Sonnenschein to end eight-year City hiatus

Chicago firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal plans on relaunching in London in 2007 and is currently in active talks to achieve that aim.

The firm’s new chairman Elliott Portnoy exclusively told The Lawyer that Sonnenschein is planning a fresh attack on London, either through “a merger of equals” or by picking off sizeable practice area teams.

Sonnenschein pulled out of London in 1999 because the office was not generating a profit. A former Sonnenschein partner told The Lawyer that the firm “still had unfinished business in London”.

Portnoy said: “My partners here will be guided by the lessons learnt. Growing organically is difficult. We’ll be looking for a larger-scale opportunity. Ideally, London headcount would be over 100.”

Currently Sonnenschein refers corporate work to Ashurst, Campbell Hooper, Lawrence Graham, Morgan Cole, Penningtons, Taylor Wessing and Travers Smith.

London is part of an aggressive global expansion plan, intended to catapult Sonnenschein into the US’s top 25 firms. That means generating more than $727m (£374m) in turnover. Sonnenschein currently has a turnover of £230m and an average profit per equity partner of £393,000. “To take advantage of the markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, our position would be dramatically enhanced by London capabilities,” said Portnoy. The firm would also like to open in China.

Currently the firm’s only non-US office is in Brussels, which it launched in July with the hire of a two-lawyer hotel and hospitality team from Squire Sanders & Dempsey.