HSF has re-elected James Palmer to a second term

erbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has re-elected James Palmer to a second term as the firm’s chair and senior partner until 2021.

He faced competition from Mark Shillito who stepped down from his position as UK/US head of disputes to challenge Palmer.

Shillito’s resignation as practice head came as a shock and opened the door for Damien Byrne Hill to step up to his former position.

James Palmer HSF
James Palmer

The race was a markedly different contest from Palmer’s first time running. In 2014, four challengers rivalled him for the role with ex-HSF Australian deputy senior partner Mark Crean falling to Palmer at the final hurdle.

Crean left the firm one year later to join Jones Day as the firm’s head of M&A. Of the four who stood in the 2014 election, only Palmer remains at the firm.

Palmer said: “I look forward to working with all our colleagues and our leadership team in pursuing our strategy and ambitions. The firm continues to perform well in our markets globally and remains superbly placed to strengthen still further.”

Palmer’s reappointment will not be the only election at the firm in 2018.

HSF partners voted to overhaul its lockstep at the end of last year, though a vote will be held to expand its remuneration committee. An annual vote will also take place as the firm looks to fill up to four spots on its global council.

Palmer sits on the remuneration committee alongside HSF CEO Mark Rigotti who said changes to to the committee will be central to its strategic shift in focus toward Asia and EMEA.

On Palmer’s election win, Rigotti said: “The re-election of James will bring a degree of stability and continuity to the implementation of our strategy.  I look forward to continuing to work closely with James in our vision to become a world class professional services business bringing together the very best people to achieve the best results for our clients.”

Since joining legacy Herbert Smith in 1986, Palmer has spent his entire career at the firm as a corporate lawyer. He was made up to partner in 1994, taking over as global head of corporate in 2010.

His key clients at the firm include FTSE100 heavyweights BP, British American Tobacco and National Grid.

The announcement follows quickly on from real estate partner Jeremy Walden taking over from Don Rowlands as head of the UK/EMEA practice.

He will work alongside David Sinn who heads up the Australia/Asia real estate team.

Credit Suisse finalises new global legal panel

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has finalised its new global legal panel, with four firms winning places on the roster.

Ashurst, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Latham & Watkins have all been appointed to the line-up, which replaces its EMEA and UK panels.

In addition to the global panel, which is expected to handle the bulk of the bank’s work, Credit Suisse has also appointed a number of firms to sub-panels covering practices such as employment, litigation, M&A and securities work. It also has a separate panel for Switzerland, and countries in Asia where it may require specific local expertise.

Credit Suisse’s Zurich-based corporate general counsel Julian Gooding led the review, with the global panel expected to run for two to three years.

The move to a global panel structure is in line with wider organisational changes at Credit Suisse, with the bank moving away from regional divisions in 2016.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: “The driving principle of how we now run our panels is to manage our firm relationships in a holistic way more consistent with our organisational strcture. We’re happy that what we’ve put in place is a more coherent way of managing firms – we want to make sure all parties get the most out of the relationships by managing them globally.”

The bank’s review had been delayed by several months, with firms initially hoping to have heard if they had been successful in August last year.

Confirmation of Credit Suisse’s panel comes after fellow banks Societe Generale and Santander recently completed their international legal panels.

Societe Generale appointed DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright and Mayer Brown among its ‘preferred’ advisers.

The French bank’s panel comprises 12 full-service firms – split into eight ‘preferred’ firms and four ‘selected’ firms – alongside six others appointed specifically to handle large litigation and tax advice.

Santander, meanwhile, has agreed terms with 46 firms, understood to include global firms DLA Piper, Baker McKenzie and Dentons, and US firms including Latham & Watkins and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Jones Day private equity star exits for White & Case

Jones Day private equity heavyweight partner Mike Weir has joined White & Case in London.

