US practice hunts for English talent

US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP opened a London office last week and signalled its intention to recruit English lawyers. Linklaters & Paines former senior partner John Edwards has joined the firm.

Edwards, who retired from Linklaters' late last year, had headed the firm's European Business Unit, and will be senior adviser at Akin Gump's new office, which is located at Angel Court, EC2.

US corporate partners Keith Hughes and Stephen Hatfield, together with associate Khaled Rabbani, have also moved into the office.

Head partner Hughes said Edwards would be an integral part of the team and that more lawyers would be joining both from the US and the London legal markets. “We hope to have 15 lawyers by the end of the year,” he said. “We are planning on becoming a multinational partnership sooner rather than later. However, we will not be taking on English partners to establish new areas of practice, but to augment existing ones.”

The firm closed its previous London office in 1989, when it moved to Brussels in association with Belgian firm Lebrun De Smedt & Dassesse.

But Hughes said Akin Gump lawyers had often been present in London to service clients with interests in the capital.

The 625-lawyer Washington-based practice retains its Brussels office and also has a Moscow branch and several offices in the US. The London office's core practice areas will be energy law, transactions involving Russia and other CIS countries, central Asian enterprises, international finance and capital market transactions.

The firm also has solid connections in Africa and is handling a privatisation in the region towards which the London office will contribute.