You have been chair of Paul Hastings’ City office since October 2018. What have been your personal highlights of how the firm has developed in London?
Arun Birla (AB): I’ve enjoyed seeing our practices grow, and not just from a client or revenue perspective, but also in other aspects that are particularly important to me – diversity and inclusion, wellness, and on the social mobility front. We’ve built on all those elements – clients, revenues and integrating new partners, alongside what some people might call the softer things, but I don’t like that term.
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I come from a family of lawyers. My father was a lawyer and a judge, and my brother followed in his footsteps and became a lawyer. So there was a lack of original thought on my part. I just went with the flow and followed them into the profession.
I was born and brought up in India. I went to school there and did my first degree there, in history. When I was at university, law was rarely done as an undergraduate degree and that programme has only just been introduced. When I finished my first degree, I followed in my brother’s footsteps and came to the UK to read law.
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The entries have been assessed and our research completed: we are now delighted to reveal our US Law Firm of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.
This award highlights the US firm that has made the greatest progress over the past year in advancing its strategy, improving financial performance and winning instructions, particularly in the City. A large international presence is not a prerequisite for consideration for this award, although the judges will be looking for strong evidence of success in those foreign markets where the firm has offices.
Winner – Latham & Watkins
Latham impressed the judges to beat rivals in this category after posting a second consecutive year of double-digit growth; a revenue surge to $3.768bn in 2019 and profit per equity partner of $3.78m. If that wasn’t enough, London growth exceeded the global rate, with the City office standing out as one the most potent European practices of any US player.
That growth continued against a backdrop of sustained investment in lateral hires for strategic practices and markets was a testament to the firm’s dominant position. Of 22 lateral hires globally, transactional and disputes hires in London included Victoria Sander, an insurance M&A partner from Linklaters; real estate partner Neil Ferguson from Jones Day; Jeremiah Wagner, a structured finance specialist from Cadwalader; antitrust and competition partner David Little from Cleary ; Chris Horton, capital markets, from Simmons & Simmons; and Patrick Mitchell, entertainment, sports & media from DLA Piper.
Noteworthy mandates included Spotify’s groundbreaking direct listing on the NYSE, advising the lead committee of creditors of Steinhoff on a €9bn restructuring, EQT on the financing for the negotiations to acquire Nestlé Skin Health for $10.2bn and advising CPPIB in the £4.77bn acquisition of Merlin, then the biggest ever take-private deal in the UK.
Since 2000, Latham has donated more than 3.5 million hours of legal services, worth $1.6bn, pro bono, while last year 93% of its lawyers worked on pro bono matters, with 14,000 hours donated in London across 95 new matters, including improving the legal outlook for stateless persons.
Latham earmarked London as a strategic opportunity some time ago and has been building its strength across all major practice groups in line with the vision. ‘The league table positions the firm occupies, the deals it has done, the clients it has won, and the prominent partners it has attracted are all testament to its continued growth and success in one of the most world’s most competitive legal markets,’ the firm declared.
Highly Commended – Paul Hastings
In 2019, Paul Hastings’ London arm built on its impressive track record of high-profile lateral hires, acquiring Steven Bryan from Hogan Lovells. Meanwhile, former London office head Ronan O’Sullivan was made global managing partner of the firm last year, underlining the key role London plays for this US powerhouse.
In October 2019, Paul Hastings moved into its new London office, taking the top two floors of 100 Bishopsgate, testament to the firm’s headcount and revenue doubling in the past five years.
Other highlights include Paul Hastings’ CSR and diversity work, as well as marquee mandates including advising CashEuroNet UK and US parent company Enova International on QuickQuid’s administration and the arrangers on a $3bn finance package underpinning Bain’s acquisition of Kantar from WPP.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Akin Gump has built on its dramatic growth in the City in recent years since its acquisition of Bingham McCutchen’s London practice in 2014 with another solid financial year in 2019, with London revenue up to over $125m against a global revenue increase of 6% from $1.07bn to $1.135bn.
Cooley’s London branch recorded another year of sharp revenue growth as its City outpost outpaced the West Coast firm’s global revenue growth for the third consecutive year in 2019, rising 9% to $72.9m just five years after its launch.
In another robust year for Boston’s Goodwin, its ever-expansive City arm has seen turnover lift 11% to $74m amid a year of aggressive investment. Notably, the firm’s City lateral tally since the start of 2019 also stood at 11, chiefly in the tech practice, and mainly from rival in the space, Taylor Wessing.
