Latham & Watkins

Latham & Watkins to open office in South Korea

Latham & Watkins has received a license from the Korean Ministry of Justice to open a foreign legal consultant office in Seoul.

US giant set to become 28th foreign law firm on the ground in Korea.

Dentons merges with Maclay Murray & Spens

Dentons is set to merge with Maclay Murray & Spens from Scotland, adding 258 lawyers to its UKMEA base and bringing the firm’s global headcount up to 8,695 lawyers.

Through this merger, which will complete later this year, Dentons will gain a presence in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and will add headcount to its London base.

According to the UK 200 2016, Maclays had 56.71 full time equivalent fee earners in London, of which 14.5 were partners and 7.8 were full-equity partners during the 2015/16 financial year. The entire team is expected to move to Dentons’ London office by the end of this calendar year.

As part of the deal, four of Maclays’ management team will join the Dentons UKMEA board, including Maclays chief executive Kenneth Shand and chairman Michael Livingston. Shand will also join the regional management committee, which currently has five divisions.

Maclays had previously been in merger talks with Bond Pierce (now Bond Dickinson since its merger in 2013), and was rumoured to have engaged in talks with Addleshaw Goddard and US firm Locke Lord.

Talking to The Lawyer, Shand admitted that the firm “had been interested in expanding its proposition for some time”.

“We are quite a cautious bunch in some ways but ambitious, and we believe we have found a genuinely fascinating opportunity here.

“It will bring us the much greater reach and scale both nationally and internationally that we feel we need to expand our client offering and grow new clients. It will also bring us the firepower to bring tech efficiencies to the business to develop the service we can offer. It expands the career opportunity for our people and people we want to recruit going forward.”

Dentons UKMEA CEO Jeremy Cohen said that his firm had “toyed” for a while to be in Aberdeen to support its oil and gas practice, and said that both firms had a good practice fit, with banking, financial services, energy and infrastructure capabilities.

“For some time we have wanted to grow in the UK,” he said. “Maclays is a great quality firm both in the talent of the lawyers and client base that we can take the Dentons message to.”

Shand said that this merger will allow the firm to be “the only significant player in Scotland” with a presence across all continents. “We will have a real advantage on Scottish national firms,” he said. “It will add global capability to a high quality-combined London and regional model.”

Both Shand and Cohen confirmed that “some partners” would be locked in as part of the merger deal, but would not confirm how many or for how long.

Maclays has yet to provide financial figures for the 2016/17 year, but in the previous round the firm suffered one of the biggest drops in revenue per lawyer, 10 per cent, while revenue per partner dropped by 4 per cent.

The firm’s net profit dropped by 20 per cent last year to £10m, putting it 31.5 per cent lower than it was in 2011/12 and 37.54 per cent lower than in 2007/8.

The firm dropped in equity partner numbers by 13 per cent from 46.6 to 40 during the year and profit per equity partner dropped by 12.4 per cent to £248,000.

Turnover rose by 3 per cent to £44.8m, leaving the firm still 4 per cent below its most recent high of £46.9m in 2011/12 and 27 per cent below the £61.1m posted in its best-ever year, 2007/08.

 

WFW hires partner duo from Orrick and White & Case

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has taken two partners from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and White & Case.

White & Case partner Louise Mor is joining the firm after six years as a partner at the firm.

She was a member of the US firm’s asset finance practice and joins WFW as a partner in its transport sector group.

Orrick partner Colin Graham is also joining WFW and will be a partner in the firm’s oil and gas sector group, specialising in corporate law.

Graham was a partner at Orrick for nearly three years, having joined from Hogan Lovells where he was of counsel.

Last month WFW announced its global turnover had risen to just shy of the £160m mark in another year of growth at the firm.

The firm’s turnover has been growing steadily over the years, rising 5 per cent in 2015/16.

Mor’s departure from White & Case leaves the firm with three asset finance partners based in London – Adrian Beasley, Justin Benson and Alison Weal.

