Legal Business

BLP boosts Berlin practice by six with lateral hires from Orrick


Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has hired two partners, Norbert Impelmann and Albrecht von Breitenbuch, along with four other lawyers from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe for its Berlin office.

The hires aim to bolster BLP’s real estate and infrastructure practice in Germany, and follow the appointment of nine legal staff into BLP’s Hong Kong office earlier this year to boost its property practice.

Impleman was Orrick’s office leader in Berlin and head of the firm’s real estate practice group in Germany, while Albrecht was also a partner in Orrick’s Berlin office. Albrecht was a member of the firm’s real estate group and spearheaded Orrick’s technology practice for startups and venture capital investors.

As well as the two partners, senior associate Katharina von Rosenstiel, managing associate Ruben Pisal and associates Henning Bigalke and Maxim Gnatjuk will join, along with four support staff.

The team’s integration into the Berlin office will be led by Roland Fabian, managing partner of BLP Germany and a member of the firm’s board.

Fabian said there was huge potential for BLP in Germany as it was a highly active real estate market. ‘By strengthening our German team, we will ensure that we are at the forefront of this activity and have the best team possible to take advantage,’ he said.

In April this year, US firm Orrick said it would cut its German network by half, and would close is Frankfurt and Berlin offices.

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Orrick hires Hogan Lovells’ heads of energy and renewables as it continues City build-out


Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has continued with its European strategy revamp, building its energy team in London by hiring Hogan Lovells’ global co-head of energy and natural resources Matthew Williams and renewables co-head John Deacon.

The duo will be joined by Edward Humphries, currently counsel at the transatlantic firm but who makes partner in the move, with Williams joining as co-head of Orrick’s European energy practice alongside Carlo Montella in Milan. The move replicates Deacon and Williams’ shift from Hunton & Williams to Hogan Lovells in 2011.

Williams has focused his career on domestic and cross-border power M&A deals but also covers project finance, commodity trading and corporate restructuring. Past work includes acting on the development of a 1000 MW power plant at Thorpe Marsh in the UK and advising Gazprom on a proposed acquisition of the Marcinelle 800 MW power station in Belgium.

Deacon, who was responsible for Hogan Lovells‘ renewables practice outside of the US, has advised on a series of offshore wind farms, as well as waste-to-energy schemes and biomass power plants across EMEA. Humphries is more focused on energy trading and commodities, with experience also in corporate work for energy companies.

Williams said: ‘We are excited to be a part of a growing and innovative practice and to collaborate with a team that we have known and respected in the market for many years. I am particularly looking forward to working with Carlo to grow the European energy practice to complement the firm’s strengths in energy markets around the world.’

The trio will re-unite with fellow energy partner Colin Graham, who last year also joined from Hogan Lovells amid a build-out in London by Orrick which included Stephen Phillips, who now serves as co-head of Orrick’s European Restructuring team, from White & Case; Shawn Atkinson, a corporate, tech and venture capital partner from Edwards Wildman; and Proskauer Rose’s finance partner Michael Crosby.

So far Orrick’s renewed European strategy, which is focusing on core sectors in Europe including energy, finance and tech, has seen its German offering slimmed down as it closed offices in Frankfurt and Berlin while its arbitration offering was boosted by an opening in Geneva.

Legal Business

After downsizing Germany Orrick bucks trend with Geneva launch as US firm bolsters arbitration credentials


Having recently shut two out of four of its German offices as it refocuses its European strategy, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe is opening a new base in Geneva to build its arbitration presence on the continent with the hire of Vanessa Liborio from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Disputes partner Vanessa Liborio Garrido de Sousa will head the new office that will focus solely on arbitration. She will work closely with the firm’s wider arbitration team in France and German including partners Jean-Pierre Martel, Charles Kaplan, Laurent Jaeger, Laurie Craig in Paris and co-practice group leader Siegfried Elsing in Dusseldorf.

The new office is in line with the firm’s strategy to focus on three sectors – technology, energy and infrastructure, and finance – with a focus on its dispute and transactional practices.

‘Many firms are thinking about pulling back in Geneva but for us it’s a logical market to be in based on Vanessa’s skillset and the focus of her clients,’ said Orrick chairman Mitchell Zuklie. ‘We already have a strong litigation practice in the US, and arbitration is strong in Paris and Dusseldorf and a presence in Geneva is crucial for further growth in Europe.’

Although Geneva is traditionally seen as the Swiss centre for private client work, it has enjoyed a long-held tradition for having an arbitration-friendly judicial system along with Paris, New York and London. Orrick said that Geneva was particularly attractive because of its ‘political neutrality and arbitration friendliness’.

