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Willkie Farr & Gallagher has launched a restructuring practice in London with the hire of Kirkland & Ellis partner Graham Lane.
The co-chair of Willkie’s restructuring department, New York-based Marc Abrams, is understood to have visited the UK 15 times while trying to find a UK-qualified restructuring partner for London.
Abrams said London would act as a bridge between the US and EMEA region, with Lane as London’s “core” restructuring partner around which other UK-qualified restructuring partners will join. He also suggested that some of the department’s staff in the US might move over to London.
Lane has spent almost 10 years with Kirkland & Ellis and is to join the firm’s London office on 1 September. He concentrates his practice on the provision of advice to a range of stakeholders in all types of restructuring and insolvency matters, with a particular focus on complex cross-border situations.
Willkie’s London office, set up inititally to service regular US clients doing business in the UK, was launched with three lawyers in 1988. The US firm has long had substantial offices in Paris and Frankfurt, however the lack of a serious London office has been pegged as the catalyst for the Dickson Minto alliance in 2008 (30 June 2008).
“Part of the problem for Willkie is that over here it’s known as a domestic private equity practice in France and Germany particularly,” said one rival partner. “It’s unusual in that it’s an elite US firm that went to Continental Europe to build a network of offices rather than starting in London. So it now has a good pan-European network but virtually nothing in the City.”
In May 2011, Willkie made the first of several moves to beef up in the City. The firm announced that it had hired Peter Burrell, a Herbert Smith white-collar fraud partner.