Orrick meanwhile added to its London energy and corporate capability in 2016, hiring Andrew Kurth partner Peter Roberts in 2016.

Greenberg Traurig to take on six-strong KWM team

Greenberg Traurig has confirmed that it plans to take on a six partner team from King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), after dismissing rumours of a takeover of KWM’s EUME business last month.

The hires, which are subject to “final arrangements”, will include private equity fund partners Steven Cowins and Marc Snell, corporate partners Michael Goldberg and David Fitzgerald, real estate transactional partner Matthew Priday and tax partner Clive Jones. All focus on the real estate sector.

A Greenberg Traurig spokesperson said: “Under Paul Maher’s leadership, we have built a first class office in London, with strong M&A, corporate, tax, capital markets and other areas, including real estate.

“This move will add resources in major firmwide strategic areas of real estate, private equity, M&A and tax.”

These hires come after The Lawyer revealed that Greenberg Traurig joined Dentons in talks to potentially take on chunks of the KWM EUME business in a package deal. The negotiations between KWM and Dentons fell through soon after.

On Monday (12 December) KWM told lawyers and staff they will be paid in January but salaries cannot be guaranteed beyond then.

It is understood news about the February wage slip was communicated to lawyers in the event a successful takeover does not take place.

Last week Barclays took out a second debenture over KWM’s assets that is understood to be more “all encompassing” than the debenture it secured over the summer. The extra layer of security came as it became increasingly likely KWM would enter into a pre-pack administration.

KWM admitted it would need to find a buyer for its EUME arm in November as it emerged its £14m China rescue deal had failed. Only one fifth of the remaining 130 EUME partners agreed to the terms of the deal, which included signing 12-month lock-ins.

The cash injection was needed for the firm to pay its rental liabilities, meet its financial obligations to lenders and pay its January tax bill.

KWM first agreed to improve security around its borrowings from Barclays in the summer, signing a debenture with the lender on 27 July.

The debenture created a series of fixed and floating charges over the firm’s assets, including its revenue stream and real estate.

It also stated the bank can appoint an administrator if KWM fails to meet its financial responsibilities.

In July the firm first voted through a recapitalisation plan, with 98 per cent of partners agreeing to commit in excess of £14m to the business. KWM also asked salaried partners to contribute capital for the first time.

The capital call failed following the shock resignations of four big-hitter partners including head of investment funds Michael Halford and former managing partner Rob Day.

A number of partners have followed in their wake, including former EUME head William Boss, who is moving to Addleshaw Goddard, and head of litigation Craig Pollack, who is understood to be moving to Covington & Burling.

Global managing partner Stuart Fuller also stepped down from his role in recent weeks, returning to fee-earning in Australia. The process to find his successor is ongoing and is due to complete before the end of the year.

KWM is being advised on its restructuring plans by AlixPartners and CMS Cameron McKenna partner Rita Lowe.

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Morgan, Lewis & Bockius surfaces as potential US suitor for KWM

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has held discussions with US firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius about a global tie-up, it has emerged.

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It is understood that talks with Morgan Lewis have taken place during the past few months, with the US firm’s chair Jami Wintz McKeon involved for her firm, opposite KWM global managing partner Stuart Fuller.

One option on the table was a multi-profit centre union, using a Swiss verein structure.

However, is thought that the resignation of high profile City funds partner Michael Halford from KWM may have caused discussions to cool, and it is unclear whether they are still continuing in any form.

KWM has long sought a deal in the US to complete its global footprint, though given the difficulties in finding a suitable partner it had previously switched its focus to a best friends approach.

Were a union to happen, the merged firm would have offices across the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. KWM posted flat global revenue of $1.02bn (£714m) for 2015, while Morgan Lewis posted revenue of $1.844bn.

News of the talks comes as KWM’s new European management team has flown to Asia to speak to the firm’s Chinese leadership about finding a way forward for its European arm, which is under pressure following a series of high profile partner exits.