Liborio added: ‘I was drawn by Orrick’s global commitment to dispute resolution. The firm’s focus on energy and infrastructure, and finance, its role in some of the most important cross-border matters in France and across Europe and the integrated nature of its practice all make it a very attractive platform for international arbitration.’

Liborio leaves Akin Gump after five years before which she was a senior associate at legacy firm Hogan & Hartson from 2005 to 2010. She has acted as counsel in proceedings before the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the Swiss Chambers of Commerce. She has experience of advising on disputes involving infrastructure, joint venture agreements, sales of goods, collateral management agreements, insurance, aviation and consultancy agreements.

The office launch comes after the San Francisco-bred law firm cut its German network by half, leaving its offering in Europe’s largest economy with two remaining branches in Düsseldorf and Munich. The firm’s largest office outside of the States is in Paris with around 90 fee-earners followed by London which houses 70.

Legal Business

Orrick strips down on global stage as two German branches are shut


The apparent international retrenchment of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe continues with the top 40 US law firm announcing this week that it is closing its Frankfurt and Berlin offices.

The San Francisco-bred law firm has decided to cut its German network by half, leaving its offering in Europe’s largest economy with two remaining branches in Düsseldorf and Munich.

Five partners and 13 associates have been affected across both offices. All partners have been offered options to relocate to Berlin and Frankfurt. Transfer decisions for all other affected staff will be made based on client and practice needs, the firm said and all personnel departing from the firm will be given ‘generous packages’ to assist with the transition. Following the closures, the 950-lawyer firm will focus on growing its practices in five areas: cross-border M&A, technology, energy, real estate and disputes.

‘We believe that focusing our German growth and investment on Düsseldorf and Munich, and on our practice strengths, will be of greatest value to our clients globally and will enable us to further integrate our practices in Europe and worldwide,’ said Orrick chairman and chief executive Mitch Zuklie. ‘We have great momentum across Europe, and we are confident that this is the best office platform for us to build upon our distinctive strengths in Germany.’

Orrick expanded into Germany in 2008 after it combined with local firm Hölters & Elsing, which grew the firm’s German network with offices in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. The firm launched its fourth German office in Munich in 2011 after hiring an eight-lawyer team from technology and media specialist Holme Roberts & Owen.

The move signals more international retrenchment for a practice that in the early 2000s was viewed as one of the most globally ambitious practices bred in the US. Legal Business’ 2015 Global London report on the largest foreign firms in the UK shows that Orrick’s 63-lawyer City arm has contracted by 14% in headcount over the last five years while many peers have aggressively grown.

Legal Business

Trainee retention: BLP’s rate slips to 70% while Orrick keeps on all four of its cohort


Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have become the latest firms to announce how many of their spring 2015 qualifiers they are set to retain, with BLP seeing its rate slip from 89% in 2014 to 70% this year.

BLP made offers to 15 trainees in its intake of 20, of those 14 accepted, giving the firm a retention rate of 70%. This was a significant drop from the 89% it recorded in spring 2014 – though the firm saw a similar number qualify, 16, with the higher retention rate partially generated by a smaller initial cohort of 18 trainees.

In March 2013, BLP also kept on 14 trainees but due to a larger intake had a retention rate of just 64%.

Those looking to qualify at Orrick had different fortunes with 100% being retained of its small spring cohort. All four of its trainees are accepting newly qualified (NQ) positions at the US-headquartered firm.

A round-up of the 2015 retention rates revealed thus far:

Addleshaw Goddard: 2 out of 4 (50%)

Allen & Overy: 43 out of 46 (93%)

BLP: 14 out of 20 (70%)

Clifford Chance: 41 out of 45 (91%)

Freshfields: 41 out of 48 (85%)

Herbert Smith Freehills: 39 out of 42 (93%)

Linklaters: 49 out of 54 (91%)

Mayer Brown: 3 out of 5 (60%)

Orrick: 4 out of 4 (100%)

Osborne Clarke: 8 out of 9 (89%)

Reed Smith: 12 out of 13 (92%)

Slaughter and May: 37 out of 42 (88%)

Trowers & Hamlins: 9 out of 11 (82%)

White & Case: 13 out of 13 (100%)

This article first appeared on Legal Business’ sister publication The Lex 100

Legal Business

Into Africa: Orrick launches Cote d’Ivoire presence as Gide announces Morocco union with Cuatrecasas


The race by firms to establish a presence in Africa continues apace as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has today (20 October) announced the launch of an affiliated office in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, the third-largest French speaking City in the world, while leading European firms Gide Loyrette Nouel and Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira have created a union of their Morocco practices in a bid to bolster their presence in one of North Africa’s most politically stable regions.

Operating under the name Orrick RCI, the new office will provide ‘on the ground’ support for the firm’s practice serving African and international clients in connection with investments in Western and Central Africa.