London outpaced global growth at Milbank, with revenue reaching $171.2m in the last financial year, an increase of 10% on $156m in 2018. Over the last five years, Milbank has upped City revenue an impressive 55%.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Disputes heavyweight Quinn has continued its impressive growth in the City, with 2019 revenue at the firm’s London office increasing 20% to £100.6m. The firm also saw profits rise 11% to £67.2m, putting the office’s profit margin at 67% and cementing its place as a market leader among litigation-only practices in London.
Paul Hastings was the only notable mover in the City lateral market over the past week, with the US firm securing a swift double hire to bolster its finance practice.
The firm announced today (24 August) that infrastructure partner Derwin Jenkinson would be joining the practice from Ashurst. Jenkinson leaves after a seven-year spell at Ashurst, where he advised on loan and capital markets across infrastructure M&A and project finance matters. Prior to Ashurst, Jenkinson cut his teeth as a senior associate in Clifford Chance’s capital markets practice.
The hire of Jenkinson followed that of Peter Hayes, who joined the firm from the City office of Shearman & Sterling last week. Hayes spent more than 20 years at Shearman, building a practice which focuses on loans, acquisitions, leveraged finance matters, and restructuring work. Hayes will now be reunited with fellow former Shearman partner Mei Lian, who joined Paul Hastings in May also after a two-decade stint at Shearman.
‘The start of this year has been sound in terms of cash collections and that strong balance sheet means we can keep hiring,’ Paul Hastings London chair Arun Birla (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘We don’t want to rest on our laurels; we could end up like a lot of firms I see just frozen in fear. We have strengthened in finance and restructuring, no doubt we will continue strengthening where we have been: litigation, finance and restructuring, and of course corporate and private equity.’
However, Paul Hastings has also seen its share of exits since the start of the year. In June, corporate partners Ed Harris and Leanne Moezi ended their short stint at Paul Hastings to return to Hogan Lovells, having only left the firm for Paul Hastings in July of the previous year.
Elsewhere, Ashurst enhanced its Australian presence, hiring infrastructure and energy partner Chris Skordas from the Dubai office of Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF). Skordas had been a partner at HSF since May 2016, having advised clients in sectors such as power and water, renewables, real estate, oil and gas, and transport and social infrastructure.
Commenting on the hire, Angus Foley, practice group head at Ashurst, said: ‘Chris has extensive experience in limited recourse financing and he will play a key role in developing Ashurst’s project finance team in Melbourne. His breadth of project finance experience, sector knowledge, reputation and network in Australia and the Middle East will be a valuable addition to our Infrastructure and Energy practice.’
Paul Hastings recorded another year of double-digit growth in its City office to surpass $100m, amid a more muted performance globally.
The firm grew turnover 16% in London to $107.2m, an improvement on last year’s 14% rise. Globally, revenue hit $1.26bn following a steadier 4% uptick, compared to a 9% rise over 2018. Profit per equity partner, meanwhile, rose 5% to $3.41m across the firm.
‘I think it’s reaping the rewards of the investments we have made in the corporate and finance teams,’ London office chair Arun Birla (pictured) told Legal Business. ‘We’ve been doing great deals over the year and clients continue to trust us with their matters and premium deals. Our strategy has always been to build on the strengths which resonate with our global practices.’
Such deals include advising Investindustrial on raising over €3.75bn in commitments for private equity investment in Europe, and the arrangers of a $3bn financing package for Bain Capital’s acquisition of Kantar from WPP. The firm also advised City Football Group on its $500m investment from Silver Lake Partners.
Meanwhile, lateral investments over the year included infrastructure and energy M&A partner Steven Bryan and private equity partners Ed Harris and Leanne Moezi, all from Hogan Lovells. The firm upped its fee earner headcount 10% to 115 and promoted three lawyers to partner in London during its last round.
Meanwhile, with European businesses adjusting to the new realities as coronavirus continues to spread, Birla added: ‘It’s definitely a headwind, but it’s completely unpredictable. We’re used to working in an agile way, through working at home, so we will be able to continue providing client services wherever we are. Because of our strategy across practices, we feel we are well hedged. It’s all about the future.’