Europe, UK and Middle East (EUME) managing partner Tim Bednall and senior partner Michael Cziesla – who were voted into their new roles last month – are understood to be in China to discuss options for the European partnership, which could include the Chinese partnership providing some form of financial assistance to the legacy SJ Berwin business.

Halford resigned from the firm last week with three other London partners, leading to KWM halting a planned recapitalisation. The programme was intended to bolster the EUME business – which has debts of £35m – by bringing in more than £14m via a partner capital call. An assessment of the financial impact of the recent resignations is expected to be completed in around three weeks’ time.

Halford was one of four of KWM’s highest billing London partners to resign last week, alongside private equity partner Jonathan Pittal, corporate partner Andrew Wingfield and former managing partner Rob Day. The quartet are understood to have been bringing in around £9m in annual billings.

Departures from the firm are continuing, with news emerging today (4 November) that Squire Patton Boggs has hired London energy partner Neil Upton alongside a team of four lawyers, while earlier this week it was announced that a five-lawyer Germany team – including Germany banking and finance head Sabine Schomaker – is leaving to join Taylor Wessing in Frankfurt.

Morgan Lewis is no stranger to circling firms in financial difficulty. In late 2014, the US firm absorbed the bulk of now-defunct Bingham McCutchen, while it has also hired large groups of lawyers from defunct firms such as California’s Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Howrey and Thelen.

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Ashurst Asia departures continue as Singapore head exits

Ashurst has seen a raft of partner exits in the past few days, including Singapore managing partner Shaun Lascelles and former Hong Kong managing partner Lina Lee. 

Lee has joined Allen & Overy along with former Ashurst Hong Kong partner Jonathan Hsui. Lee stepped down as Ashurst’s MP in July 2016, with Joshua Cole taking over, while Lascelles joined Ashurst last year from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. 

Other Asia-based partners to depart recently include Singapore partner Keith McGuire, who joined PwC Legal and Hong Kong partner Bertie Mehigan, who joined local outfit Howse Williams Bowers.

It is understood that London finance partner Nigel Ward has left for Paul Hastings, while Ashurt’s firm’s Abu Dhabi head Alastair Holland has joined U.S. firm Curtis Mallet-Prevost, all in the past few days. 

Ashurst recently announced a 19 percent drop in profit per equity partner of 603,000 pounds ($797,690) in the past financial year, down from 747,000 pounds ($988,183) the year before.

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Cravath and Sullivan lead on AT&T’s $85bn takeover of Time Warner

A quartet of US firms have won top roles on AT&T’s $85.4bn (£70bn) acquisition of Time Warner.

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Telecoms target Time Warner turned to a team from Cravath Swaine & Moore led by M&A partners Faiza Saeed and Eric Schiele.

Antitrust advice was provided by partner Christine Varney.

The acquirer AT&T, which owns CNN and HBO, sought advice from Sullivan & Cromwell which fielded a team led by corporate partners Joseph Frumkin, Eric Krautheimer and Melissa Sawyer.

Tax advice was provided by partner Andrew Mason, with executive compensation, intellectual property and environmental matters handled by partners Matthew Friestedt, Nader Mousavi and special counsel Matthew Brennan respectively.

Financing partners Neal McKnight and Ari Blaut were also involved, along with litigation partners William Monahan, Adam Paris and Steven Peikin.

All Sullivan partners were based in New York, bar Krautheimer, Mousavi and Paris.

Arnold & Porter is also understood to have won work on the takeover for AT&T on the competition side.

AT&T’s financial advisers JP Morgan and Perella Weinberg looked for legal counsel from Weil Gotshal & Manges partners Michael Aiello and Matthew Gilroy. They were supported by banking partner Morgan Bale, also in New York.

Time Warner is known for having one of the largest film and TV studios in the world, while AT&T is the US’ third largest cable provider.

The deal is expected to go through rigorous competition checks, with the tie-up the biggest merger to be announced this year.

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Korea’s Lee & Ko opts for Lex Mundi after Dentons offer

Korea ‘big five’ firm Lee & Ko has joined the ranks of global referral network Lex Mundi, two months after reportedly being approached by Dentons to join its Swiss verein network.

