Rajah & Tann names new heads of South Asia desk

Rajah & Tann Singapore has appointed Avinash Pradhan and Vikna Rajah as co-heads of its South Asia desk, succeeding deputy managing partner Kelvin Poon. Pradhan will oversee contentious matters, while Rajah will handle non-contentious matters.

The South Asia desk is a market-leading practice comprising lawyers with substantial experience in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the fields of arbitration, corporate finance, shipping and construction.

Pradhan is experienced in international arbitration, banking, corporate finance, hospitality, M&A, joint venture and shareholder disputes, as well as project disputes in the construction, infrastructure and energy sectors.

He currently sits on the Singapore International Arbitration Centre users’ council and is the deputy head of Rajah &Tann’s international arbitration practice. He also practices in Malaysia as a partner of Christopher & Lee Ong, part of the Rajah & Tann Asia network.

Rajah is a tax and private wealth lawyer, and heads the firm’s tax practice and co-heads the private client practice.

He also is currently chairman of the International Fiscal Association, Singapore branch. He is experienced in advising clients on complex income tax, stamp duty and property tax issues, with a track record of successfully resolving multimillion-dollar tax disputes.

Avinash Pradhan and Vikna Rajah

YKVN corporate partner moves to Tilleke & Gibbins in Vietnam

Southeast Asian regional firm Tilleke & Gibbins has strengthened its corporate and commercial practice in Vietnam, hiring Tram Ngoc Bich Nguyen from Vietnamese law firm YKVN as a partner in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tram, who spent 16 years at YKVN and had been a partner since 2019 based in Ho Chih Minh City, advises clients on domestic and cross-border M&A transactions involving Vietnamese companies engaged in a broad range of business sectors.

She focuses on foreign investment and corporate matters, M&A, real estate, e-commerce, fintech, and data privacy, with expertise in advising foreign and multinational clients on investment in Vietnam, ranging from market-entry stage to expansion, corporate governance, internal rules and regulations, fundraising, restructuring, commercial transactions and employment.

In the real estate sector, Tram has a strong legal background in development, construction, management, operational and lease activities. She also assists multinational corporations in their adherence to local data protection laws and advises on issues such as platform and social network operations, terms and conditions, vendor contracts, e-contracting, cybersecurity, and data privacy.

Tram Ngoc Bich Nguyen

Linklaters makes senior addition to its Milan office

Linklaters has made a senior addition to its Milan office, with the hire of corporate veteran Roberto Casati from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Casati will join the magic circle firm as a partner next week, in a move that will bolster its office in the northern Italian business and financial hub.

Prior to joining Cleary in 2004, Casati was Italian senior partner at Allen & Overy (A&O) and one of three co-heads of the magic circle firm’s global corporate management committee.

That move made waves in the Italian legal market at the time, as he joined Cleary as its first partner based full-time in the city, with the deal putting him at the top of the US firm’s lockstep.

Casati advised on a raft of major deals while at Cleary. Months after joining from A&O he secured a headline mandate for the firm, advising Italian industrial group Finmeccanica on its £1bn purchase of GKN’s stake in AgustaWestland.

During the global financial crash in 2008, he co-led the firm’s team advising Italian bank UniCredit on its deal to secure up to €6.6bn of funding, while in 2013 he advised top Italian football club Inter Milan on its takeover by a consortium of Indonesian investors.

Casati told Legal Week: “Linklaters is a perfect platform and I think their Italian practice is excellent. I hope I can bring a good level of seniority to the offering.”

Last year, Linklaters deepened its Italian offering when it opened a lower cost legal centre in the southern Italian city of Lecce. Alongside Milan, the magic circle firm also has a base in Rome.

Other international firms to make inroads in the country last year include DWF, which opened a Milan office with the hire of a 16-strong team from local independent Pavia & Ansaldo. Herbert Smith Freehills is also set to open an office in Milan this year, on the back of the hire of Simmons & Simmons Italy dispute resolution and intellectual property head Laura Orlando.

