Proskauer funds team takes key clients from SJ Berwin

SJ Berwin is set to lose its grip on one of its biggest-billing clients following the defection of a two-partner funds team to Proskauer Rose.

HgCapital, the mid-market private equity house, is one of two key fund formation clients transferring its mandates to Proskauer, where relationship partner Nigel van Zyl began work earlier this month.

The US firm is also taking another client of Van Zyl, Chicago-based private equity investment manager Adams Street Partners, which previously used Proskauer in the US and SJ Berwin in the UK.

However, it is understood that SJ Berwin is still retaining a relationship with both HgCapital and Adams Street Partners and further work for the clients is not ruled out.

Van Zyl quit the City firm for its former merger suitor in July, bringing recently promoted funds partner Oliver Rochman along with him (27 July 2011).

The raid later continued with Proskauer hiring six funds associates from SJ Berwin (5 September 2011), a move that the UK firm responded to by making four associates up to partner (26 September 2011).

Departures from SJ Berwin’s funds team have hit the firm hard in the past, with three partners leaving for Kirkland & Ellis in 2007 (15 January 2011). The move won Kirkland a number of key relationships (14 May 2007), including with private equity house Terra Firma (5 June 2007). The Queen Street Place firm has lost a long list of funds clients over the years, including Apax Partners (20 June 2011). However, it is expected to hold on to private equity house Triton, a client of Michael Halford, one of the remaining funds partners.

Halford said in a statement: “We are a large team, and the impact on our client base has not been very great. The vast majority of our clients see themselves as clients of the firm. It will be interesting to see how some of the new US law practices in the funds market develop – we are already starting to see some differentiation.

“We are not complacent but our position as the number one European-based funds practice is if anything enhanced by the market fragmentation that we saw last year, which enables us to give our clients the benefit of our very wide and deep experience.”

Proskauer declined to comment.