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In July, sources close to the market said Dentons’ management team had held talks with the country’s top six players including Kim & Chang, Bae Kim & Lee and Lee & Ko in recent months.

A source close to the firm said although partners were impressed by Dentons’ strategy, the negotiations were bad timing as it remains unclear how non-traditional firms are going to practice Korean law as the market slowly opens up.

“It’s still a little early for thinking of a single domination strategy,” a partner said, “but things can change over the next months and years.”

In the meantime, Lee & Ko has been confirmed as Lex Mundi’s exclusive Korean member, and it is understood that the attraction for the firm was the amount of referral work that it would receive from the combination of law firms in the network. The firm is also a member of the World Services Group (WSG) legal network and has worked with Interlaw.

Lee & Ko managing partner Jae Hoon Kim stated: “Our Lex Mundi membership will enhance our ability to serve our clients and contribute to their success, particularly our clients with global operations.  We look forward to working with Lex Mundi’s outstanding member firms around the world.”

hong kong

Hong Kong boutique takes team from Ashurst

Hong Kong boutique Howse Williams Bowers (HWB) has hired a team of restructuring and insolvency lawyers from Ashurst, led by partner Bertie Mehigan.

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Mehigan’s appointment continues a year of key partner hires for HWB, which has added Janet Lee from the Hong Kong government’s Lands Department, Antony Yung from JP Morgan and Christopher Yu from Goodwin Procter since the April this year.

Mehigan, who moved to Ashurst’s Hong Kong office in 2014 along with two other partners from O’Melveny & Myers’ Singapore office, had previous stints with White & Case and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Singapore.

His departure comes just a month after Doo-Soon Choi left Ashurst’s Hong Kong office for Mayer Brown JSM.

Ashurst also lost four partners in London to Paul Hastings and Latham & Watkins.

dublin

Kennedys becomes latest firm to expand Dublin office

Kennedys is set to double its office space in Dublin following a report that suggested some British businesses would look to leave the UK following Brexit.

The firm will move from its base in Ulysses House in the Dublin 1 district to a new 13,300sq ft office at Bloodstone Building on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2. It will move to the new office in November.

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Kennedys opened its doors in Ireland in 2011 when it merged with long-standing associated firm O’Hare O’Connor Walshe. The office is led by partner Philip O’Connor and has around 50 lawyers and staff, including nine partners.

The decision to expand the office followed news a number of insurers had signalled their interest in relocating out of the UK in the event they lose passporting rights following Brexit. Insurers QBE, Admiral and Beazley are all considering Dublin as a potential hub for their European businesses.

Kennedys also commissioned its own report before the EU referendum that predicted businesses would begin to relocate from the UK within two years of an ‘out’ vote.

Kennedys Dublin head Phillip O’Connor said that at this pace, the firm’s Irish base “could double in size again”.

“The fact that we are growing in size is probably the first indication in the economy about the Brexit implications,” he said.

“Kennedys in Ireland has got a lot busier in the insurance practice, which has been fed considerably by our UK insurer clients and Brexit has accelerated some of those concerns.

“Running in tandem we have gotten really busy in transactions. A lot of investors want to have a base in the EU.”

Senior partner Nick Thomas said: “Our growth is always predicated on client need and with insurers looking to Dublin in the wake of Brexit, it makes perfect sense for us to ensure we’re equipped to work with them wherever in the world they need our help. We’ll be looking to expand our Dublin office further over the coming months with senior hires.”

Last month it was revealed that BLM is also set to boost its Dublin office space by 60 per cent as part of an increased focus on the region. The firm currently occupies 3,500sq ft but is considering increasing its office space to 5,500sq ft when its lease comes to an end.

Pinsent Masons has also instructed a commercial property agent in Dublin to find it 10,000sq ft of office space in the city. An office of that size could potentially house between 50 to 100 people but should the firm decide to enter the Republic of Ireland it has been suggested the firm would launch with around 20 lawyers.