Weir, who was at Jones Day for over four years, will join his new firm today. Prior to Jones Day, he worked at Berwin Leighton Paisner for almost four years, making partner in 2012. He also worked at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher from 2005 to 2010 as an associate and was at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for three years before that.

White & Case said that Weir will be “instrumental” in helping to build out other key investor segments, including alternative capital providers, family offices and real estate.

His practice focuses on advising technology and real estate private equity bodies, such as state-owned investment funds that invest in stocks and bonds, large institutional real estate funds and buyout funds that purchase companies.

This is the first hire since the exits of private equity co-head Richard Youle and partner Katja Butler, who joined Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Weir’s hire plays into the firm’s 2020 strategy, which White & Case executive committee member Oliver Brettle says includes reinforcing the firm’s private equity industry group and global M&A practice with “leading teams in strategic regions, particularly the UK”.

New hires in line with the firm’s 2020 strategy include Ropes & Gray finance partner Chris McGarry, while Linklaters senior associate Daniel Turgel also joined at the start of the year to take advantage of the Israeli corporate market. Other new joiners in 2018 include Ashurst corporate partner Dominic Ross and Weil Gotshal & Manges litigation partner Hannah Field-Lowes.

White & Case’s financial results, released last month, show a 13 per cent jump in revenue over 2017 to $328m (£236.8m) in line with double digit growth globally.

Baker McKenzie opens office in Los Angeles

Baker McKenzie has opened a new office in Los Angeles with the hire of a five-partner team from Hogan Lovells.

Hogan Lovells litigation partner Barry Thompson, employment partner Robin Samuel and litigator Joe Ward will launch the firm’s office in the city.

Thompson was an equity partner at legacy Hogan’s Los Angeles office for six years, and led the firm’s California labour and employment practice. Samuel was an office administrative partner at Hogan Lovells for almost eight years, appointed after the legacy firm joined with Lovells. He was a partner at Hogan & Hartson for almost nine years before that, and was an associate at Crosby Heafey Roach & May.

Ward was a senior attorney at Hogan Lovells for over three years, having joined from Jones Day in 2014 where he was an associate.

The remaining two partners, litigators Mark Goodman and Ethan Miller, will be based in the San Francisco office.

Goodman was at Hogan Lovells for over five years, having joined from Squire Patton Boggs in 2012. Miller was at Hogan Lovells for over five years, having joined from Squire Sanders in 2012 where he was a partner since 2004.

Bakers North America managing partner Colin Murray said: “Given our growing presence on the West Coast, and the fact that we already had attorney teams living and working in Southern California, we are solidifying our roots in a market where many California-based Fortune 500 companies have a presence. Los Angeles is also an increasingly important gateway for our clients in Asia.”

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.”

Bryan Cave posts falling revenue and partner profits before BLP merger

Bryan Cave saw both revenue and profit per equity partner (PEP) dip in its last full financial year before its merger with Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), a deal the US firm is expecting to turn its financial performance around.

The St Louis-based firm firm saw gross revenue dip 2.5% to $592.6m in 2017 as PEP fell nearly 7% to $804,000. Revenue per lawyer remained flat at $700,000.

Bryan Cave’s top-line figure has now fallen four straight years by a total of 7.8% since it topped out at $643m in 2013.

A firm spokeswoman issued a brief statement noting that Bryan Cave is “very pleased” with the “extremely strong” financials.

A decrease in mortgage litigation work and slightly shrinking headcount (down 2.6% to 847 lawyers) partly accounted for the gross revenue dip, the statement said.

“We expect the pending combination with BLP to grow revenues and boost profitability as a direct result of our improved ability to provide our clients with broader and deeper legal services,” said Bryan Cave in its statement.

This year will be the last set of financial figures reported by Bryan Cave before it becomes Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP). That merger is expected to create a combined firm of some 1,600 lawyers with more than $900m in gross revenue.

A firm with $900m in gross revenue last year would have ranked 37th in the most recent Am Law 100 list and 44th in the Global 100 rankings, directly between McDermott Will & Emery and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in both tables.

