Atlanta firm opens in London and swipes partner from rival

Atlanta firm Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker has opened its first European office in London – and poached the managing partner of a rival Atlanta firm's UK practice to head it.

The firm says Keith Ott, who has joined it from Kilpatrick Stockton's London office, will build a practice made up of US and UK lawyers.

PHJW is the second US firm in two weeks to announce a new London operation. Last week The Lawyer revealed that New York derivatives practice Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft had poached one partner from Freshfields and two from Wilde Sapte to set up a London office. Now the firm has recruited a fourth partner, James Starkey, from Clifford Chance.

PHJW has already secured premises in London, but they are yet to be furnished.

Ott, who was on holiday pending his move, was unavailable for comment. But the firm's chair, John McGeeney, said a high level of client demand for the firm to offer services in London had prompted the move.

He added that the opportunity to hire a partner of Ott's stature had made the venture “compelling”.

He said: “We plan to grow this new office quickly with a combination of transferred attorneys from our domestic offices and locally recruited attorneys and solicitors.”

Kilpatrick Stockton's executive committee chairman, Steve Clay, said it had recruited Per Runeland, who would move with an assistant from Swedish firm Lagerlof & Leman's London office in September to become the firm's most senior permanent London lawyer.

He said Brussels-based partners Fred Heller, chairman of the European offices and Pascal Rahmin, a qualified solicitor, would fill in at the London office until September.

Clay also said that Kilpatrick Stockton was currently in talks with a number of lawyers, at partner and associate level, both in the UK and in the US.

The firm plans to boost the number of lawyers permanently based in London from the current two to between six and 10 in a year.