However, a number of law firms have downsized their presence in Italy in recent years, with firms including AshurstSimmons & Simmons and McDermott Will & Emery all closing bases in Rome during the past three years.

Cleary Gottlieb Rome partner Giuseppe Scassellati-Sforzolini said: “We thank Roberto for his significant contributions to the development of our Italian corporate practice during the past 14 years, and wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

john lewis

John Lewis recruits Smiths Group GC as new head of legal

Retail giant creates new partnership secretary role to supersede general counsel post.

The John Lewis Partnership has appointed a new legal head, following the departure of general counsel Keith Hubber.


Bracewell former London head exits for Akin Gump

Bracewell’s former London managing partner Julian Nichol is joining Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s City office, Leaders in Law has learned.

Latham & Watkins hires two Litigation partners from HL

Latham & Watkins has boosted its City office with the hire of two litigation partners from Hogan Lovells.

Co-head of global financial services litigation Jon Holland and banking litigation partner Andrea Monks will join the firm’s litigation and trial department in London.

Holland joined legacy Lovells in 1986 and is also qualified to practice in Hong Kong and Australia. He specialises in financial services investigations and litigation.

Monks’ practice includes advising banks on contentious regulatory investigations and acting for banks and corporates on anti-money laundering issues.

Latham London managing partner Jay Sadanandan said: “Jon and Andrea have outstanding reputations in high-stakes, market-defining disputes and investigations. “Their broad expertise knits well with our growing litigation and regulatory practices in the City and fits with our strategy of building top-notch litigation strength across the globe.”

Last year the US heavyweight set out ambitious targets to ramp up its presence in the London litigation market.

It is aiming to double the number of lawyers in its London litigation department during the next three to five years.

In October last year the firm hired CMS UK litigator Ian Felstead, following the appointment of Stuart Alford QC and Oliver Browne as co-chairs of the City disputes practice earlier in the year.

Other recent City litigation recruits include Martin Davies who joined in January 2017 from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and arbitration partner Sophie Lamb, who joined from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2016.

The firm’s most recent significant hire came in November, when DLA Piper international senior partner and global co-chair Juan Picon joined the firm in Madrid.

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Ropes & Gray hires white collar crime partner from Clifford Chance

Ropes & Gray has hired white collar crime partner Judith Seddon from Clifford Chance as co-head of its London international risk practice.

Seddon joined the magic circle firm in 2008 as a director in its business crime and regulatory enforcement group, before being made up to partner in 2014.

She specialises in advising clients on UK and cross-border regulatory and criminal investigations and prosecutions, with a particular focus on the financial services sector.

Fellow Ropes London international risk co-head Amanda Raad said: “After working alongside Judith for years, I have witnessed her substantive expertise and ability to exceed client expectations.  She is the perfect fit to help drive forward our growing global financial crime and international risk practice.”

Seddon’s hire comes after a number of partner walk-outs from Ropes’ London base last year.

The firm saw eight City partners depart during 2017, including funds partners Anand Damodaran, Michelle Moran and Monica Gogna to Kirkland & Ellis, K&L Gates and Dechert respectively.


Hogan Lovells appoints first German partner as chair

Hogan Lovells has appointed a new global chair of the firm to replace long-serving partner Nicholas Cheffings.

The firm has elected its first German partner in the role, with Hamburg IP litigator Leopold von Gerlach set to take the reins from May this year.

Von Gerlach fought off competition from three other Hogan Lovells partners. His term lasts for three years, with members able to serve as chair for two terms only.

The process sees Hogan Lovells’ board put forward a number of recommendations to partners following soundings from members. The partners then vote on that final recommendation.

As chair, von Gerlach will head Hogan Lovells’ 12-strong board, which advises the CEO and international management committee on strategy, management and operating decisions.

He has been a member of the board since May 2014, acting as the representative for continental Europe. He further worked on the firm’s partner advancement committee, with responsibility for the promotion of associates and counsel.