Set to be staffed full time by locally-qualified counsel Karamoko Fadiga and Paris-based of counsel Sydney Domoraud-Operi, the duo will work closely with members of the firm’s 50-lawyer Africa team across Paris, London, New York, Washington DC, Silicon Valley and China.

Pascal Agbogibor, head of Orrick’s Africa practice, said: ‘This is a critical time for the people of Africa – they face many challenges but also have an unmatched spirit.’

Meanwhile, French firm Gide and Spanish firm Cuatrecasas have united their respective offerings in Morocco in a bid to ‘consolidate the position of both international firms in North Africa’.

The combined team will comprise 17 lawyers and legal consultants and will be headed by Gide partners Julien David and Jean-Francois Levraud. The objective is to draw on a pool of expertise in Morocco in areas of business law, particularly M&A, banking and finance, real estate, commercial law, tax and public law.

The pair’s close collaboration dates back to 2007 when Cuatrecasas established its practice in Morocco. The duo’s expansion plans into the region follow that of multiple firms since last year, including Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy which earlier this month (October) announced its entrance into South Africa with the launch of an office in Johannesburg, hiring a seven-strong banking and finance team from local firm Bowman Gilfillan.

Legal Business

Mishcon and Orrick act as BSGR launches $5bn arbitration against Guinea


Mishcon de Reya has been instructed by BSGR, a Guernsey-registered mining group controlled by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, in a $5bn lawsuit against Guinea after the West African country withdrew a concession to mine one of world’s largest deposits of iron ore due to allegations of widespread bribery.

The firm’s London-based arbitration partner, Karel Daele, is leading what is one of the largest investor-state arbitration claims of 2014, and was registered with the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on 8 September. Guinea has instructed Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s Paris-based co-head of international arbitration Laurent Jaeger to defend the case. He will work alongside the firm’s head of Africa Pascal Agboyibor, as well as co-counsel from DLA Piper, Michael Ostrove. 

BSGR claims that Guinea, which had a GDP of $6.2bn in 2013 but has an abundance of natural resources, has expropriated the company’s share of a joint venture with Brazilian mining group Vale for an iron ore mining concession estimated to be worth up to $150bn. The company was awarded a 25-year concession in 2010 to mine the Simandou mountain range following a $165m exploration programme in the area, but the deal was investigated by national authorities which allege that millions of dollars worth of bribes were handed to a wife of former president Lansana Conté. Corruption and human rights not-for-profit Global Witness accused BSGR of having financial links to Pentler Holdings, an offshore company that allegedly promised millions of dollars in bribes.

The case has proceeded to ICSID under domestic Guinean legislation that refers investor claims to international arbitration, a clause that has been invoked two times to date. Around 10% of ICSID cases are referred under domestic legislation.

The claim is nearly 17 times larger than Mishcon’s biggest arbitration mandate to date, a $300m dispute. Daele, who launched the firm’s arbitration department two years ago on his arrival from African boutique Mkono & Co Advocates, has 10 cases pending, over half of which relate to investments in Africa. He is also leading an ICSID claim thought to be worth close to $500m against Saint Lucia, which has instructed Magic Circle firm Freshfields, for oil explorer Jack Grynberg’s RSM Production Corporation. Daele, who earlier in his career had stints at Freshfields and WilmerHale, has quickly established himself as a leading investor-state arbitration practitioner.

BSGR sold 51% of its stake to Vale, the world’s second-largest metals and mining company, for $2.5bn in May 2010 and a joint venture was created to develop the concession. BSGR, Vale and Steinmetz are defendants in a case filed in New York by mining giant Rio Tinto which is being represented by Quinn Emmanuel, which argues that the termination of its ownership of the Simandou concession in 2008 was part of a fraudulent scheme by the defendants that violates the US Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act. Mishcon’s New York-based head of the complex civil litigation and white collar defense group, Robert Gold, is advising BSGR in that dispute, with Cleary Gottlieb’s Jonathan Blackman spearheading Vale’s defence.

Parallel arbitration has also been launched by Vale against BSGR in a $700m claim which accuses its business partner, BSGR, of being responsible for the findings made by the Guinean authorities that led to the concession being stopped. The damages cover the $500m payment the Brazilian miner made up front to take the 51% stake and further investments made to cover initial exploration costs.

Legal Business

Merger talks: Orrick and Pillsbury call time on talks after client conflict issues dominate


The potentially game changing merger between California-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and New York-headquartered Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is off after the firms said issues surrounding client conflicts of interest had proved insurmountable.

The firms disclosed around a month ago that they were in talks, with a view to creating a 1,800-lawyer practice with revenues of around $1.4bn, putting the combined entity in the top 15 law firms in the world by fee income.

