Legal Business

Can’t make an omelette – newly-merged Norton Rose Fulbright sees exodus in Middle East

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So far the high-stakes merger between Norton Rose and US practice Fulbright & Jaworski has been sealed with minimal fall-out but a prominent exception has been confirmed in the Middle East with an eight-partner team quitting the legacy Houston law firm’s Dubai arm for a rival.

Baker Botts today (16 July) confirmed the hire of a 14-lawyer team, which includes the bulk of the legacy Fulbright & Jaworski’s Dubai branch.

The eight-partner team includes corporate partner John Lonsberg, who was a key figure in putting Fulbright on the map in the Middle East. He has had experience of working in the Middle East since 1980.

Following Lonsberg are his Dubai colleagues Mark Bisch and Richard Devine, both finance partners, disputes partners Jonathan Sutcliffe and Joseph Colagiovanni, corporate partner Hassan Elsayed and financial institutions partner Philip Punwar. Sam Eversman, a finance partner also joins from Fulbright’s Riyadh branch. Joining in addition are five associates, a trainee and several support staff.

The partners will be based across Baker Botts’ network in the Middle East, including Dubai, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, although the majority will work out of Dubai.

This is the first sign of substantive fallout from the merger between Norton Rose and Fulbright, which went live last month, creating a global giant with combined revenues of nearly $2bn.

Fulbright’s legacy office was based in a different part of the emirate, Festival Tower, as opposed to the Dubai International Finance Centre where Norton Rose and the majority of international law firms are based. The departures have left the firm with only one remaining partner in its Festival Tower office, John Boehm, head of the Riyadh and Dubai practices.

With the departures the firm has around 50 lawyers in the region across Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Riyadh.

Kenneth Stewart, managing partner of Norton Rose Fulbright’s US member firm, said:  ‘Any combination of organisations brings inevitable changes in leadership and responsibilities and some overlap, and we understand that not all individuals will embrace those changes.  The overwhelming majority of our partners and clients are excited with our combination and the expanded global platform it provides.’

Commenting on his move Lonsberg said: ‘I knew [Baker Botts] was interested in growing its platform and practices, and I saw our team’s 30 years’ presence in the Middle East as a full complement to what Baker Botts has developed here in recent years.’

‘This group of talented and experienced lawyers will cement our position as one of the dominant legal forces in the region,’ said Robert Jordan, partner-in-charge of Baker Botts’ Middle East practice.

This move is a signal of intent for Baker Botts’ Middle East ambitions. The Houston-based energy specialist now has 40 lawyers in the region. In March the 700-lawyer firm also announced an alliance with Kuwait’s International Legal Group, Baker Botts’ first foray in the country.

The Middle East had also been an unsettled region for the legacy Norton Rose with the firm seeing a number of senior departures in recent years. However, Norton Rose Fulbright did move to bolster its City practice this week with the hire of CMS Cameron McKenna corporate partner Richard Bull. Bull, whose move was confirmed today, focuses on private equity transactions.

david.stevenson@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Global 100: Norton Rose Fulbright

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The ascent of Norton Rose up the global league has been swift in recent years, with the City-based law firm currently in 14th place in the Global 100, with turnover marginally up to $1.33bn. Profits per equity partner (PEP) were $887,000.

This growth came due to the dramatic expansion of the Norton Rose Group with the addition of Australian mid-tier Deacons in 2010 and subsequent takeovers in Canada (Ogilvy Renault and Macleod Dixon) and South Africa (Deneys Reitz).

Legal Business

CC to boost London corporate and regulatory insurance capability with hire of NRF’s Ashley Prebble

Clifford Chance (CC) has hired Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) corporate insurance partner Ashley Prebble as the Magic Circle firm aims to boost its Lloyds and London market and general insurance capability.

Prebble, who will work closely with the firm’s private equity and regulatory teams, specialises in corporate and regulatory insurance work including initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers and acquisitions, Part VII transfers, distribution agreements and regulatory matters.

While at NRF, Prebble advised on a number of high profile insurance transactions including the Part VII transfer of Royal Bank of Scotland’s Churchill, Direct Line and NIG businesses into UK Insurance last year, said at the time to be the largest general insurance portfolio transfer ever completed in the UK, with the four insurance business together worth in excess of 20 million policies.

