Herbies brings in Aussie corporate chief to rejig London corporate structure

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) global corporate head Mike Ferraro has been brought in to the firm’s London office to revamp its corporate department, The Lawyer can reveal.

The eight corporate groups in the City are being restructured into four larger groups, with each arm to focus on a general M&A capability supported by a specialism. As of Monday (13 May) these four groups will include an energy and resources group, a group which will include tax, one which will include TMT and another for equity capital markets.

No redundancies are expected as a result of the change, which will only be effective in London. Although a spokesperson for HSF said the new groups will not be given particular names, The Lawyer understands that, within the firm, the four groups will be known by their position within the office – fifth [floor] North, fifth South, sixth North and sixth South.

Ferraro, who now splits his time between the firm’s Melbourne and London offices, is believed to have spent five days talking to London corporate partners before making the decision. Although the move was not decided by a partner vote, Ferraro told The Lawyer that feedback so far has been positive with associates looking forward to working with a wider group of partners.

“London corporate hadn’t changed its partner and associate groups for about eight years, so a reorgnisation was due,” he commented. “The groups are intended to be fluid so that our lawyers can more readily work across groups and broaden their experiences.

“The regrouping is more consistent with the range of work undertaken by corporate so that, for example, those that undertake energy work will all sit in one team rather than being spread across two – this should better meet the needs of our clients.”

According to numerous sources previously interviewed by The Lawyer, frustrations with Herbert Smith’s £800m merger with Australia’s Freehills exacerbated a growing issue among litigators who felt their share of the firm’s profit was being dragged down by underperforming departments, most notably corporate.

The London disputes team had a stellar year in 2011/12, contributing £141.7m to the City office’s turnover of £312.3m, while corporate generated £104m.

Since the merger a number of chief litigators from legacy firm Herbert Smith have left the firm, such as senior litigator Ted Greeno, who is joining US litigation boutique Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (28 March 2013), and financial services regulatory (FSR) chief Martyn Hopper, due to join Linklaters with regulatory partner Nikunj Kiri.

For more on partner exits at HSF, see feature