VINSON & Elkins has transferred the firm’s co-chair of international dispute resolution to London to take advantage of the UK capital’s growing status as the hub for energy disputes outside the US.
Jim Loftis, who had previously split his time between Houston and London, is now based permanently in London.
The move follows similar moves by a number of US firms to bolster their dispute resolution capabilities in London, including Houston energy rival Fulbright & Jaworski’s 2005 London hire of rated litigator Lista Cannon.
Vinson London managing partner Jeff Eldredge said the firm would be looking to boost the practice capability through lateral hires, both at partner level and below.
“We are seeing a lot of opportunity and client demand for international arbitration,” Eldredge said, “and not just in the energy sphere, although that’s a principal place of focus because of what we do.
“The energy universe rotates around London and Houston, but it’s not just London that the international work is coming from. It’s coming from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
“The seat of dispute resolution is not always London – we do this kind of work in Paris and The Hague, as well as an expanding amount in Dubai.”
Vinson is intent on rebuilding London, which was decimated by a string of partner departures following the decline of Enron, the firm’s biggest client.
Eldredge said the firm’s focus was building the practice in London before turning its attention to other offices. He said the firm would continue to work with local firms in regional areas.
Vinson recently made its eighth hire in nine months, taking Lovells corporate finance lawyer François Feuillat. The Texas-based firm has hired to its US strengths, with its eight London hires all in the energy, corporate and project finance fields.