Other headline deals he has advised on include the £135m sale of HSBC Insurance Brokers to Marsh, Admiral Group’s £711 million IPO and Brit Insurance Holdings’ $300m sale of Brit Insurance Limited to Riverstone Holdings.

Katherine Coates, head of the corporate insurance practice at CC, said: ‘Ashley joins us at a key time for the insurance industry, which faces unprecedented challenges and uncertainty due to market and regulatory pressures.

‘Ashley’s particular experience of the London market and general insurance operations will be a valuable addition to our current team, which is uniquely placed to support our clients across the sector on a wide range key strategic projects and transactions in both mature and growth markets.’

CC’s global insurance industry sector group comprises over 180 lawyers from its corporate, banking & finance, capital markets, M&A, regulatory, dispute resolution, antitrust, tax, real estate, pensions and employment teams.

Prebble added: ‘Joining Clifford Chance is the perfect opportunity to develop my practice in the London market and internationally, working as part of a leading global insurance sector team. I look forward to working closely with the firm’s pre-eminent private equity and regulatory teams, as financial investors are playing an increasing important role in the sector and sweeping changes in regulation and regulator approach pose new challenges for clients.’

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Comment: Don’t push your luck with partnership

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Do law firms take partnership for granted? They really shouldn’t as the model has served them so well. Just consider the case. Partnership aligns management and ownership. This has helped large law firms to avoid the patchy governance and rewards-for-mediocrity seen at public companies over the last 20 years and drives partners to a pure form of performance pay. It is inherently long-term and as such has a strong record in promoting independence and ethical standards. And given that law isn’t a capital-intensive trade – at least once you cross the Rubicon of international expansion – partnership is workable (if not ideal) from a financing point of view.

But the killer app of partnership is the meritocratic oddity of institutions aiming to turn a group of workers into owners. It promotes a razor focus on career development and does a lot of the heavy lifting in governance terms at law firms. That obsessive focus on standards and talent coming through the door truly marks out the legal profession from other, less successful industries.

Why the love-letter to partnership? Well, looking at the grim statistics on partner promotions, as we do this month, you can’t escape the feeling that leading law firms are pushing their luck. The top ten largest UK firms, including DLA Piper and Hogan Lovells, together have over 5,500 partners. This group collectively promoted 197 new partners in 2013 – equivalent to 3.5% of their current ranks. These levels are well below the replacement rate needed to sustain partnerships at current sizes and the picture is considerably worse if you look at UK partner prospects. Given that less than half of those making partner trained with their firm or joined at intake level, the traditional track to equity is under unprecedented strain. And as to women making partner – well, even a hard-nosed pragmatist would have to say the current numbers at major City firms – with the honourable exception of Norton Rose – are woeful given the public hand-wringing of recent years.

It still works for now but at a certain point, an increasingly remote partnership will surely cease to function as an effective long-term engagement tool. That would likely leave you with strong junior ranks given the appeal of law. But if joining a law firm really becomes mainly about a start of a career largely focused outside of private practice, the crucial mid-tier associate ranks will be under siege. This is not theoretical – a growing body of research confirms the fading allure of partnership, especially among female lawyers.

Law firm leaders acknowledge this existential threat to partnership but, when it comes down to the annual promotion round, the model is chipped away every year with smaller promotions and more barriers to equity.

We’ve moved into a curious half-life of partnership where the pretence is maintained that the old deal hasn’t changed. But it has changed and we could even soon reach a tipping point where the dominant path for a legal career is one without partnership. That would have huge implications for the UK legal profession. The suspicion is managing partners will come to regret pushing to breaking point the institution that once elevated them.

 

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Merger watch – Norton Rose Fulbright Dubai team in talks to join rival

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It’s a cliché that you can’t do large legal mergers without some fallout, a truism that Norton Rose Fulbright now has the chance to contemplate, as it emerges that its Festival Towers Dubai office is likely to move in the wake of its merger this month.

Dubai is one of the few international jurisdictions where Norton Rose and US partner Fulbright & Jaworski had overlapping offerings, which has resulted in a clash of personalities. The two firms combined on 3 June forging a top 10 global practice in revenue terms.

The fifteen-lawyer legacy Fulbright branch is led by corporate and banking partner John Boehm. Eight of the ten lawyers are partners who between them cover dispute resolution, corporate and banking.

The legacy Norton Rose DIFC arm has 21 lawyers in total, including 10 partners, covering dispute resolution, corporate, banking, Islamic finance and projects.