For its part, BLP saw revenue rise 7% to £272m (roughly $376m at current exchange rates) during 2016-17, its last full financial year, as PEP fell nearly 8% to £630,000 ($871.000).

Bryan Cave last year trimmed its non-equity partner ranks by 6.2% down to 166. The firm’s equity partner ranks grew by 2.5% to 204, up from 199 the year before, helping to explain some of the PEP decrease.

BLP’s partners will be interested in that figure, as the combination they are entering into is one of the few fully financially integrated transatlantic law firm mergers. In an earlier interview, Bryan Cave chair Therese Pritchard said the single-profit pool structure made it easier to reward partners for working together across geographies than a Swiss verein construction.

“In our mind it provides the incentives to find the best people in the firm to service the clients’ needs,” Pritchard said. “And we think at the end of the day that is a better way to operate. We are all in it together.”

Allen and Overy logo

Allen & Overy litigation chief stands down after 10 years

Allen & Overy (A&O) has made its first change in litigation leadership for over a decade, with global head Tim House handing over to Karen Seward.

The move follows House’s appointment last year as A&O’s US senior partner. House relocated to New York for the role, but said he would continue as the firm’s global litigation chief returning to London on a monthly basis.

He put his name forward in the firm’s management election race in 2016, but lost out to senior partner Wim Dejonghe.

The global litigation head role will be taken on by employment partner Karen Seward, who joined the magic circle firm in 2000 from Pinsent Masons.

She was tasked with building an employment practice at A&O, which now consists of eight partners in London.

It is the first major leadership shift at the helm of A&O’s litigation department, which has been run by House for over 10 years.

Seward, who will start her new role in May this year, said: “Tim will be handing over the reins of an incredibly successful practice.

“Tim has brought us a very long way over the past ten years, while revenues have tripled. The core values he personified, and that have underpinned that success, will remain and we will continue to seek out the most talented, diverse and ambitious litigators for even greater success.”

House said: “Karen has an exceptional practice advising boards and institutions on their most difficult senior executive and employment issues, has excellent relationships with key clients of the firm, and has a bold vision for the future strategic direction of the litigation practice.

“Karen will be a formidable leader for a changing world.”

Baker & Mckenzie

Baker McKenzie to integrate eight EMEA offices into single profit pool

Baker McKenzie is set to bring its London office and seven others offices across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) into a single profit pool, taking the firm a step closer to full financial integration in the region.

The newly integrated business will be led by Bakers’ Brussels-based global antitrust head Fiona Carlin, who will take up the role on 1 July 2018 when the integration goes live. She was elected to the post earlier this month.

The new structure will have about 1,000 lawyers and include 250 partners, with London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Madrid, Johannesburg, Bahrain and Qatar all sharing profits. Key parts of Bakers’ European business – such as Paris and Germany – will not be included.

The move towards greater financial integration, which is part of the firm’s 2020 strategy, marks a significant departure for Bakers, which has faced criticism in the past for its loosely integrated ‘franchise’ model.

Baker McKenzie global chair Paul Rawlinson said: “Integration is happening in the firm at all levels, to align ourselves around our global brand. Regional integration is one aspect of that and it is a policy which seeks to make it easier for our offices in the regions to work across borders. We see this as a continuing implementation of our entire global strategy through to 2020.”

One London partner said: “There has been criticism levelled at the firm that we’re not financially integrated. People say Bakers is just a franchise with a few offices thrown together. Anything that is done to address that has to be a good thing.

“The disappointing thing is we haven’t got more offices in there. If it was a true success we would have everyone in a single profit centre. I suppose let’s see how it works with this first wave of offices.”

Further offices are expected to join the pool over time, with Carlin’s role expected to include moving the EMEA region closer to full financial integration.

