise. And yet, looking back over a large number of years of handling these types of disputes, many of the key causes, issues and themes remain the same, notwithstanding the passage of time. Why is that?

Legal Business

‘Better than many’: Paul Hastings sees London revenue grow 14% as Milbank breaks $1bn barrier globally

Paul Hastings saw its strong revenue growth in London tempered slightly to 14% in 2018 in what remained a strong year for the US outfit.

The double-digit revenue increase in London is lower than last year’s 25% rise, however it outstrips the firm’s global growth figure of 9%, itself up from 4% last year. Profit per equity partner (PEP) meanwhile broke the $3m mark, rising 12% to $3.25m.

‘The figures in London exceed the growth figures globally and is better than many of our competitors,’ Paul Hastings’ London chair Arun Birla told Legal Business. ‘In London we’re focusing on the practices we are strong in globally and it’s proving successful.’

The figures mean Paul Hastings has seen a 25% increase in PEP over the last two years while both London headcount and revenue has doubled over the last five. Global equity partner numbers meanwhile remained fairly static over the last year, falling by three from 190 to 187.  The results also come as the firm made aggressive hires in the City last year, with former DLA Piper private equity partner Anu Balasubramanian and ex-Linklaters M&A partner Roger Barron proving the most defining hires for Paul Hastings in 2018.

‘We are proud to have our PEP break $3m,’ Birla added. ‘We are one of the few firms who can say we’ve reached that figure and its come as we continue to strengthen our team and practices.’

Meanwhile, nine successive years of revenue growth means Milbank has passed the $1bn mark in gross revenue for the first time, reaching $1.034bn after a 13% increase during 2018. This adds to the previously reported 25% hike in Milbank’s City turnover to $156m, matching the 25% growth the firm saw in continental Europe. The figures are a considerable increase on last year’s 9% growth in the City, when revenues reached $125m.

‘The stellar year in London reflects a number of things,’ Milbank’s London co-manager Julian Stait told Legal Business. ‘All our practice areas have had a spectacular year, in addition we started 2018 with two blockbuster hires with the four-partner team from Cadwalader combining with our existing restructuring practice to give us the pre-eminent restructuring practice in the City.’

The story of US firms in London this year has widely been one of further success, with White & Case, King & Spalding, Reed Smith and Akin Gump all producing strong City performances.

For more on Paul Hastings’ London ambitions, see ‘Still more promise than delivery but Paul Hastings shows signs of progress

Legal Business

‘Poised for great things’: White & Case City revenue tops $350m as Milbank sees 25% turnover spike

White & Case’s expansive London office was responsible for 17% of firm-wide revenue as Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy has a hiring spree to thank for its pace-setting 25% uptick in City turnover.

White & Case’s City revenue was up 7% to $350m, as firm-wide revenue increased 13.7% to break the $2bn mark at $2.05bn. Profit per equity partner grew 6% to $2.40m and revenue per lawyer increased by 7.8% to reach $954,000 from last year’s $885,000.

The 2018 results continue a blistering run for the firm, building on last year’s 13% uptick in City revenue while firm-wide revenue saw a pacey 10% increase to $1.8bn in 2017. Profit per equity partner rose more than 6% to $2.4m and equity partner headcount globally rose by more than 7% to 342 from last year’s 319.

Strong performing practice areas included banking, disputes and private equity, according to Oliver Brettle, member of the global executive committee and London executive partner Melissa Butler.

White & Case in 2018 proved itself to be something of a hiring whirlwind in the City having gone great guns with its NY-London focus and ambitions to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Magic Circle in London as part of a 2020 plan led by Brettle.

Sixteen London laterals included high-profile infrastructure partner Simon Caridia from Herbert Smith Freehills in October and the same month, Weil counsel Thomas Falkus as a partner for its thriving capital markets practice.

The firm also added David Robertson, formerly of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, to its arbitration practice, Royal Bank of Scotland’s former head of litigation and investigations Laura Durrant as a partner, and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft litigation partner Steven Baker for the firm’s commercial litigation practice.

White & Case also hired from Weil Gotshal & Manges with mixed results. The start of 2018 saw Weil’s co-head of dispute resolution, Hannah Field-Lowes, join White & Case in London while the hire of Weil’s head of banking Mark Donald later in the year proved to be Ill-fated. Donald was prevented from joining because of a historic issue concerning a Weil associate on secondment at JP Morgan sharing confidential documents.