The Fulbright team is understood to be in talks to join another firm, with the front-runner cited as 700-lawyer Houston practice Baker Botts, which already has a 13-lawyer Dubai arm. The top 100 US law firm also has offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Before the merger Fulbright had international offices in Hong Kong, Munich, Beijing and Riyadh, where Norton Rose did not have an office. The pair have already physically consolidated offices in London, Beijing and Hong Kong and plan to do so with Munich later in the year. A partner told Legal Business that Dubai was the only location where Norton Rose Fulbright anticipated such potential fallout.

Large international mergers often experience significant departures where offices overlap, as was the case with the 2010 tie-up of Lovells and Hogan & Hartson.

So far the Norton Rose Fulbright union has been generally welcomed by its partners, though there has been some focus on the integration of its two London offices. A handful of London-based Fulbright partners are remaining part of Fulbright’s partnership, an arrangement the firm says is due to transitional tax arrangements rather than lack of enthusiasm for the deal.

Norton Rose declined to comment.

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

A giant’s first steps – Norton Rose Fulbright goes live with suitably comprehensive governance team

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One of the most touted legal mergers of the last decade today (3 June) goes live with Norton Rose and US partner Fulbright & Jaworski unveiling a full governance team for the combined practice.

Norton Rose Fulbright confirmed the make-up of its global executive committee and group-wide supervisory board, with Fulbright managing partner Kenneth Stewart joining the executive committee.

Five partners from the Houston-based law firm join the 20-strong executive body, with six members on the oversight team.

The bodies are charged with governance duties for a 3,800-lawyer firm spread across 54 offices, including 11 in the US. The firm was formed after Norton Rose sealed a deal with Fulbright & Jaworski in November, making good on the City-based firm’s long-held ambition to secure a substantive merger in the US.

Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr retains the top leadership role with the Sydney-based Adrian Ahern acting as firm-wide chairman. The firm announced in May that legacy Norton Rose partner Martin Scott will assume the global head of corporate, while Fulbright partner Linda Addison becomes group head of litigation. Norton Rose’s Jeremy Edwards retains the head of banking role.

Long-time Norton Rose head Martyr has pushed his firm through a dramatic period of growth, securing major mergers in Australia, Canada and South Africa over the last three years ahead of the high-stakes Fulbright tie-up.

Though Norton Rose’s run of expansion has been criticised by some for avoiding full financial integration, the consensus remains that Martyr has repositioned an ailing City player as a potential global leader over the last 10 years. The creation of a 20-strong executive team suggests that Martyr will remain very much the driving force of the combined firm, a robust leadership style stance that has generated some disquiet internally alongside undoubted admiration for his vision.

Commenting the launch, Martyr said there was now ‘nothing major’ to add to the Norton Rose Group, though the firm is currently examining its options to launch in Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico, with a branch in Seoul ‘probably front of the queue’.

Commenting on realities of managing a rapidly-assembled network, Martyr observed: ‘The main thing is the challenge of running a multi-speed business in which some parts of have been doing this longer and are moving at a different speed.’

On those different speeds, Martyr said that the firm’s Australian practice was ‘doing fantastically well’, while its South African arm was ‘roaring along’. Aside from integration, the firm aiming to raise its game in financial investigations and regulatory law and securities work.

Martyr says that he remains agnostic on the long-term imperative to merge Norton Rose Group’s multiple profit centres. ‘On financial integration – I’m open-minded but the key thing is to ensure we encourage common global behaviour. I think we can achieve that without financial integration so I would need to be convinced there was an additional benefit.’

The executive committee comprises:

• Peter Martyr – global chief executive, London

• John Coleman – Montréal

• Rob Otty – Johannesburg

• Wayne Spanner – Sydney

• Kenneth Stewart – Dallas

• Kevin Mortell – London

• Tim Marsden – London

• Linda Addison – New York

• Jeremy Edwards – London

• Martin Scott – London

• Jane Caskey – Toronto

• Alison Deitz – Sydney

• Gregg Harris – Washington DC

• Tom Jarvis – Melbourne

• Michael Lang – Toronto

• Gerry Pecht – Houston

• George Scofield – San Antonio

• David Stannard – Hong Kong

• Bill Tuer – Calgary

• Deirdre Walker – London

The supervisory board is made up of:

• Adrian Ahern – global chairman, Sydney

• Rodney Acker – Dallas

• Mark Baker – Houston

• Pierre Bienvenu – Montréal

• Jill Gauntlett – London

• Deborah Gitomer – Houston

• Sbu Gule – Johannesburg

• Cameron Harvey – Melbourne

• Louise Higginbottom – London

• Clarke Hunter – Calgary

• Mark Jones – London

• Raj Karia – London

• Layne Kruse – Houston

• Chris McLeod – Perth

• Stephen Parish – London

• Norman Steinberg – Montréal

• Louis Strubeck – Dallas

• Tom Vita – London

• William Wood – Houston

• Ava Yaskiel – Toronto

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

Commenting the launch, Martyr said there was now ‘nothing major’ to add to the Norton Rose Group, though the firm is currently examining its options to launch in Brazil, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico, with a branch in Seoul ‘probably front of the queue’.

Commenting on realities of managing a rapidly-assembled network, Martyr observed: ‘The main thing is the challenge of running a multi-speed business in which some parts of have been doing this longer and are moving at a different speed.’

On those different speeds, Martyr said that the firm’s Australian practice was ‘doing fantastically well’, while its South African arm was ‘roaring along’. Aside from integration, the firm aiming to raise its game in financial investigations and regulatory law and securities work.

Martyr says that he remains agnostic on the long-term imperative to merge Norton Rose Group’s multiple profit centres. ‘On financial integration – I’m open-minded but the key thing is to ensure we encourage common global behaviour. I think we can achieve that without financial integration so I would need to be convinced there was an additional benefit.’

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Legal Business

Norton Rose Fulbright announces global practice heads as Withers chair moves to New York

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Both Norton Rose and Withers have made changes to their senior management, with one entering a seven-day countdown to its full merger with Fulbright & Jaworski as the other regroups after talks with Speechly Bircham fell through last week.

Norton Rose Fulbright today announced its global practice heads for the firm’s three largest practice areas; corporate, banking and finance.City-based legacy Norton Rose partner Martin Scott, currently head of corporate for Europe, will take over as global head of corporate from Hong Kong-based David Stannard, who re-joined Norton Rose in 2001 from the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.

UK-based Norton Rose banking partner Jeremy Edwards will maintain his current position as global head of banking, while Fulbright’s US-based Linda Addison will take over as global head of dispute resolution and litigation from Deirdre Walker, who has been Norton Rose group head since 2009.

Global chief executive Peter Martyr – who alongside Scott, Edwards and Addison formally adopts the role when the merger goes live on 3 June 2013 – appointed the practice heads and, unlike many other large City firms, those appointments are not limited to a set term.

Martyr said: ‘Dispute resolution and litigation; corporate, M&A and securities and banking and finance will continue to be key strengths for Norton Rose Fulbright globally, in conjunction with our existing six key industry strengths.’ The merger will create a 3,800-strong lawyer firm, with 54 offices including 11 in the US.

Withers, meanwhile, has confirmed that New York-based senior partner Ivan Sacks will take over from Anthony Indaimo as chairman in July.

Withers last week voted against a potential tie-up with Speechly Bircham, with the private client firms issuing a joint statement stating that a merger ‘would not be in the best interests of both firms.’

However, the vote to replace Indaimo – who has served the maximum two consecutive three-year terms allowed under Withers partnership agreement – took place in March, long before the talks collapsed.

That merger would have created a 600-lawyer practice with a combined revenue of £170m, elevating it into the top 25 of the Legal Business 100.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Global London advances – Latham secures third senior City recruit of the year

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Latham & Watkins has recruited high-profile Norton Rose derivatives and structured finance partner Dean Naumowicz as the US giant makes its third senior City hire of the year.

Naumowicz was part of the Norton Rose team that in March advised Società di Progetto Brebemi on the financing for a €2.338bn toll motorway project. Other recent deals in which he has advised include acting for lenders UK Green Investment Bank, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Siemens Bank on a £225m financing in the renewables sector.

The news comes only a month after Latham’s 52-partner City arm recruited Clifford Chance head of private equity David Walker.The 600-partner firm earlier this year also recruited Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) litigation partner Simon Bushell. Bushell co-chaired HSF’s London corporate fraud and asset tracing practice and was head of the firm’s crisis management practice.

Commenting on the appointment, London managing partner Nick Cline said: ‘Dean is an outstanding lawyer and we are very pleased that he will be joining our derivatives and financial institutions team. His move is another marker of Latham’s continued growth and development in London.’

