Midlands firm Knights focuses on energy with Vinson hire

Midland’s firm Knights Solicitors has hired an energy associate from the City office of US firm Vinson & Elkins (V&E) in a bid to expand its energy practice.

Associate Clare Roberts, who spent eight years at V&E before going on extended maternity leave, will join the Newcastle under Lyme-based firm as partner on 17 April.

Roberts told The Lawyer that she hopes to bring large-scale energy work to Knights, which said it is hoping to significantly expand its energy practice.

The 23-partner firm, which draws much of its business from work outsourced by City firms, last year sealed a deal with high-profile entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den investor James Caan’s private equity vehicle Hamilton Bradshaw (12 June 2012) in a bid to become a top 100 UK practice within three years. It subsequently converted to an ABS (19 December 2012).

According to managing partner David Beech, the fact that Knights is a relatively small firm, with turnover of around £10m, was key for getting the deal through.

The firm has 150 staff across offices in Staffordshire, Cheshire and Gloucestershire, and plans to expand both its partner and employee headcount.

Meanwhile, V&E is one of Houston’s – and therefore the US’s – oil and gas big two. Along with Baker Botts, V&E dominates the Houston and US domestic market while, thanks to its decades-long track record in advising on energy deals, features equally prominently in the global sector.

Roberts told The Lawyer that it is “very possible” the market could see more people move from City to regional firms.

V&E could not be reached for comment.