Allen joins White & Case

The breakaway banking team which walked out of the London office of Weil Gotshal & Manges in January is joining White & Case.

The team, led by Maurice Allen, has joined forces with two lawyers from Clifford Chance and another defector from Weil Gotshal to form a six-partner finance team.

Allen left Weil Gotshal four months ago with banking partners Nick Holt, Martin Hughes and Rachel Hatfield after a dispute about the firm’s European expansion and the autonomy given to London (The Lawyer, 31 January).

Former managing partner Holt is not moving to White & Case, but leading Clifford Chance banking partner Colin Potter and his senior assistant, Jake Jackaman, are both joining as partners.

A fifth Weil Gotshal banking partner is also jumping ship. Mark Western handed in his notice to the firm after the White & Case partnership voted in favour of the team coming aboard on Friday night.

White & Case has been trying to boost its English law capability for the past year. It has talked to several UK firms, including Allen & Overy, without success.

The Lawyer understands the financing team seriously considered joining US firms Kirkland & Ellis and Willkie Farr & Gallagher before choosing White & Case, which Allen says is the best fit for his team.

He says: “When I think of White & Case in Europe I think of project finance but in the States their banking practice and acquisition finance is central to what they do. But they haven’t been able to export that, and that is what we are going to work on.”

White & Case has 1,000 lawyers in 26 countries, with more than half of them outside the US. Its international network and culture was a big attraction for the team.

Allen says: “It’s not a North American operation and a European operation. The guys in the States are almost more excited about this than anyone because they have the clients and they have contacts who will use us.”

The firm’s clients include Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, Citibank, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

In the next 18 months, London plans to recruit 30 more finance partners and assistants, and the aim is to build the office to as many as 200-300 lawyers.

Potter was one of the most senior players in Clifford Chance’s finance group. He spent seven years in New York developing the firm’s presence there, and his clients include several New York investment and commercial banks.

He will work alongside London partner Peter Finlay and John Bellhouse, who remains executive partner in charge of the London office, to manage development of the firm’s English law capability.

Bellhouse says: “I am confident that with this team on board our ability to attract top quality lawyers in disciplines such as M&A and tax will be significantly enhanced and that the next phase of the build-out of the London office will follow quickly.”