Norton Rose raids US firms to boost US securities practice

Norton Rose is raiding US firms in an effort to build its London-based US securities practice.

The UK firm is poised to take on US-trained partners to its US securities team – which was established in September – in a move dubbed by observers as “both offensive and defensive”.

Sources say a strengthened US securities practice will make Norton Rose a more attractive merger partner, particularly to firms that want a London base but do not want to go it alone.

Two weeks ago (7 June), Roger Birkby, managing partner of Norton Rose, told The Lawyer of plans to find a US merger partner with a similar international outlook. He said: “We are trying to keep our fingers on the pulse. We know what's going on and have a dialogue with a lot of firms.”

Norton Rose has already poached two senior lawyers – James Joy from California firm Latham & Watkins and Neil Suggs from Washington-based Perkins Cole.

Tom Vita, head of the US securities practice, who joined Norton Rose from US firm Davis Polk & Wardwell in September, says: “The group is concentrating on providing US advice.We are looking at partner level appointments to bring our core group to a sufficient size to provide US advice on rule 144a transactions, where a London listing is sought.”

Norton Rose has already hired six US securities lawyers to its 11-lawyer team, which includes a number of dual-qualifieds.

Although Norton Rose does not have a US office, sources say the company will be able to pick up big ticket banking and project finance work from US firms by having a US securities capability.

Sources say this international dimension gives the firm “something over and above” other firms that may be considering a transatlantic plunge.

Vita says Norton Rose is “friends” with a number of US firms, including Shearman & Sterling, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Davis Polk & Wardwell.