US firms retrench in London as Buchanan Ingersoll loses all its lawyers; Altheimer hit as yet more go

The anticipated retrenchment of US firms in the London market has begun with the loss of the last two partners from Buchanan Ingersoll’s three-year-old office.

The exits of corporate partner Jonathan Griffiths to Penningtons and banking partner David Halliday to an unknown destination coincide with the lease of Buchanans’ Tower 42 offices to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

The firm is retaining a ‘lawyerless office’, manned by administrative staff who share space with Haarmann Hemmelrath on another floor of Tower 42. A spokesperson for the firm told The Lawyer: “We announced more than a year ago that we were going to restructure the London office, and we’ve now completed that process.”

The final departures come after a rocky three years for the London office, which at one stage boasted 13 partners. It is understood that Buchanans initially invested up to £3m in the office, including renting 15,000sq ft in Tower 42 at around £60 per sq ft. The space has cost the firm well over £2m in rent alone.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Altheimer & Gray is undergoing a review of its London office as it continues to be hit by partner departures. Head of property Stephen Scates, who joined the firm early last year, is leaving to head up his own venture, SJS Law, while corporate partner Laurence Begner also intends to leave.

Scates is the second head of property to leave in less than a year and a half, after Andrew Bond left the firm.

Other departures include: intellectual property partner Della Burnside, who left for easyGroup after just 10 months with the firm; senior associate Georgie Collins, who departed for Bevan Ashford; partners Brian Rutherford and Kathy Harris, who both resigned for Osborne Clarke; and projects partner Ashok Ghosh, who went to Beachcroft Wansbroughs.

The firm is also saddled with 8,000 sq ft of office space at 7 Bishopsgate, unused for 12 months, as well as a further 11,000 sq ft at 60 Bishopsgate.

Despite the losses, the firm still has 17 partners and, overall, 36 lawyers in London.

Louis Goldman, head of the international practice at Altheimer, said the review was part of a programme conducted throughout the firm’s offices, and claimed that in no way would it lead to the closure of the London office.