Baker Botts installs new City boss ahead of growth campaign

Baker Botts has appointed a new London head in the shape of Steve Wardlaw, an energy lawyer and the former head of the US firm’s Moscow office.

Wardlaw, who assumes the title of ‘partner in charge of Baker Botts London’ was one of the US firm’s first two English-qualified lawyers when he joined in 2000. The other was Tony Higginson, the previous partner in charge of Baker Botts London from whom Wardlaw is taking over as City head.

Higginson will continue to practise at the firm, focusing on corporate and asset acquisitions and divestitures and energy sector projects.

Wardlaw will divide his time between London and Moscow where he has spent the past seven years orchestrating significant growth in the city acting for clients with Russia-related interests.

There were five Baker Botts lawyers in Moscow representing institutional energy clients seven years ago when Wardlaw took over as head of the office. Today there are 24. The firm’s work there has expanded to include a substantial amount of corporate, real estate and IP work for Russian clients, in energy as well as other industries.

“Steve did a wonderful job in Moscow; so much so that we substantially extended what was originally intended to be only a two-year stay,” said Baker Botts managing partner Andrew Baker. “I look forward to Steve putting his imprint on London, and leading that office to the next level.”

The London office opened in 1998 and currently has 34 lawyers.

“I’d like to take the office to a size that is satisfactory for a US firm in London,” added Wardlaw, speaking from Cape Town. “We’re very cautious about growth but I’d like to see us at up around 70 to 80 lawyers in three-to-four years.”

Baker Botts is best known for energy work although the three planks of the global practice also include technology and life sciences.

“We probably now have more technology clients than energy clients,” admitted Wardlaw. “My job will be to develop the three sectors along with all the associated practice areas related to them.”

Wardlaw added that that would include building in international arbitration (Baker Botts currently has three partners and around 10 associates in its London team), asset finance and debt capital markets along with other areas.

Earlier this year M&A partner Maxim Levinson succeeded Wardlaw as partner in charge of the firm’s Moscow office.