Exclusive: Greenberg hires Maher to build ’21st century firm’

US giant in retreat from Olswang alliance as it launches in London with former Mayer Brown star

Paul Maher

Paul Maher

Former Mayer Brown co-vice chairman Paul Maher is joining US giant Greenberg Traurig to launch its London operation, Greenberg Traurig Maher.

The corporate lawyer will become chairman of ­London and co-chair of Greenberg’s global M&A practice. He will be joined by former London Mayer Brown partners Fiona Adams and Cate Sharp.

Maher told The Lawyer: “We believe we can assemble a high-quality team with intense client focus.

“It’s a very ambitious strategy, but it can be done. We want to build a ­transactional team.”

Greenberg is the tenth-largest firm in the US, with a revenue of $1.2bn (£720m) in 2008 and an average profit per equity partner of $1.31m. It has one of the most extensive domestic networks of any US firm with 32 offices in North America and has recently embarked on a hiring spree, bringing in more than 30 partners since 1 January 2009.

As part of its London launch, Greenberg Traurig Maher will also investigate radical alternatives to ­current law firm structures. It is understood that the new firm will be structured to take advantage of external investment opportunities in the UK legal market in the future, should they be ­needed.

Maher said: “It’s a good time to come into the market and push back some of the boundaries. The pricing model has to change. Clients are pretty unhappy paying large sums of money for ­junior lawyers who are being educated on the job. We want to put together a 21st century law firm.”

Maher’s future has become the focus of intense speculation since his ­departure from Mayer Brown last month. He is known to have been courted by a variety of firms.

Greenberg’s move heralds a retreat from its relationship with Olswang, its current UK alliance partner.

Greenberg chief executive Richard Rosenbaum told The Lawyer that the firm would continue to work with Olswang when clients required, but added:
“How we’ll work together in the future hasn’t been ­determined.”

Rosenbaum stressed that Greenberg was committing considerable resources to the launch.

“London is a market that, as a brand, we haven’t ­really entered – we’ve relied on our relationships with ­others in the past,” he said. “We want to make the ­statement that this is a UK firm, not a satellite or branch office of some US firm, so with Paul’s name being incorporated it makes that statement.”

Greenberg’s move will make London its third European office, following its launches in Amsterdam and Zurich in 2003.