The declaration that the firms were in talks was made in the name Orrick Pillsbury and widely interpreted as meaning that a deal could be sealed within weeks. However, in a mutual statement issued in the US yesterday (25 November) the firms clarified that their decision to call off the talks came ‘prior to the execution of a letter of intent or submitting the matter to either partnership for a vote.’

The firms added: ‘We mutually determined that we will not be able to proceed due to prospective client conflicts that we have not been able to resolve, notwithstanding each firm’s best efforts. Our two firms come away from these discussions with enormous respect for each other both institutionally and across our management teams, a mutual respect that has only grown throughout our discussions.’

Orrick chairman Mitch Zuklie commented: ‘Pillsbury has long been known to us as a firm with high calibre legal talent and a client-focused culture much like ours. Large law firm combinations are always complex, and both our firms are disappointed that we could not clear the way for a merger.’

Both firms have previously sought merger partners in recent years without success. Orrick entertained and publicly pulled out of talks with Dewey Ballantine in 2006, a move that saw the New York firm instead merge with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, creating the ill-fated Dewey & LeBoeuf. Orrick has also previously held discussions with UK firms Bird & Bird and SJ Berwin.

Legal Business

Those US mergers keep coming – Orrick closes in on deal with Pillsbury to forge top 10 giant


One of the most prolific merger suitors of recent years – Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe – is at it again with the top 30 US practice close to securing a merger with the 600-lawyer practice Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The discussions, which were confirmed on Friday (25 October), could see Orrick sign a letter of intent as early as this week to recommend a combination with Pillsbury to its partners. A deal would create a 1,800-lawyer practice with revenues of around $1.4bn, putting it in the top 15 law firms in the world by fee income.

Pillsbury chairman James Rishwain and Orrick chairman Mitch Zuklie issued a joint statement to the US media stating: ‘Our firms are in exploratory discussions about a possible combination. These talks are serving to confirm the great respect our firms have for each other.’

The deal would likely be an effective takeover with the San Francisco-based Orrick being the larger of the two and also enjoying a stronger position financially. Orrick generated revenues of $866m in 2012, up 2% annually and a rise of 12% over the last five years. Its profits per equity partner (PEP) were up 10% annually to $1.63m, though the firm’s profitability is flattered by high leverage, with only 124 of its 1,128 lawyers last year holding equity status.

Pillsbury saw revenues up 7% in 2012 to $561m, though its fee income has fallen 5% over the previous five-year period. The firm’s 164 equity partners earned an average of $1.09m in 2012, a relatively low figure for a top 100 US practice.

Both firms have previously sought merger partners in recent years without success. Orrick had entertained and publicly pulled out of talks with Dewey Ballantine in 2006, a move that saw the New York firm instead merge with LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae, creating the ill-fated Dewey & LeBoeuf.

Orrick has also previously held discussions with UK firms Bird & Bird and in 2010 with SJ Berwin.

A union would create a huge practice on the West Coast of America but arguably leave both firms relatively under-weight in New York and Europe. Neither Orrick or Pillsbury has had sustained success in London, though Orrick has a large Paris practice. Major clients of Orrick include Apple and Oracle, which it has acted for in a patent dispute with Google. Pillsbury’s clients include Chevron and BNY Mellon.

The deal comes amid challenging trading conditions in the US economy, though the legal market has generally out-performed Europe on the back of high levels of disputes and regulatory work. Despite the focus among advisers on major technology clients, California’s wider economy has remained subdued over the last five years in part due to locally-based bluechips and banks focusing their efforts nationally.

The talks come amid a run of recent discussions among major US practices. Aside from the union agreed last year between Fulbright & Jaworski and Norton Rose, Dentons is currently in discussions with McKenna Long. Reuters reported on Sunday (27 October) that Washington DC’s Patton Boggs is in discussions with the Dallas-based Locke Lord.

Whether such deals can improve the fortunes of the combining law firms will remain open to debate as many of these institutions have struggled to sustain momentum in recent years. Orrick is generally regarded to have squandered much of the international profile it had built up a decade ago, while the leadership of Ralph Baxter – who stood down as chief executive in March this year after 23 years at Orrick’s helm – drew increasing criticism in the latter years of his term.

Legal Business

Under the Weather


When US outfit Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe entered the London market in 1998, chairman Ralph Baxter had a dream of competing on the global stage.

But 13 years on, that dream looks to be souring. LB investigates what is going wrong.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe was once seen as one of the most successful and promising US firms resident in London. Achieving rapid growth and performing well financially, it seemed that nothing could go wrong. But a string of departures since the start of 2010 and a lack of strategic direction has left many asking if chairman Ralph Baxter’s sheen has come off. Added to the mix is the reputational damage done by its involvement in at least two very public and ultimately failed merger talks with SJ Berwin and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Orrick does not look like the unmitigated success story it purports to be.