The change means Bakers will have four separate profit pools in Europe once it goes live. Roughly 130 lawyers in Russia are part of an integrated pool with Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Similarly, the firm’s Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Duesseldorf and Austrian offices also share profits. The Paris arm is currently integrated with Luxembourg.

One German partner said the firm’s intention was always to move to a more financially integrated system, with former chair Christine Lagarde initially raising the subject during her tenure from 1999-2005.

The German partner added: “Lagarde realised that this needed to happen at some point – the intention has always been there. We will do it and get to it but only when we can. There are a lot of compliance issues and you cannot play around with compliance.”

The firm brought its North American outposts into a single profit pool in 2013 but needed to broker special arrangements for the Dallas and Washington DC offices before they agreed to join.

Bakers’ 17 offices across the Asia-Pacific region are split across five different profit pools.

Nigeria PHOTO

Local Content Participation in Nigeria

Despite the pressure of globalization, the Nigerian Government is responsible of ensuring that businesses in Nigeria remain competitive. This informed the need for the Government to put in place frameworks to enhance the ability of local companies to exploit local opportunities while staying competitive globally. This is the essence of local content legislations in some sectors. The local content provisions in some sectors include;

(a) Information and Communications Technology

The National Information Technology Development Agency (“NITDA”) in 2013 released guidelines on Nigerian content development in information and communication technology. According to the guidelines, ICT companies in Nigeria are to maintain 50% (fifty percent) local content either directly or by outsourcing to local businesses to encourage Nigerian representation and participation in the sector.

(b) Oil and gas

The Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (“NOGICDA“) which established the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (“the Board“) was enacted in 2010. The purpose of the Act is to create the framework for growth of Nigerian content in respect of all operations and transactions in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Sector (“the sector“). The Act which defines a Nigerian Company to mean a Company registered in Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of the CAMA with not less than 51% (fifty-one percent) equity shares owned by Nigerians mandates investors in the sector to consider Nigerian content as an important element in their project development and management philosophy. The Act provides that subject to fulfillment of the conditions that may be specified, Nigerian operators and indigenous service companies shall be given first consideration in award of oil blocks, licenses and works in the sector. Consequently, the Board is empowered to execute its duties under the Act as well as ensure that the provisions of the Act are compiled with by stakeholders in the sector.

(c) Lottery

In Lagos at least 15% (fifteen) of shares in predominantly foreign owned gaming licence applicants must be held by Nigerians.

(d) Architect

The Architect (Registration, etc.) Act provides that it is only Nigerian citizens that will be registered to practice architecture in Nigeria. Nevertheless, a foreign architect who satisfies the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria that there exist a reciprocal arrangement of registration of architect between his country and Nigeria may be registered by the Council. Also, a foreign architect who does not qualify for registration in Nigeria may be registered by the Council if he is employed in Nigeria as a foreign technical assistance or foreign technical aid program or under a contract with the Federal Government or Government of any State of the Federation.

(e) Banks

No person can carry on any banking business in Nigeria except it is duly incorporated in Nigeria and holds a valid banking licence. Again, no foreign bank can operate a branch in Nigeria without prior approval of the CBN. However, CBN may grant licence to Nigerian and foreign banks to undertake off-shore banking business from Nigeria.

(f) Aviation

The Civil Aviation Authority shall not grant an aviation permit, certificate or other authorization to a person who is not a Nigerian citizen or a company registered in Nigeria.

(g) Shipping

It is only vessels wholly owned and operated by Nigerians, built and registered in Nigeria that can engage in domestic coastal carriage of cargo and passenger within the coastal territorial inland waters or any point with the exclusive economic zone of Nigeria restricts the use of foreign-owned or manned vessels for coastal trade in Nigeria. Consequently, a vessel which is not owned by a Nigerian citizen shall not carry any substance whatsoever or dredge any material within Nigerian waters. However, a foreign vessel may render assistance to persons, vessels or aircraft in danger or distress in Nigerian waters.

