Legal Business

Watson Farley & Williams makes major City energy play with Clifford Chance Africa director

Watson Farley & Williams makes major City energy play with Clifford Chance Africa director

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) is set to hire Titus Edjua, director of Clifford Chance’s (CC) Africa group, to boost its project finance capabilities.

According to a source, one other lawyer is due to be joining WFW from CC as part of the same move, but this has not been confirmed by either firm. He is set to start at WFW on 1 April.

Edjua’s arrival will enhance WFW’s already-standout project finance practice, which in London includes heavyweight partners such as Evan Stergoulis and David Osborne, both of whom have considerable clout in the sector.

Edjua brings his own wealth of experience: in his 13 years at CC, he advised on a range of notable mandates, including representing Overseas Private Investment Corporation on the project financing of the expansion of the Olkaria III geothermal power complex in Kenya. In terms of other key work, he acted for a number of sponsors in connection with a 50MW solar PV project in Uganda.

For CC, it is another blow to its infrastructure offering. In August last year, the highly-regarded Brendan Moylan left the firm to join Latham & Watkins, after a 19-year tenure at CC.

Then in November, highly rated infrastructure private equity partner Amy Mahon left for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in another knock to the Magic Circle firm.

As one key hire comes through the door for WFW, another exits. Latham & Watkins announced today that it has hired WFW’s employment partner Anne Kleffman in Germany. Kleffmann, who had been a partner with WFW since 2013, will join Latham & Watkins’ Munich office.

Both WFW and CC declined to comment.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Watson Farley management get second term as half-year revenue comes in flat

Watson Farley management get second term as half-year revenue comes in flat

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has re-elected its management duo for a further five years.

Chris Lowe and Lothar Wegener (pictured right to left) have been re-elected as the UK firm’s managing partners for a second term, beginning 15 January next year. The pair have held the roles since January 2014, with WFW’s revenue up 60% over the last five years, one of the strongest performances among a top 50 UK practice.

The re-elections coincide with the 500-lawyer firm posting a 2018/19 half-year revenue of £85.9m, the same as last year. Fees paid were down slightly to £74.6m from £76.1m, however. Wegener said the firm was nevertheless on track to meet its annual growth target of at least 5%.

In July, WFW said revenue for the 2017/18 full-year was £162.9m, up 3% on the previous record-breaking period when revenue grew 20%.

Lowe commented: ‘We are energised at the prospect of a further term. Our re-election represents a strong commitment by the firm to its investment culture together with the ambition to achieve sustainable quality growth.’

WFW also announced today (14 December) that it had hired Ince & Co’s head of Greek law, George Iatridis, in Greece. He follows other former Ince partners Antonis Lagadianos and Evangelos Catsambas, who join WFW next year. The shipping and disputes specialist Ince is currently gearing up for a merger with listed law firm Gordon Dadds.

WFW, which specialises in serving the energy, transport and real estate sectors, has been one of the UK’s leading mid-tier firms in recent years, and was profiled alongside Fieldfisher and Osborne Clarke (OC) in Legal Business’ ‘Reversal of fortunes’ cover feature in 2017. Fieldfisher announced its half-year results last month, revealing a 26% uptick in revenue to £97m.

hamish.mcnicol@legalease.co.uk

For more on Watson Farley see last year’s cover feature, Reversal of fortunes (£)

Legal Business

Watson Farley using fewer smiley emojis as revenue growth falls back following strong run

Watson Farley using fewer smiley emojis as revenue growth falls back following strong run

One of the UK’s leading ‘pacey’ mid-tier firms, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW), has seen its revenue growth rate fall to 3% following a record-breaking year.

The energy, transport and real estate specialist recorded an above-trend revenue growth of 20% to reach £159.8m last year. A modest 3% increase this year, by contrast, pushes WFW’s top line to £162.9m.

Despite the slowdown, co-managing partner Chris Lowe (pictured) was pleased with the result, oddly defining his sentiment with emojis: ‘If the result was an emoji, it wouldn’t be the full beaming toothy smile one, it would be slightly less smiley.’