In a slower week than usual for City laterals, Ashurst appointed a co-head of its planning team as Eversheds Sutherland made hires in London and Hong Kong and Clyde & Co lost a partner in Edinburgh.
Ashurst hired real estate partner Claire Dutch as co-head of the firm’s planning team in London. She joined from Hogan Lovells where she was head of the planning team, focusing on planning law, highway law and heritage law. Dutch also has experience in managing major regeneration projects, including energy and waste projects.
Meanwhile, Eversheds hired partner Simon Lightman to its commercial practice from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in London.
Lightman has experience in commercial, technology and data transactions with a focus on restructuring and renegotiation of legacy outsourcing arrangements as well as outsourcing deals and procurements. He has acted for customers and suppliers in the financial services sector as well as retail, telecommunications and aviation.
Eversheds also appointed Shepherd and Wedderburn’s banking and finance litigation head to its Edinburgh office.
Frood advises on personal injury, professional negligence, fraud and contentious trust. He has worked with retail banks, building societies and major clearing banks as well as with funders, insurers, auditors and advisers.
These appointments follow a number of recent lateral hires in the litigation & disputes practice including litigation partner Mark Hughes in Hong Kong in October, commercial dispute resolution partner Claire Stockford in London in July and real estate litigation partner Tekla Fellas in London in March.
Partner and head of the technology group Simon Gamlin told Legal Business: ‘We’ve been looking to grow our technology practice particularly in London for the last 18 months. Simon’s practice covers general commercial and technology transactions and that includes traditional IT outsourcing arrangements but also newer more disruptive technologies.
‘We have a steady flow of work in the financial services sector which Simon has expertise in, particularly in banking but he also offers opportunities across a range of other sectors particularly retail and telecoms,’ added Gamlin.
Partner and head of real estate dispute resolution, North at Eversheds Damian Hyndman told Legal Business: ‘Alastair provides us with a great opportunity to consolidate and expand our litigation offering in Scotland. He shares our drive and ambition. He is a talented all round litigator with a particular reputation for banking, finance and insolvency litigation, which complements our existing senior team well. He has demonstrated an ability to successfully grow teams, show strong leadership and he fits in well with the firm’s culture, which is incredibly important. We think his strong personal brand and reputation will help us to grow our global brand in Scotland.’
In another reversal for Clydes, partner Calum Mathieson has left the firm’s Edinburgh office to join Plexus Law. Mathieson acts on complex and large loss employer, public and product liability claims on behalf of insurers and has experience in managing health and safety prosecutions on behalf of corporate insurers.
Mathieson told Legal Business: ‘Plexus is a forward thinking, progressive firm. I’m here to concentrate on developing some of the relationships I already have with a number of insurers.’
‘Partners from Kennedy’s moved across this year and I’ll be working with them in terms of developing the good connections Plexus already has, particularly in the London market,’ added Mathieson.
Elsewhere, DLA Piper added Stephen Wong to its litigation and regulatory practice in Hong Kong. Wong joined the firm from Stevenson, Wong & Co where he was a partner since 2015. Wong has experience in regulation and corporate matters, particularly in regulatory and criminal investigations in connections with commercial crimes.
Head of DLA’s litigation and regulatory practice in Asia Kevin Chan commented: ‘Stephen’s hire is part of our continued investment in the regulatory space in Asia. Our clients increasingly require solutions which help them meet their compliance obligations, as well as manage risk. Stephen’s skillset and experience will be a valuable asset to our team, and will enable us to deepen our relationships with existing and new clients.’
Finally, Paul Hastings added capital markets partner Chaobo Fan from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to its Hong Kong office. Fan has a particular focus on securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions and has experience advising Chinese companies on their listings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Chair of Paul Hastings Seth Zachary commented: ‘We’re meeting our clients’ demand for help with increasingly complex, multi-jurisdictional transactions. The arrival of top talent like Chaobo adds further depth to our capital markets practice in Hong Kong, one of the world’s premier listing markets.’
Paul Hastings is shutting up shop in Milan as its office head leaves for a US rival while K&L Gates has seen an exodus of partners in Australia.
Bruno Cova has been a corporate partner at Paul Hastings for over 14 years and currently chairs the firm’s operation in Milan. However, Cova is set to leave the firm for Studio Legale Delfino e Associati Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Though the hires have not yet been finalised, Cova is expected to join alongside litigation partner Francesca Petronio.