(h) Broadcasting

The Broadcasting Commission shall only grant a licence if it is satisfied that the applicant is a company registered in Nigeria with majority shares owned by Nigerians. The applicant must also demonstrate that it is not applying on behalf of any foreign interest.

(i) Pharmacists

A person shall be registered and practice as a Pharmacist if he is a Nigerian citizen. Nevertheless, a person who is not a citizen of Nigeria may be registered as a Pharmacist if he is a citizen of a country with reciprocal registration facilities to Nigerian citizens.

(j) Engineering

A non-Nigerian who satisfies the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria that he has been employed for a specific period in a capacity as an engineer and will be in Nigeria temporarily for the purpose of the employment or that he has qualification outside Nigeria which is acceptable to the Council may be registered as an engineer in Nigeria. A company engaged in engineering services must be registered with the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria. To do engineering business, the company must have Nigerian directors that are registered with the council and who hold at least 53% (fifty-three percent) of the shares in the company.

(k) Private security

A foreigner cannot acquire an equity interest in, or sit on the board of, a Nigerian private security guard company in Nigeria.

(l) Advertising

Only a national agency (that is, an agency in which Nigerians own not less than 74.9% of the equity) can advertise in the Nigeria market.

(m) Legal Practitioner

A person can only be entitled to practice as a barrister or solicitor in Nigeria if his name is on the roll of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Nevertheless, the Chief Justice of the Federation may grant any legal practitioner who is entitled to practice in a legal system similar to Nigeria, licence to practice in Nigeria. Again, if it is expedient for a person to practice as a barrister for the purpose of specific proceedings, the Chief Justice may grant the person the licence to practice as a barrister in relation to the specific proceedings stipulated.

The above are some of the few businesses which insist on local content participation. There is greater awareness on the need for Nigerians to participate in major sector of the Nigerian economy. For instance in the telecommunications sector, stakeholders have frowned at the absence of clear local content policy in the industry which has resulted in massive loss of jobs meant for Nigerians and poor remuneration of Nigerian workers employed by foreign owned telecommunications companies in the wake of outsourcing business model. There is a clamor for the National Assembly to enact a local content law in other non-oil sectors to improve the capacity of Nigerian businesses and protect the employment of Nigerian employees.

(n) Recent development

On 5th February 2018, President Buhari signed Presidential executive order 5 for “planning and execution of projects, promotion of Nigerian content in contracts and science, engineering and technology”. Under the executive order, procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts in line with the Public Procurement Act, 2007. The executive order prohibits the Ministry of Interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria. The order also directs ministries, department and agencies to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of national security projects.

Nevertheless, consideration shall only be given to a foreign professional where it is certified by the appropriate authority that such expertise is not available in Nigeria. In such an instance, the authority will give preference to foreign companies with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous development prior to award of such contracts.

Reed Smith tax team quits for DLA Piper

DLA Piper has hired a three-partner tax team from Reed Smith, just 12 months after they joined from the collapsed European arm of King & Wood Mallesons (KWM).

Paris tax partners Sylvie Vansteenkiste, Fanny Combourieu and Raphael Bera have all left Reed Smith to join DLA. The trio were part of a 50-strong team, including 17 partners, hired by Reed Smith across offices in London, Paris and Germany following the administration of KWM’s European arm.

Vansteenkiste had joined Reed Smith as head of its Paris tax team and previously co-led the European and Middle East tax practice at KWM prior to its collapse. Her practice covers tax audits and litigation, with a particular focus on complex tax structuring of investment funds.

Combourieu acts on private equity transactions, acquisitions and disposals and restructurings, with a particular focus on personal tax for high-net worth individuals. Prior to joining KWM she was a lawyer with Freshfields in Paris, before joining legacy SJ Berwin as a partner.

Bera worked at US firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in both Paris and New York before joining legacy SJ Berwin. His practice covers tax litigation and audits, with a focus on investment fund structuring.