Lowe confirmed that WFW’s PEP figure dropped from last year’s figure of roughly £600,000 but attributed this to the 11 lateral hires the firm made – nearly double last year’s number. He also noted that the revenue figure was ‘currency neutral’, unlike last year when half of the firm’s 20% growth was due to exchange rate fluctuations.

Lowe told Legal Business: ‘It’s in line with what we budgeted for and it’s off the back of a strong, record-breaking year. We recognised that as the firm is growing we needed to make investments through promotions and lateral hires.’

The firm made some key lateral hires over the last year, notably regulatory specialist Thomas Ross from Ropes & Gray in December 2017. The new hire was part of an effort to build out the firm’s finance disputes practice, with an emphasis on white-collar matters.

Conversely, WFW lost four partners to Herbert Smith Freehills in April, including aviation specialist Rex Rosales.

Other major investments over the last year included an association in Singapore, through a formal law alliance (FLA) with local firm Wong Tan & Molly Lim (WTL). The FLA allows WFW integrated marketing, billing, client and legal services. Around 25% of the firm’s business comes from Asia.

WFW, one of three firms alongside Fieldfisher and Osborne Clarke (OC) to be profiled in our ‘Reversal of fortunes’ feature, has recorded results that compare unfavourably with its mid-tier rivals.

Fieldfisher laid down another outstanding marker with a 24% revenue growth rate, while OC saw turnover jump by 14%. For OC, it confirmed a five-year average of double-digit revenue growth.

On the comparison with OC and Fieldfisher, Lowe said: ‘In many ways we do compare ourselves to them, but one of the big differences this year is that their sector focuses in IT meant they benefitted from GDPR work. We weren’t afforded the same luxury in our sectors.’

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Partnership Perspectives

Partnership Perspectives

‘The Dickensian management role of closed doors is a thing of the past.’

Jonathan Kewley, partner and co-head of Clifford Chance’s tech group. Made up in 2017

What attracted you to partnership?

I’m working in tech, a space that didn’t exist 30 years ago. There are challenges facing clients that didn’t exist five years ago. The tech environment fits with the character traits of partnership. You have to be entrepreneurial, and it’s more exciting to be that way. It maintains interest.

Legal Business

Revolving Doors: Herbert Smith Freehills raids Watson Farley as firms strengthen in the City and abroad

Revolving Doors: Herbert Smith Freehills raids Watson Farley as firms strengthen in the City and abroad

Four Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) partners have decamped to Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) – including aviation specialist Rex Rosales – while lateral hires in the City and abroad continue.

The four-partner hire for HSF sees two moves to London and Singapore respectively. WFW’s aviation sector head Rosales will be joined by asset finance group specialist Jahnavi Ramachandran in London, while finance expert Siva Subramaniam and aviation partner Samuel Kolehmainen leave WFW to join HSF’s Singapore office.

In a statement, HSF global head of finance, real estates and projects Jason Ricketts said: ‘With unprecedented investment levels in aviation and other transport, infrastructure and projects across the globe, strengthening our asset finance practice makes good business sense’.

Meanwhile Hogan Lovells has launched a trade practice in London with a partner hire from Squire Patton Boggs. Aline Doussin will be the firm’s first dedicated trade partner in the City. She had been a partner at Squire Patton Boggs since 2014.

Global head of Hogan Lovells government regulatory practice Alice Valder said: ‘Hiring additional experienced trade partners in Europe has been a strategic priority for us.’.’

Elsewhere in the City, Stephenson Harwood has hired Catriona Berman to the firm’s real estate group. Berman joins from Goodwin Procter, which she joined in 2015.

Arnold & Porter also strengthened in London, with the hire of Jane Wessel from Crowell & Moring. Wessel holds experience in competition damages litigation and will enhance Arnold & Porter’s antitrust litigation practice.

John Schmidt, who leads Arnold & Porter’s London competition team, said: ‘Jane brings broad experience to our firm, enhancing our existing multijurisdictional and multilingual London team, and further bolstering our ability to serve clients globally’.

