Pillsbury to clean up City mess

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is gearing up to follow last week’s posting of solid 2007 financial results with an all-out assault on the UK market.

Chair parachutes in to rebuild London office

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is gearing up to follow last week’s posting of solid 2007 financial results with an all-out assault on the UK market.

Firmwide chairman Jim Rishwain jetted into London at the weekend and will spend this week spearheading the firm’s attempts to rebuild its City office. The move follows a string of high-profile departures that left Pillsbury with just one full-time partner in the City.

Sorting out the mess that is London has been a priority for Pillsbury since mid-2007, when the firm formed a development taskforce focused on rebuilding the office. The group consists of five partners: New York finance head Mike Schumaecker, firm vice chairman Steve Huttler, the sole London partner Tim Wright, technology partner Bob Zahler and corporate specialist Dave Snyder.

Pillsbury is planning to relaunch its London office with a focus on three core areas: technology, energy (Pillsbury’s largest client is Chevron) and finance (a recent success in New York, where the firm has added several partners, including Michael Banks from Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy and Alex Moon from Duane Morris).

Previously Pillsbury’s London office was best known for its outsourcing practice, but the guts of the team disappeared along with partners such as Andrew Moyle, who left to join Latham & Watkins, and Alistair Maughan, now at Morrison & Foerster. Rishwain, however, claims there is now a significant number of candidates interested in talking to the firm.

“I’m not a big fan of growth for the sake of growth,” Rishwain says. “I prefer to be strategic and focused on our needs and to match that with client requirements. But that said, there’s a robust pipeline of candidates.” Rishwain adds that Pillsbury’s financial results, which saw revenue rise by just 2 per cent but average partner profit jump by 12.6 per cent, would help with the recruitment process.

“We’re absolutely delighted with our results and in particular with our back-to-back banner years of double digit PEP [profit per equity partner] increases,” Rishwain says. “We want to attract the highest-quality candidates and hitting our financial goals will help us do that.”

Pillsbury and Reed Smith kicked off the US financial reporting season last week, with both claiming to be more than satisfied with their results.

Pillsbury’s PEP was up to $985,000 (£502,000), which follows a 14 per cent rise in 2006 from $765,000 (£390,000) to $875,000 (£446,000). Total revenue rose from $579m (£295.48m) in 2006 to $590m (£301.09m) last year, an increase also similar to 2006’s 1 per cent rise.

Reed Smith, meanwhile, broke through the $1m (£510,000) PEP barrier – a 2008 target for Pillsbury – with a 6.3 per cent rise. Growth in revenue was far more dramatic. Turnover shot up by 39 per cent, from $644m (£328.65m) to $892m (£455.21m).

The timing of the financial results is not the only link between the two US-headquartered firms. Both are in a transitional period and it is a neat coincidence that Pillsbury technology senior associate Cynthia O’Donoghue left the firm’s London office to join Reed Smith as a partner last week. O’Donoghue’s departure suggests that Pillsbury may have formed a taskforce, but has not yet won its own war on talent.

O’Donoghue said: “Reed Smith has a more attractive platform than Pillsbury, both globally and specifically in London. And the taskforce? It’s too little, too late.”

London’s high status prompts relocations

Cravath Swaine & Moore has underlined the growing importance of London as a global legal centre with the relocation of two of its top partners.

Litigation and arbitration specialist John Beerbower has already made the move to London, becoming the first Cravath disputes resolution specialist to be based in the City when he started work there last Monday (7 January). In June a second Cravath partner, M&A specialist David Mercado, will also relocate to the City.

Mercado confirms that his arrival is not a replacement for a current Cravath partner but a beefing up aimed at capitalising on London’s reputation as a deal magnet.

“Our London office has done well, but it has the space and capability to increase its heft,” Mercado says. “Obviously London’s been a spectacularly successful market over the past few years. It’s clearly the right place to be.”

Mercado adds that it is Cravath’s view that London is becoming increasingly important as a legal market centre. “It’s an equal, at a minimum, with New York,” he says. “It’s the place where capital and finance and therefore transactions flow through. Which means it’s a great market for us.”

As reported last week (see story), international arbitration expert Beerbower has already shifted the emphasis of his practice to the capital. Although he will continue to split his time between New York and London, Beerbower’s arrival represents the first time that Cravath has had a litigation partner based primarily in London.

“It’s our belief that, because of the importance of London in terms of international arbitration, it would be of benefit to have someone located there,” says Beerbower.

White & Case sends London finance trainee to NY

White & Case is preparing to send its first London-based trainee to the US for a New York finance seat following last October’s arrival of banking partner Alan Rockwell.

The move is part of a wider push by the US firm to increase the number of English-qualified lawyers in its New York office.

Until now White & Case has not had adequate supervision in New York to allow a trainee to spend a portion of their two-year training contract in the city. Last year’s move of dual Scottish and English-qualified Rockwell changed this.

Rockwell, who joined the firm last year from Linklaters, believes the arrival of the trainee, set for next month, will herald a concerted effort to grow the number of English-qualified lawyers in New York.

“There’s a proven track record of New York lawyers working in England and adding value to cross-border deals, but historically the thinking has largely been that there’s not the same advantage to be gained in reverse,” says Rockwell. “We’re not convinced that’s the case.”

With the number of deals with a cross-border element continuing to increase, White & Case is planning to gradually grow the number of lawyers in New York who can provide English law advice on US-UK deals in real time.

“We’re seeing a number of deals where, for example, there are commitment papers drafted under one of the laws but where the intention is for the permanent financing to be under the other law,” says Rockwell. “But when it’s evening here it’s bedtime in England, which makes getting instant advice difficult.”

The move is expected to lead to White & Case sending an increased number of junior associates to New York to gain experience in the US and on cross-border deals.

Earlier Byrne in the USA blogs…

Going for globe

Thanks again to K&L Gates for giving us the chance to compare and contrast the thinking behind what we at The Lawyer like to call “the international growth strategies of law firms”. (Catchy, eh?)Barely a day goes by without K&L opening up somewhere or other.

This time it’s Paris. It’s as good a place to open an office as any. Good for croissants, apparently. And wine.

The raid on Kahn et Associés, which led to the opening of the firm’s most sparkly outpost, represents K&L’s second major strategic step in as many weeks. Last week its takeover of Texas firm Hughes & Luce went live, giving K&L a seat at the ever-growing 1,500-lawyer-plus table.

Nigel Knowles beware: Pete Kalis is after your global crown.

– Posted 10 January

Slowly does it

You can imagine the bumper sticker: Cravath does it more slowly.

Last Monday (7 January) Cravath Swaine & Moore announced it had relocated one of its top litigators, John Beerbower, from New York to London. Later this year the firm will watch as another partner, corporate specialist David Mercado, follows the same route.

For Cravath, this is radical stuff.

Now there are lots of lovely business reasons behind these moves. In essence, the firm is ramping up (if you can call two partners in six months ramping up) to meet client needs. More international arbitration in London? Bring in Beerbower. More deals? Get Mercado on a plane.

But underlying both moves is Cravath’s innate conservatism. Unlike most other firms with international pretensions, Cravath does things at a snail’s pace. Which has at least one major benefit.

As Beerbower puts it: “The one thing you can say for sure about slow growth and gradual expansion is that you don’t have to deal with the contraction issues”.

For this year particularly this might make Cravath even more different than usual.

– Posted 8 January

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