Von Gerlach replaces real estate specialist Cheffings, who first took up the role in 2012.


Linklaters appoints Moscow disputes head with HSF hire

Linklaters has hired Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner Vladimir Melnikov in Moscow as part of its global disputes expansion drive.

Melnikov joins the firm today (25 September) as Moscow disputes head from HSF, where he had been a partner since 2012.

His arrival will take Linklaters’ partner count in Moscow, its sole base in Russia, to 11, according to the firm’s website.

Melnikov’s experience includes advising Russian and international private and state-owned banks and corporates on cross-border litigation and arbitration, bankruptcy and asset recovery matters as well as regulatory investigations.

Linklaters Russia managing partner Dmitry Dobatkin: “The strengthening of our dispute resolution offering is one of the strategic development priorities for Linklaters’ Russian and CIS practice. We are confident that under Vladimir Melnikov’s leadership our dispute resolution practice will step up to a new level allowing us to protect the interests of our clients even more effectively.”

Speaking to Legal Week in March, Linklaters disputes head Michael Bennet said that he had been given a “mandate to grow” the disputes practice, which currently accounts for about 10% of the firm’s total partnership.

In addition to Moscow he identified Milan, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Lisbon as likely locations for further recruitment.

Hires for the firm’s disputes practice this year include Washington DC partners Doug Davison and Matt Axelrod, who joined from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and the US Department of Justice respectively, and Goldman Sachs managing director Susana Cao Miranda, who joined as a partner in London.

A spokesperson for HSF said: ”We can confirm that Vladimir Melnikov has retired from the partnership. We thank him for his contribution to the firm and wish him well for the future.”

HSF has eight remaining partners in Russia’s capital.

HSF has been a fruitful recruiting ground for Linklaters in the past. Previous laterals include arbitration partner Matthew Weiniger QC in 2015, Hong Kong disputes partner Gavin Lewis in 2013 and City financial regulatory partners Nikunj Kiri and Martyn Hopper, who also joined in 2013.



PwC Legal adds two partners in Singapore

PwC Legal has hired two partners from Ashurst and Taylor Vinters to join its Singapore office.

Finance and restructuring partner Carl Dunton and technology partner Henry Goodwin have both joined PwC Legal International, which was launched in December 2016 as a foreign law practice in Singapore, has grown its partner number with two new lateral hires.

Dunton was previously a partner of Ashurst’s Singapore office and had also practised at White & Case and Linklaters as an associate prior to his nine-year career with Ashurst. His practice focuses on banking, finance and restructuring. Following the departure of a raft of Singapore partners in recent months, Ashurst completed its formal law alliance (FLA) with Singapore firm ADTLaw.

Goodwin was formerly the head of UK firm Taylor Vinters’ Singapore office. He is experienced in advising clients in the TMT sector on venture capital, M&A and commercial sourcing transactions. At the same time as his departure, Taylor Vinters acquired a stake in Singapore IP and TMT boutique firm Via Law Corporation as the new platform for its growth in Singapore.

The latest additions means PwC Legal International now has four partners in Singapore. In September 2016, the accountancy giant hired Ashurst corporate partner Keith McGuire and Norton Rose Fulbright real estate partner Natalie Breen in Singapore as its first step to launch its first base in the city-state.

In March 2017, PwC’s legal network expanded again with the hire of King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partner David Tiang and O’Melveny & Myers partner Gigi Woo in Hong Kong. The two corporate partners have set up a local Hong Kong firm named Tiang & Co, which has entered into an association with PwC Legal International, the newly set up Singapore foreign law practice.

“The growth of our business is reflective of the rising market demand we are seeing in Asia and elsewhere for cross-territory integrated business solutions. I am confident that their extensive experience and expertise will further enhance the value we strive to bring to new and existing clients of the PwC network of firms,” said Tim Blue, PwC Legal’s Asia foreign legal practice leader based in Sydney. Blue was previously the managing partner of KWM.

PwC Legal also works with local firm Camford Law, which joined PwC’s global network in August 2014.