Ward McKimm, the high yield star that made Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer break its lockstep, is leaving the firm after three years.
In a shock lateral move, McKimm is rejoining his old firm Shearman & Sterling as a partner in the capital markets practice.
At the time of his joining Freshfields, The Lawyer reported that a condition of bringing McKimm on board was to tweak the firm’s lockstep to offer him superpoints equivalent to those handed to partners hired in Freshfields’ New York office.
The firm altered its 17.5-50 point lockstep in 2014 allowing a small group of partners to earn between 10 and 30 per cent over the plateau level, which at the time stood at £1.63m for UK partners.
His exit comes after a lockstep revamp at the magic circle firm, which took effect at the start of the this financial year.
McKimm will be Freshfields’ second high-profile exit since December, after private equity heavyweight David Higgins joined Kirkland & Ellis.
McKimm will rejoin Shearman after a seven-year absence, which included a stint at Kirkland & Ellis. McKimm moved to Kirkland in 2011 as part of a push by the firm into the banking market. He was previously co-head of Shearman’s corporate group.
At Freshfields, McKimm was the co-head of the European leveraged finance group and led the high-yield practice on the issuer and sponsor side.
At Kirkland McKimm acted for a number of global banks and financial institutions including BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Standard Chartered Bank, Citigroup, UBS and Bain Capital. At Freshfields, he advised Carlson Wagonlit Travel, CVC Capital Partners, The Carlyle Group and Oaktree Capital Management.
Shearman’s senior partner David Beveridge said: “We are delighted to welcome Ward back to the firm. He has an excellent reputation in the market and will be a fantastic addition to our London office.”
David Dixter, head of the firm’s European capital markets practice, said: “Clients continue to turn to us to help them navigate the most complex and innovative transactions, and Ward will be a major asset in providing our clients with a top of market legal service.“
Freshfields London head of transactions Julian Pritchard said: “Ward helped us build out the high yield piece of our leveraged finance team which advises many of the most sophisticated financial investors in the market.
“We are proud that our market-leading private equity and leveraged finance team supports these clients in delivering outstanding results. We wish Ward well in his new role.”