Norton Rose told Legal Business that partner Laurence Garside will lead the firm’s derivatives team in London in Naumowicz’s place.

Norton Rose head of banking Jeremy Edwards stressed the firm’s recent growth in finance commenting: ‘We have continued to grow our debt capital markets team with the addition of David Shearer from Allen & Overy, Peter Young from Vinson & Elkins and structured finance specialist Simon Lew from Clifford Chance in London. We have also grown our debt capital markets team internationally, for example, Scott Millar and Tessa Hoser have joined us in Australia, Ji Liu in Hong Kong, and Andrew Bleau recently relocated from Canada to our Hong Kong debt capital markets team.’

A group of leading US law firms have made strategic inroads in the City in recent years with Latham, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Dechert displaying particularly expansive form of late. The trend looks set to continue throughout 2013.

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Norton Rose makes up 33 partners in latest promotions round

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Norton Rose has promoted 33 lawyers to its global partnership ahead of its merger with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski in June.

That number represents only a marginal drop on last year, when Norton Rose promoted 36 lawyers to its partnership.

Of a total of ten promotions in Europe, London and Munich were awarded five and four respectively, while outside of Europe there were eight promotions across the firm’s Canadian offices, six in South Africa, five in Australia, two in Asia, one in the Middle East and one in Latin America.

In terms of practice areas, the firm’s corporate department was awarded the most promotions, with 12 lawyers being made up to partner. In banking seven lawyers were promoted, a further six in litigation and dispute resolution, three in employment and labour, two in antitrust, competition and regulatory, one in intellectual property and one in occupational health, safety and security.

This year’s promotions also include Helen Masters, of counsel in the office of the general counsel in London, who has been with the practice for over 20 years and first qualified into commercial litigation following a training contract with the firm.

For the second consecutive year, female partners accounted for a strong percentage of all promotions. Forty two percent of those promoted this year were female, compared with 44% last year.

Fulbright announced eight partner promotions in January.

Peter Martyr, Norton Rose global chief executive, said: ‘The partner promotions reflect the international strength and diversity of our practice, which will grow again significantly in June when we combine with Fulbright & Jaworski.’

The promotions are:

 

Europe

Alison Baxter (banking, London)

Ian Giles (antitrust, competition and regulatory, London)

Sascha Grimm (corporate, Frankfurt)

Frank Henkel (corporate, Munich)

Eleanor Martin (banking, London)

Helen Masters (office of the general counsel, London)

Daniel Metcalfe (banking, London)

Katrin Scheicht (employment and labour, Munich)

Andrea Spellerberg (banking, Munich)

Maren Stölting (corporate, Munich)

 

Asia

Wilson Ang (litigation and dispute resolution, Singapore)

Winnie Chan (corporate, Hong Kong)

Australia

Chris Cruikshank (banking, Sydney)

Nigel Deed (corporate, Sydney)

Andrew Riordan (litigation and dispute resolution, Melbourne)

Alena Titterton (occupational health safety and security, Canberra)

Dominic Townsend (corporate, Brisbane)

 

Canada

Dominic Dupoy (litigation and dispute resolution, Montréal)

Andres Garin (litigation and dispute resolution, Montréal)

Karen Jensen (employment and labour, Ottawa)

Ryan Keays (corporate, Calgary)

Allison Kuntz (litigation and dispute resolution, Calgary)

Pierre-Christian Labeau (corporate, Québec City)

Marianne Plamondon (employment and labour, Montréal)

Anna Wilkinson (intellectual property, Toronto)

 

South Africa

Jason van Dijk (antitrust, competition and regulatory, Cape Town)

Sandile Khoza (litigation and dispute resolution, Durban)

Ismail Laher (corporate, Johannesburg)

Zano Nduli (corporate, [Marker]Johannesburg)

Christina Pretorius (corporate, Johannesburg)

Christine Rodrigues (banking, Johannesburg)

 

Middle East

Paul Mansouri (banking, Abu Dhabi)

 

Latin America

Sergio Casinelli (corporate, Caracas)

 

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Norton Rose Fulbright aims at Global Elite

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The worst-kept secret in global law finally became official in November. Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski announced their 3,800-lawyer tie-up in June 2013, creating a $1.9bn firm comfortably inside the top ten largest in the world. It’s been a long time coming. We first spoke of merger rumours between the two firms in 2008 and the market has been awash with speculation ever since.