A year ago this week

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher appoints Stephen Ball as head of its UK practice

Stephen Ball, former chief general counsel at Japanese banking group Nomura, joined US firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher as its UK head.

Ball, who had been on gardening leave since leaving Nomura in February, was reportedly considering offers from ABN Amro and Jiway, a stock exchange internet site established by Morgan Stanley.

Ball's appointment was part of a drive by the US firm to expand its UK practice, and was followed just weeks later with the arrival of partner Andrew Thomas from US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, boosting its UK project finance capability.

In May, Stephenson Harwood lost its head of corporate finance Judith Shepherd to the firm. It was reported at that time that Ball was seeking to take on as many as eight lawyers by the end of the year. November saw the high-profile appointment of partner Nicholas Aleksander from Travers Smith Braithwaite.

Growth has been such that Gibson Dunn has relocated its London headquarters over the past few weeks to new, bigger premises at Telephone House, 2-4 Temple Avenue, London.

Herbert Smith joins race with Freshfields to merge with Bruckhaus

Herbert Smith went head-to-head with rival Freshfields to merge with German legal giant Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober.

Herbert Smith joined the race to woo the German firm despite the talks between Freshfields and Bruckhaus and a vote which was at the time expected to be ratified by both sides.

The future of a merger with Freshfields was briefly thrown into doubt in April when a minority of Bruckhaus partners opposed the merger.

However, a vote on June 20 was in favour of the merger, and the new firm – Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – formed on 1 August.

Herbert Smith lost out on the merger talks with Bruckhaus, and so turned to Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch, the last magic circle partner available in Germany.

Herbert Smith entered into a formal alliance with Gleiss Lutz in July. Since then, the two firms have pitched to clients together and have a number of joint practice areas, including M&A, EU competition, intellectual property, IT and labour law.

Cooperation between the two firms in terms of offices and personnel is already underway, with lawyers from Herbert Smith working in Gleiss Lutz's Frankfurt office, and others expected to start in its Prague and Warsaw operations over the coming months.