Couderts' City build-up

International firm Coudert Brothers is poised to take on a clutch of partners and senior lawyers from City and US competitors as part of its second phase of growth in London.

The recruitment drive will increase the firm's London-based fee-earners from 28 to 40 lawyers by the end of 1995 and to 50 in 1996. Couderts' aim is to increase specialised finance work for international clients.

The main areas targeted for “phase two” growth include funds work, structured finance and project finance. Capital markets, an integral part of funds work, is also targeted.

Steven Beharrell, administrative partner in the London office, says the firm needs to “considerably strengthen its English law capability across the board”.

He says:”This is a serious and active expansion programme for two reasons – to have the strength and depth here in London, and to train bright young lawyers to work in our other offices.”

US-based Coudert Brothers is an Anglo/US multi-national partnership formalised in May 1993 with its UK associate Beharrell Thompson. The firm's main markets are cross-border investment and international financing.

It has a 10-office network in Asia and sees Clifford Chance, Baker & MacKenzie, White & Case, and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton as its main competitors.

The City is an important base for its financial clients, and has become even more important since the 1993 budget removed the taxation element from UK managed funds, says Beharrell.

Baker & McKenzie corporate partner Tim Gee says the work areas targeted by Couderts are lucrative sources of business for international firms.

“Certainly corporate finance offers some terrific opportunities for major firms, simply because of the sort of projects being funded and the worldwide increase in private participation,” says Gee.

“We take it very seriously – we've been building up our resources in these areas for years and we are also actively looking for people.”

Funds work, where funds and trusts are set up as investment vehicles, is already a part of Couderts' practice. Now the firm aims to target fund managers and international funds run from London. The work is tax and corporate-driven.

With structured finance, Couderts is busy in New York and Asia, and is now seeking to raise its profile in London.

The structured finance work includes creating and floating companies as vehicles to generate revenue streams from receivables which is a recent development. Securities and international Stock Exchange listings are involved.

Project finance work involves major infrastructure clients worldwide, with banks lending on the strength of future income streams.

Couderts has just completed two projects with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. “Until a few years ago, clients were doing joint ventures on their own balance sheets. Now we have to offer a full range of securities and capital markets services for funding,” says Beharrell.

New lawyers are expected to join the London office from February onwards.