International hires last week included the arrivals of Jacques-Philippe Gunther and Adrien Giraud at Latham & Watkins in Paris and Brussels from Willkie Farr & Gallagher as the firm strengthened its antitrust practice on the continent.

Gunther brings experience advising clients on complex disputes before the European and French competition authorities, the European Court of Justice and the French courts. Giraud has experience practising in New York, Paris and Brussels, advising on an array of competition matters.

In Spain, Pinsent Masons further expanded with the appointment of public law specialist Pablo Dorronsoro. Joining from Baker Mackenzie, where he spearheaded the public law and infrastructure department, Dorronsoro will head up Pinsents public law office in Madrid.

Further afield, the standout hire in the US was Kirkland & Ellis bringing over experienced litigation partner Sandra Goldstein to its New York office from Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

DAC Beachcroft has also appointed a partner to its disputes group. Pedro Claros will co-head the department’s international arbitration practicee and joins from leading Spanish independent Cuatrecasas. DAC completed two senior partner hires in the same week, also adding Graeme Bell from the London office of Irish heavyweight Mason Hayes & Curran.

In the Asia Pacific, Clyde & Co appointed insurance and cybersecurity practitioner John Moran to its Sydney office. Moran joins from Norton Rose Fulbright, and his addition will deepen Clyde & Co’s insurance footprint in Australia.

Clyde & Co senior partner, Simon Konsta said: ‘John has a standout reputation in the insurance industry and a practice that runs across the core of our insurance business in Australia.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Established where we need it’: Singapore tie-up sees Watson Farley & Williams round off standout year  

‘Established where we need it’: Singapore tie-up sees Watson Farley & Williams round off standout year  

Watson Farley & Williams has capped off an impressive year of financial growth with international expansion, securing a formal law alliance (FLA) with Singaporean firm Wong Tan & Molly Lim (WTL).

The tie-up, which will be known as WFW & WTL, will allow WFW integrated marketing, billing, client and legal services thanks to the FLA. The FLA structure was introduced by the Singapore government to allow greater flexibility between local firms and their international colleagues.

WTL specialises in corporate and commercial, finance, dispute resolution and real estate, and has a client base comprising financial institutions, professional services firms, securities houses and public and supranational bodies.

WFW has run an office in Singapore since 1998, focusing on some of the firm’s core sectors, including maritime, aviation, energy and infrastructure. Typically, WFW’s Singapore office advises on corporate, finance and contentious matters.

Around 25% of WFW’s business comes from Asia, with Singapore the largest contributor. In the last financial year, WFW’s Singapore offering generated roughly 21m (SGD).

Chris Lowe, WFW’s co-managing partner, told Legal Business: ‘We will have the ability to provide a one-stop shop for legal advice on both English and Singaporean law in Singapore. We chose WTL because it is already a successful law firm with an established client base and we’ve already had some good referrals from them.’

Goh Mei Lin, managing partner of WFW’s Singapore office added: ‘They are established in areas where we needed it, in corporate, commercial and finance as well as dispute resolution. Because we’ve worked with each other for a long time, we don’t have that “getting to know each other” phase.’

It has been a productive end to the year for WFW, with the firm also announcing yesterday (14 December) that it has advised Teekay LNG Partners and its joint venture partner China LNG Shipping Limited (CLNG) on a $1.6bn financing of a construction project in South Korea. WFW’s team was led by partner David Osborne.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

For analysis of WFW’s standout performance, read ‘Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade’

Legal Business

Mid-pack pacesetters go early with half-year financials as performance matches expectations

Mid-pack pacesetters go early with half-year financials as performance matches expectations

Two of this year’s best-performing mid-pack firms in the Legal Business 100 (LB100), Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) and Fieldfisher, have continued their run of impressive form with their half-year 2017/18 results.

After quietly establishing itself as one of the strongest firms in the last financial year, WFW recorded a 13% jump in its 2017/18 half-year revenues. Turnover for the first six months of the financial year to 31 October grew to £76.1m, up from £67.6m the previous year. WFW co-managing partner Chris Lowe argued that the strong result was ‘clear evidence of the success of our industry sector-focused model despite a challenging macro-economic environment’.

