Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has made a rare litigation lateral hire in London, taking on dispute resolution partner James Norris-Jones from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF).

Norris-Jones was at HSF for 16 years and was made partner in 2012. He specialises in commercial dispute resolution, including large-scale English High Court litigation and arbitration. 

Cleary managing partner Michael Gerstenzang said: “We are delighted to welcome James to our firm. He will add to our already formidable depth and breadth of talent in this important area of our international practice.”

“James has developed an impressive practice and earned the respect of clients. He brings a wealth of experience and will be a fantastic addition to our team,” said Cleary disputes partner Jonathan Kelly.

Norris-Jones’ experience at HSF includes advising RBS in the £12bn rights issue litigation which settled in June. Other clients include UBS and Euronet Worldwide.

Norris-Jones added: “I have had a fantastic 16-years at HSF, had the opportunity to work on some landmark cases and make good friends and colleagues. It is now time for a change and a new challenge, but I wish the firm every success in the future.”

A spokesperson for HSF said: “We can confirm that James Norris-Jones is retiring from the partnership. We thank for his contribution to the firm and wish him well for the future.”

Cleary rarely hires lateral partners. A notable exception was when it hired Stephenson Harwood’s former CEO Sunil Gadhia in 2012. Gadhia left his role as a litigation partner and head of the firm’s India practice to join Cleary as a litigation partner.

The news of Norris-Jones’ departure appears to vindicate the market perception that US firms’ aggressive hiring strategy shows no signs of cooling.

Earlier in June, HSF lost its co-head of energy Anna Howell to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which has taken on a number of HSF partners in the past,including global head of capital markets Steve Thierbach and his colleague Chris Haynes in 2015.