A&O US law partner quits for Novartis general counsel role

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis has raided Allen & Overy (A&O) for its new legal chief.

Partner Thomas Werlen, who is a member of A&O’s US law group in London, has quit the magic circle firm to join Novartis as general counsel.

He is taking charge of a 100-lawyer team in the company’s corporate headquarters in Basle, Switzerland, after George Miller returned to the US to take over as Novartis US general counsel.

The appointment will be watched closely by Novartis legal advisers, namely Shearman & Sterling and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz.

Shearman scored the lead role advising Novartis on its £4.4bn acquisition of German drug manufacturer Hexal and a stake in US-based Eon Labs. It is understood that A&O does not have a relationship with Novartis.

Werlen is a Swiss attorney-at-law who covers securities, derivatives and M&A work. His clients include Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Munich Re, Nestlé and UBS.

He will join Novartis on 1 January 2006. In his new role, Werlen will report to the head of legal and general affairs Urs Baerlocher, and will be responsible for managing the company’s relationships with external lawyers.

Werlen is the second partner to quit A&O this month. Heavy-hitting leveraged finance partner Tony Keal is leaving next month to join US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Werlen declined to comment.