Legal Business

Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade

Reversal of fortunes – how three mid-tiers outgunned the City elite for a decade

It is dominated by mid-sized firms while global players and City leaders lag far behind. Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) sits in the third spot. You must scroll down nearly 40 positions before finding the likes of Linklaters and Clifford Chance.

It is not the chart for revenue, profits or partner earnings. It is a table of major British law firms’ organic growth over the last ten years, marking the period since the financial crisis.

Legal Business

Watson Farley hires disputes partner from Ropes to widen finance coverage

Watson Farley hires disputes partner from Ropes to widen finance coverage

Expansive City player Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has bolstered its disputes practice with the hire of regulatory specialist Thomas Ross from Ropes & Gray.

Andrew Savage, head of litigation and arbitration at WFW, told Legal Business that Ross will start in his new role on Monday (4 December).

Ropes & Gray had previously hired Ross as a partner in April 2015 to spearhead the Boston-bred firm’s City-based commercial litigation practice some five years after its launch in London. He was previously a partner at K&L Gates, focused on finance, asset management and pension-related disputes.

The new hire is part of an effort by WFW to build out its finance disputes practice, with a particular emphasis on white collar and regulatory matters.

WFW has been one of the most expansive City law firms of recent years, hiking turnover by 60% since 2012 to hit nearly £160m. The 145-partner law firm remains best known for its shipping finance, transport and energy work, though financial regulatory remains one of the most in-demand areas for law firms.

‘Watson Farley has a track record of finance litigation and Thomas Ross will help us develop this further,’ said Savage. ‘He has a strong track record in advising on white collar and regulatory matters and he will help bolster this expertise for the firm – along with our competition litigation and antitrust capabilities – to meet growing client demand.’

Ropes has seen something of a changing of the guard at its City arm in the last 18 months with a number of UK partners moving to other firms. Among them are finance duo Mark Wesseldine and Fergus Wheeler, who joined King & Spalding, and securities specialist Chris McGarry, who left for White & Case. Ropes has nevertheless been one of the most upwardly-mobile players in the US in recent years with the 1,150-lawyer outfit generating $1.49bn in the 2016 financial year, enough to put it in the US top 20.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

For more on Ropes & Gray’s City arm see this year’s analysis piece (£)

Legal Business

Sector focus vindicated for Watson Farley & Williams as it maintains pace with 13% H1 revenue surge

Sector focus vindicated for Watson Farley & Williams as it maintains pace with 13% H1 revenue surge

After quietly establishing itself as one of the LB100’s strongest performers in the last financial year, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has recorded a 13% jump in its 2017/18 half-year revenues.

Turnover for the first half of the financial year to 31 October has grown to £76.1m, which is up from £67.6m on the previous year. WFW co-managing partner Chris Lowe (pictured) argued that the strong result was ‘clear evidence of the success of our industry sector-focused model despite a challenging macro-economic environment.’

The firm has historic strength in its principal areas of transport, energy and real estate and was able to pick up a significant mandate in July, advising a group of 27 international and local banks acting as financiers on a $14bn merger between shipping giants Hapag-Lloyd and United Arab Shipping Company (UASC).

In a statement, co-managing partner Lothar Wegener added: ‘The considerable investment the firm has made into our business services over the past few years, alongside our strategy of targeted lateral hiring of high-calibre lawyers in our specialist sectors of transport, energy and real estate, continue to pay off.’

The half-year results build on positive figures from the last full financial year, where global revenues jumped 20% from £131.2m to £159.8m. At the time, Lowe said that around 10% of the growth was in real terms, while the remaining 10% was due to exchange rate fluctuations. Lowe also confirmed that the firm’s profit per equity partner (PEP) increased from around £500,000 in 2016 to £600,000 in 2017.

However, WFW has not been able to match the half-year performance of fellow mid-tier pacesetter Fieldfisher, which this month announced a strong 20% rise in H1 turnover from £64.1m to £76.8m.

Fieldfisher also excelled in its full-year financial performance for 2016/17, becoming the best-performing firm for revenue growth year-on-year in the LB100, with turnover up 36% to £165m.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk