The real estate sector was hit first in the recession, provoking massive hiring freezes and layoffs as clients struggled to keep afloat.
However, recent movement suggests that could be changing as firms and clients alike begin hiring again.
At the end of September SJ Berwin real estate head Jon Vivian quit to join Irwin Mitchell, taking a team of three partners. Irwin Mitchell has made no secret of its intention to build a London real estate practice that would, among other things, seek to emulate the commoditised business model that the firm has developed elsewhere.
In February the firm hired Geoffrey Lander, the former head of real estate at Nabarro legacy firm Nabarro Nathanson, to scout the market for senior recruits. Two months later the news came that a further team of 16 (including 12 associates) were to follow in Vivian’s footsteps. And in a sign that there is still a business case for property, three of them will become partners upon joining their new firm.
In-house, a number of senior roles have been up for grabs too. Major UK housebuilder Barratt has appointed a new general counsel and company secretary to take over from incumbent Laurence Dent. Tom Keevil, who joins Barratt in April 2011, will lead a five-strong legal team. He comes from United Utilities, where he filled the same role. Dent retired from Barratt at the end of December after 10 years, and deputy company secretary Ian Hogarth will cover in the interim before Keevil’s arrival.
Also, FTSE100 property company Land Securities has appointed its first group general counsel and company secretary. Adrian de Souza, who headed brewing company SABMiller’s legal operation in Europe, took up the newly created role on 1 November. The move comes after Land Securities company secretary Peter Dudgeon announced he was stepping down after more than a decade in the role.
But it is not just existing roles that are being filled. UK residential landlord Grainger has appointed Adam McGhin as its first-ever group legal counsel. The new role is part of an expansion of the business’s nine-member company secretariat, which includes legal and treasury and compliance and risk. McGhin will report in to company secretary Nick On and his first task will be to create a panel. McGhin joins from property consultants Cushman & Wakefield, where he was deputy general counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, prior to which he was a senior associate at Clifford Chance.
Cushman & Wakefield, meanwhile, has appointed former Allen & Overy associate Katherine Chainey as McGhin’s replacement.