US practice sets up rival to London

NEW York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges plans to open a major London office offering a UK law service to compete with the top domestic firms.

Weil Gotshal already has six partners lined up, including four lawyers from top London firms. With a recruitment drive for serious City players, it hopes to open a 15 to 20-lawyer City practice early next year.

The London office will focus initially on banking and capital markets business, servicing not only Weil Gotshal international banking clients but also competing for “quality work” with UK leaders such as Linklaters & Paines, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance. It will build a corporate finance practice.

Steven Dannhauser, Weil Gotshal executive partner, said: “Rather than follow the traditional path of slowly building a London presence through individual lateral hires, we have embarked on this ambitious effort to join together a group of London's most talented lawyers with our own experienced corporate attorneys.”

The UK lawyers include Maurice Allen, the high-flying banking partner who left Clifford Chance last year.

The others are Clifford Chance partner Martin Hughes and senior assistants Sean Pierce and James Chesterman from Linklaters and Freshfields respectively.