Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft’s London project practice was finally put out of its misery last week with the departure of partner Paul Biggs.
As first reported on www.thelawyer.com (6 February), Biggs’ move leaves the office with no projects partners. The future of the team’s four associates is still undecided, but it is believed some will join Africa specialist Biggs when he sets up his new consultancy. It is understood that any who remain will be offered alternative positions at the firm.
When Cadwalader launched in London in 1997, projects was one of the practice areas targeted by the New York management, along with capital markets and restructuring. However, the projects group has been plagued by false starts, departures and lack of investment by New York.
It is also understood that the rest of the London office has been propping up the projects group for a number of years.
At its height, the practice had two partners and 14 associates, but over the course of nine years it has lost a series of partners, including Paul Griffin to Herbert Smith and Matthew Williams to Hunton & Williams.
Problems began in early 2000 when the US economy took a turn for the worse, and London was an obvious target for funding cuts. The focus of the practice also shifted from pure energy work to restructuring-based jobs, such as those for British Energy. In early 2004 Cadwalader took an axe to the projects group, resulting in around five lawyers losing their jobs.