Herbert Smith to merge real estate and finance as part of Freehills-induced restructure

Herbert Smith’s real estate and finance departments are set to combine – just one of a raft of planned changes following the firm’s merger with Australia’s Freehills.


David Willis
David Willis

According to a partner at Herbert Smith, the firm is preparing to combine its real estate and finance groups to match Freehills’ set up, with the merged practice being led by a partner on the Freehills side of the business. Patrick St John leads Freehills’ banking and finance practice at present.

In the wake of the shake-up, Herbert Smith’s current head of real estate Ian Cox has been linked to the new role of London managing partner.

The firm also circulated a memo to support heads last week detailing would lead the function in situations where there are overlaps. As The Lawyer understands, Herbert Smith’s head of IT will be appointed in favour of Freehills’, as will its head of human resources, while the Australian firm’s business development and knowledge management heads will be appointed in favour of Herbert Smith’s. Neither firm’s finance head will become chief financial officer, however, and the merged firm is on the lookout for someone new.

Herbert Smith’s Sonya Leydecker will remain global head of litigation at the merged firm while Moscow-based CIS managing partner Allen Hanen is in line to be appointed Emea head. Late last month Herbert Smith’s Moscow office was rocked by news of the defection of its litigation and employment group head Dmitry Kurochkin to Dechert (21 June 2012).

The firm’s corporate managing partner and head of infrastructure Patrick Mitchell is understood to be slated to share the global head of corporate role at the merged firm with a Freehills partner, whose name is not known to The Lawyer.

As previously reported, Herbert Smith managing partner David Willis and Freehills managing partner Gavin Bell will lead the merged firm – called Herbert Smith Freehills – as joint when it goes live on 1 October (28 June 2012).

As well as expanding into Australia, Herbert Smith has scheduled a New York launch for the Autumn as part of its strategy re-think, Project Blue Sky. Openings in Guinea and Germany are expected to follow shortly after (3 July 2012).