In a statement, the firm commented: ‘We would like to express our gratitude for the contribution of Bruno and Francesca to our Milan office and to our firm’s service of our clients in Italy. Looking forward, we believe that our clients will be best served in this region working collaboratively with the leading independent firms in the market.’
Italy has proved to be a complex market for UK and US firms, with their models often hard to combine with a market dominated by smaller groups of veterans that run independent firms. Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Dentons and White & Case are among the more recent entrants in the region.
Elsewhere, K&L Gates has lost around 30 employment lawyers in Australia, with approximately 8 partners thought to be among the departures. The firm has a presence in Australia with four offices in Perth, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, having first entered the country through a merger with national firm Middletons in 2013.
A K&L Gates spokesperson commented: ‘We can confirm there have been some recent partner resignations from our Australian labour, employment and workplace safety team. As we are still in discussions with this team regarding their departure, we are unable to provide additional information at this time. Regardless, our Australian labour, employment and workplace safety practice will remain strong and will continue to be a core area of service for K&L Gates clients in Australia and globally.’
Alex Novarese, Legal Business: It has been a record period for Asian activity into Europe. How do you see the general trends?
Abhijit Mukhopadhyay, Hinduja Group: China is an issue, because the main difference between the Asian companies, European companies and Chinese companies is that Chinese companies are directly or indirectly state-owned.
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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.
Strategic deals have continued into September after a busy summer, with firms rallying to get deals over the line before a Brexit cliff-edge threatens to become a reality.
Slaughter and May has landed a mandate to advise Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) on a bid which, if successful, would see it acquire the London Stock Exchange (LSE) for £32bn. Partner David Watkins is leading the Slaughters team.
The board of LSE yesterday (11 September) issued a statement describing the proposed acquisition by HKEX as ‘unsolicited, preliminary and highly conditional,’ confirming it continued to make good progress on the Refinitiv deal. A Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer team led by partners Andrew Hutchings and Stephen Hewes are advising LSE on the Refinitiv deal and is likely to be mandated on this latest transaction.
Meanwhile Weil, Gotshal & Manges is advising Campbell’s Soup Company on the sale of its European chips business which includes Kettle Chips and Metcalfe’s skinny popcorn to Dublin-based Valeo Foods for $80m.
The Weil team was led by corporate partners Michael Aiello, James Harvey and Mike Francies. Partners Joe Pari, Chayim Neubort and Oliver Walker are advising on the tax while partner Barry Fishley is advising on intellectual property and technology.
CapVest and its portfolio company Valeo Foods were advised by a Willkie Farr & Gallagher team led by David Arnold and included associates Andrew Gray, Amelia Doughty, Michael Grant and Gabriella Denlew. Partner Jane Scobie led on the tax aspects.
In 2017, Campbell’s bought Kettle Chips producer Snyder’s-Lane for $4.87bn. The transaction is part of the company’s strategy to focus on its core products of canned soup and snacks. This deal follows Campbell’s sale of Danish manufacturer of baked snacks Kelsen Group to Belgian holding company CTH Invest for $300m.
Campbell’s will retain the Kettle brand business in the US and other area, while Valeo takes control of its UK, Europe and Middle East operation.
Weil has advised Campbell’s on a number of transactions this year, namely the recent sale of KKR to Arnott’s. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, regulatory approvals and consultations and is expected to close at the end of this year.
Elsewhere, Paul Hastings advised private equity firm Oakley Capital on its investment in the Italian high-end homeware business Alessi.
The Paul Hastings team was led by Anu Balasubramanian and included corporate associates David Prowse and Aimée Fabri from the London office and Juljan Puna and Giulia Fiorelli from the Milan office while Gatti Pavesi Bianchi advised on the financing aspects of the transaction.
Balasubramanian told Legal Business: ‘Given the macroeconomic climate in Europe and the political environment across the board with Brexit, I think there is concern that both the capital line as well as potential opportunities may not dry up necessarily but everything is going to potentially become a little more difficult. People are trying to get deals over the line which is probably why we had the busiest summer.’
Alessi was advised by a team from Italian firm Gattai, Minoli, Agostinelli Partners led by corporate partner Bruno Gattai and includes partners Federico Bal, Riccardo Agostinelli, Andrea Taurozziand associates Jacopo Bennard andJacopo Ceccherini.