Orchards furthers NY plan by doubling partner count

City corporate law firm Orchards has almost doubled its partner capacity with the hire of five partners, including Halliwell Landau’s senior corporate partner, as it plans a move into New York

Patrick Heffernan, who is based in Halliwells’ London office, will be joined by MCI WorldCom’s international employment counsel Lynne Burns and Richards Butler media litigation partner Paul Sutton.

The hires, which also include Beveridge Milton junior partner Nicholas Mayles and Shoosmiths property head Grania Thompson, are crucial to Orchards’ plans to open a New York office alongside a financial services company.

Orchards, which lost four partners at the end of 2000 to Altheimer & Gray, will be bolstered by Heffernan’s client list, which includes Aer Lingus and Nokia. Thompson brings National Air Traffic as her client. Orchards clients before the moves included Acer, the Bank of England, JP Morgan subsidiary EFSS, MBNA and Viglen (formerly Amstrad).

Heffernan will head Orchards’ corporate team and Burns the employment team. Heffernan said he moved from Halliwells because he was not happy with the culture at the firm.
“There’s been a shift at the top of the firm after the senior partner left, and it has fewer partners than six months ago,” he explained.

Heffernan was impressed with Orchards, saying that it “punched above its weight”. “Orchards painted a very encouraging picture and I was knocked over with the volume of its work,” he added.

Senior partner and chief executive David Orchard explained that international expansion is high on the agenda. A financial services organisation that has been advised by Orchards in the past is currently in talks with the firm about setting up an office together in New York.

It was stressed that it will not be a partnership, but a means to working together in a more practical way.

Orchard, who now has 11 partners at his firm, said: “We’re looking for a New York office, particularly as a lot of our corporate work comes from there. We’re courted regularly by US firms, but up to now we’ve avoided their approaches.”
Orchards is currently acting in a £750m private placing for a US insurance company with US connections.

Orchard continued: “We could get away with [the office] not being in New York. It could just as easily be in New Jersey, where we have very close relationships with clients.”

However, the firm is also keen to invest heavily in offices outside the US. “As long as there’s a semblance of a requirement we’re not afraid to invest,” said Orchard.

Orchard, who said that the firm had made a 30 per cent growth every year since its launch in 1995, has a mixed practice, drawing on his experience from DJ Freeman, where he was a commercial litigator, and his prior experience from Midlands Bank, where he spent five years as an in-house lawyer.

Orchards has 40 assistants. As well as specialising in litigation and corporate, it does property, healthcare, licensing, trade and intellectual property.