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A year on from the merger of US firm Hogan & Hartson and the UK’s Lovells, the combined firm’s energy partners claim they are already reaping the results of Hogan Lovells’ new global footprint.
The two legacy firms’ energy practices on either side of the pond have certainly proved complementary, not to mention the network of offices in other energy hubs such as Asia Pacific and Africa.
But the flipside to being a global outfit is that Hogan Lovells constantly defies the market’s tendency to place it in a category.
While escaping pigeon-holing might be seen as a plus point, proving hard to categorise or identify in an increasingly competitive energy market is not.
Newly appointed co-head of the energy practice Matthew Williams, who arrived at Hogan Lovells along with energy partner John Deacon and six other lawyers from Hunton & Williams at the start of this summer, says the firm’s sheer scale has called for a fresh look at how it packages and presents its energy expertise to the wider market.
“Because it’s such a big firm the challenge isn’t so much increasing the amount of work, but to present to the market a strategy and a cohesion of what’s going on,” he admits. “We need to shape that a little better in terms of how we project it.”
Williams points to the likes of Norton Rose, which is successfully building a worldwide brand for its energy practice off the back of a series of mergers. He is currently working closely with US-based energy co-heads Kevin Lipson and Jay Gede to sharpen up the firm’s image on the world stage.
“The message should be, ’it’s a world-beating energy practice’, and that’s certainly what its ambition should be,” he adds.
That ambition has certainly been evident in Hogan Lovells’ recent string of strategic hires in the energy arena. Not only has it snapped up Williams and Deacon from Hunton & Williams, but it raided McDermott Will & Emery for energy talent on the US side. Energy specialists David Locascio and Jose Luis Vittor joined the firm’s Houston office in February, while Michael Yuffee has added new regulatory expertise as a partner in the Washington office, joining from McDermotts where he was head of the firm’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission practice.
A common thread in these hires is Hogan Lovells’ desire to boost its power and renewable energy practice to match its impressive oil, gas and mining portfolio.
“It has always been strong in oil and gas, but in power and renewable energy there was more transactional expertise to be gained,” Williams argues. “Locascio and Vittor in Houston do energy M&A and power M&A and on the London side, Deacon’s practice focuses on renewable power.”
While Latin America, Asia Pacific, the US and Africa all remain key regions for the firm, Williams is also keen to expand the energy practice’s reach in western Europe.
“There might be a few more hires in London, and the German energy market is absolutely vibrant at the moment and those guys are extremely busy, so we’ve also got a case to expand in that market just to cope with the work,” he says. “We’re also looking at Spain, Italy and France. It reflects the way the firm has expanded in those areas.”
One jurisdiction in which Hogan Lovells certainly stands out from the crowd is resource-rich Mongolia, where it has been the only international firm to have a full-time presence since opening up shop last July.
Sole full-time partner Michael Aldrich works at the Ulaanbaatar office alongside local association firm GTs Advocates. Hogan Lovells has already been instructed on the Tavan Tolgoi Project, and Mongolian mining and natural resource assets are now tipped to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
“The Mongolian office is certainly busy and we’re looking to do some local hiring, and at associates who could be there full time rather than flying in and out,” adds Williams. “A lot of the work is driven by Chinese investment in Mongolia.”