2011 Round-up – Laterals: Switch Watch

It was a busy year for partner moves, with private equity funds a particular focus. But all eyes are on DLA’s next move with the arrival of Tony Angel at the helm

Tony Angel
Tony Angel

In June Weil Gotshal & Manges raided Clifford Chance for a four-partner funds team comprising Ed Gander, Nigel Clark, Nick Benson and tax partner Jonathan Kandel.

According to several sources close to the situation, Clifford Chance threatened to sue them for breach of fiduciary duty.

Although there were some hopes at Clifford Chance that star associate and Apax Partners secondee Stephen Fox would be persuaded to stay, those hopes were dashed when he resigned in July to join his former colleagues at Weil. But for Weil it was also about banking: the firm brought in partner Stephen Lucas from Linklaters in May to join former Ashurst partner James Hogben, who had been recruited in January that year; then in September it hired restructuring partner Paul Bromfield from Jones Day.

Meanwhile, Clifford Chance began the long road to replenish its funds practice, hiring Debevoise & Plimpton counsel Gerard Sviola into the ­partnership in September.

Names at the Rose

In July Proskauer Rose hired SJ Berwin funds partners Nigel van Zyl and Oliver Rochman, bringing its complement of City funds partners to four, then augmenting it to five when it brought in Kirkland & Ellis partner Kate Simpson. This was part of a general bulk-up by the US firm, which had been in merger talks with SJ Berwin for much of 2010. In April Proskauer also snared corporate partners ­Russell Carmedy and Michael Nouril from Jones Day.

Still, SJ Berwin managed to ­persuade competition king Stephen Kon from jumping ship for Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in the ­summer.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom was also getting busy in private ­equity funds in 2011. In September it launched its own City funds practice when it took on partner Stephen Sims from Macfarlanes.

The wooers

The most dramatic hires in Asia were without a doubt made by Kirkland, which in August hired no fewer than seven lawyers into the partnership from top-tier competitors in Hong Kong. It hired three partners from Latham & Watkins (David Zhang, John Otoshi and Benjamin Su), three from Skadden (Li-Chien Wong, Nick ­Norris and Dominic Tsun) and two lawyers from Allen & Overy (A&O) (partner Ashley Young and senior associate Douglas Murning, the latter arriving as a partner).

A&O was one of the most ­acquisitive firms in partner hires throughout the year, snagging three partners from Gide Loyrette Nouel in July to open in Casablanca. For A&O Herbert Smith was a happy hunting ground in 2011. In May it took a three-partner Paris litigation team (Denis Chemla, Michael Young and Erwan Poisson) and in October it hired corporate and securities ­partners Jim Wickenden and Adam Wells in London.

Middle’s ends

Mid-sized UK firms were not immune to group moves. Simmons & Simmons made its own splash in May when it announced the recruitment of a five-partner real estate finance team from Berwin Leighton Paisner comprising John Hayward, Mark Waghorn, Richard Hughes, Simon Kildahl and veteran Bob Jones.

Holman Fenwick Willan recruited eight aerospace partners from BLG, while RPC continued its ­extraordinary lateral hiring spree throughout 2011, including the four-partner capture of CMS Cameron McKenna’s Bristol insurance team in September.

Stars and swipes

In London US firms made big-name hires throughout the year. In February Sullivan & Cromwell hired Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer banking partner Presley Warner and in May brought in white-collar crime partner Louise Delahunty from Simmons. The firm launched a Hong Kong local law practice in June when it hired Freshfields Hong Kong managing partner Kay Ian Ng.

In June Bingham scored a coup when it recruited former Simmons managing partner and finance litigator Mark Dawkins. Locke Lord, best known in the UK for being a former suitor of BLG, made a dramatic launch in London with no fewer than seven partners from Salans led by Stephen Finch and Daniel Polden.

Meanwhile, Dechert upped the ­hiring ante this year, bringing in a total of four partners from DLA Piper (litigator Neil Gerrard, investigations partners Duncan Wiggetts and Jonathan Pickworth and trade specialist Miriam Gonzalez).

Tony award

However, DLA Piper made possibly the most mesmerising hire of the year with its capture of former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel, who will become senior partner at DLA Piper.

Angel may have been out of the law for four years, but his arrival at the firm – and its subsequent presumed transformation – will be the most closely watched move of all.