There was a time in the not so distant past – well, 2004 to be precise – when Simmons & Simmons was in the headlines on an almost weekly basis, succumbing to a raid here or undergoing mass exodus there.
When it wasn’t being raided by Dewey Ballantine in Italy, it was being targeted by White & Case in Germany.
When it wasn’t being raided it would be de-equitising partners. (Simmons was something of a pioneer in that.)
But Simmons has been a happier ship over the past 18 months. It has stabilised, profit has been on the rise and it has been plucking senior associates out of other City firms straight into its partnership.
So this week’s astonishing five-partner raid by Fried Frank came as something of a surprise. See story
Fried Frank has inherited a strong team. Simmons has been stable in the region for 25 years, but only last year suffered the departure of corporate heavyweight Nick Norris to Skadden8
With China emerging as a new battleground for international firms, it is no wonder that managing partner Mark Dawkins is currently busy trying to reassure associates in Hong Kong. If Fried Frank convinces, say, 15 associates to jump ship, Simmons will consider itself well and truly under attack.
Whatever happens next, it is an almighty blow for UK mid-sizers, which have struggled so hard to assert themselves in the region.