Oliver Brettle is keen to stress the strength of internal partner promotions as well as laterals. Brettle told Legal Business: ‘This is extremely strong growth on top of very high growth in 2017. That growth has been achieved without the lateral hires. With them, we are poised for great things going forward.’

Last October, White & Case announced a bumper promotion round of 41, of which 13 were in the City, up from seven new London partners the previous year. Butler points to 38% of the new partner promotions in London being female and 46% at the firm globally.

Milbank, meanwhile, has celebrated its 40th anniversary in London by posting a substantive 25% revenue hike for its City branch to $156m from $125m. The financials build on last year’s success when the firm posted its highest ever London revenue, a 9% increase on its 2016 performance.

The firm cited London as a key driver of the firm’s global financial performance and points to its financial restructuring group more than doubling in size and its capital markets group almost tripling in terms of headcount.

Milbank kicked off 2018 with a number of lateral hires, including a four-partner restructuring team from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft comprising Cadwaladers’ global financial restructuring co-chair Yushan Ng, Jacqueline Ingram, Karen McMaster and Sinjini Saha. Clients of the team included brand name sponsors Oaktree, KKR, Centerbridge Capital Partners and Blackstone.

Within days of those laterals, Milbank also hired high-yield guru Apostolos Gkoutzinis and his capital markets colleague Rebecca Marques from Shearman & Sterling.

For more on White & Case’s unlikely revolution read: Reborn supremacy.

Legal Business

Milbank bids up associate pay as surprise moves takes City associates to new $190k benchmark

Despite much talk of client pressure on fees the determination to recruit top associates continues to build with one leading New York firm this week jolting the industry by announcing a record pay scale for its US and City associates.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy on Monday (4 June) announced that its associates will earn between $190,000 and $330,000 from 1 July.

In a move that will lead to intense pressure among Wall Street peers to raise the established starting salary for new lawyers from $180,000 to match Milbank, the firm’s associate pay bands will rise between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on seniority.

Touted as ensuring the New York shop offers ‘compensation at the top of the market’, the changes will involve all of the firm’s 500 associates, including 100 in London. Associates in their first to third year will see their salary increase by $10,000, while those from the fourth to eighth will take home $15,000 more.

‘We are fortunate to be doing very well,’ London co-managing partner Julian Stait told Legal Business. ‘Our associates are our greatest asset and we want to recognise their incredible contribution.’

Revenue at Milbank grew 7% to hit $916.54m last year, while profit per equity partner rose 11% to $3.46m, underlining its position among the top 15 Manhattan firms.

Stait denied any concern on the impact on profits: ‘Any cost has an impact to some degree, but we have got very strong profitability, so we expect our profits to hold up. In the medium to long run, the fact that we have such a stellar group of associates is a key part of the reason why we are so profitable. It is an investment in the future.’

Milbank’s salary hike follows the firm’s changes in 2016, prompted by Manhattan leader Cravath, Swaine & Moore’s announcement that it was boosting first year associates’ pay by $20,000, to $180,000.

Though there has been some expectations that 2018 would go without further rises at top global firms, Milbank’s move promises to further heat up City salaries, with many leading US firms benchmarking their London teams to domestic pay scales.

Such a move would further widen the gap between leading US firms and City counterparts. For comparison, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance both increased their bands for junior lawyers 3% with newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors earning £81,000 at A&O and £87,300 at CC.

Such dynamics are a reminder that while much of the commercial legal industry is wrestling with far more cost-conscious clients, the highest reaches of the profession operate in an increasingly detached orbit.

For more on Milbank, see our Global London focus (£) 

Legal Business

Global London Focus: Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy

London headcount: 116 lawyers, 22 partners

Fee-earner headcount change since 2012: +81%

London heads: Suhrud Mehta and Julian Stait

Office speciality: Finance, restructuring, capital markets, litigation

Representative work: Defended Visa on a claim brought by Sainsbury’s on interchange fees and acted for the defendants in $1bn competition Libor case; advised on the $3.7bn restructuring of offshore drilling services contractor Ocean Rig; advised the lenders on Bridgepoint Capital’s acquisition of vehicle rental firm Zenith Group.