Akin Gump loses London chief to Paul Hastings

US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has lost the senior partner of its London office after he refused to relocate back to the US.

Top corporate M&A partner Keith Hughes has turned his back on the firm and is moving to the fledgling London operation of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker.

Akin Gump asked him to go back to New York to service insurance company clients there, but he insisted that he could service them from London and keep hold of a strong European practice.

Hughes set up the office for Akin Gump in 1997 and has been senior partner ever since. His departure leaves the office with five lawyers – two of whom are partners.

Hughes specialises in US securities law, private equity and M&A. He has represented major US financial institutions in their investments, and has been involved in privatisation projects in emerging markets and acquisition financing in North Sea transactions. He refuses to name his clients.

Moving with him to Paul Hastings is a senior associate Maherin Gangat who has worked with him for European clients and for one major US life insurer in joint venture projects in South East Asia.

Hughes says: “Clients we have been working full-time for want us here rather than in New York. There were logistical reasons for Akin Gump to have me on the ground but these relationships have prospered quite well even with me working in London.”

The moves bring the size of Paul Hastings' London office to 14 lawyers, half of whom are UK qualified. The office advises US and European investment, commercial and development banks, investment advisers, investors and issuers on mainly project finance and M&A.

Managing partner Joel Simon says that the arrival of Hughes is a huge boost to the expanding team. He says: “We're extremely pleased with the growth of our office and our practice. Keith adds depth in areas we have been very busy in and has a great combination of institutional and corporate clients.”

Last month the firm took on dual qualified banking and insolvency partner Karol Denniston from City firm Biddle (The Lawyer, 22 May).