Latham opens Italian office as London partner departs

Latham & Watkins is continuing to focus on Europe as it sets up its second office in Italy

But as its Continental practice expands, the firm's London office growth has stalled. It is losing acquisition finance partner Kevin Dunn, who is returning to GE Capital just over 18 months after joining the firm.
Dunn, who is returning to his role as European general counsel, says that he has been tempted back because of strong growth at GE Capital, which merged with Heller Financial last year.
However, the move is a setback for Latham because it leaves the firm with just one partner, James Chesterman, focusing on acquisition finance in London. Chest-erman was recruited from Weil Gotshal & Manges, where he was head of banking, at the same time as Dunn, and together they built up the acquisition finance practice.
It is understood that the London office has been looking to take on a third acquisition finance partner for some time but has so far been unsuccessful. However, London managing partner Joe Blum played down the significance of the loss. “He's going to a major client of the firm and we see it as a positive move,” he explained.
Dunn's departure coincides with Chesterman taking on a new European role as co-head of banking and leveraged finance. He will work alongside Don Schwarz, who is based in Chicago.
Chesterman said the new position was created because banking relationships in the US, Europe and Asia need to be brought together and because the banking practice needs to play a more global role.
“It's really focused on bringing together the international aspects of the finance practice,” he said.
As part of its push on Europe, Latham is also opening an office in Milan, which will supplement the one it has in Rome.
Both offices are tent offices and will be staffed by US-qualified lawyers servicing their UK and US clients that are investing in Italy.
“We have a very strong Italian practice based out of London and it's become busy enough for us to have a small office in Milan to service our clients better,” said Blum.
“But we will not be practising Italian law,” he added.
In the last year, London has gone from being the firm's primary European office to being outweighed by offices in Germany and France, following the firm's merger with the Hamburg office of German firm Gaedertz and the Paris office of Dutch firm Stibbe.
Both Continental offices are full-service and London now suffers in comparison.
Following Dunn's departure, there will be 19 partners left in the London office, six of which are UK-qualified.