Lovells plays to its strengths

It made a change yesterday to unearth a UK firm in New York that didn’t have a strategic plan of getting into the top tier of US M&A. Globally, a resurgent Lovells has hired 22 partners in less than a year.

It made a change yesterday (18 October) to unearth a UK firm in New York that didn’t have a strategic plan of getting into the top tier of US M&A.

Globally, a resurgent Lovells has hired 22 partners in less than a year. Six of them have come in the US since 1 January, with patent litigation and restructuring the core target areas. M&A can wait, maybe forever.

“We do have a small corporate and finance team that’s very focused on our core areas such as insurance,” Lovells’ US regional managing partner Marc Gottridge told me. “But our strategy is not to be all things to all people.”

Indeed. Actually, Gottridge was refreshingly candid in admitting that, realistically, Lovells was unlikely ever to match the capabilities of New York’s top M&A firms. OK, we knew that already, but it makes a change to hear a lawyer admit it.

Lovells has different ambitions. Its plan is to grow from a position of strength, to leverage off the practice areas where it has genuine market-leading capability and build a US team in their image.

As Gottridge puts it: “Growing corporate much beyond what we have in New York would be very tough. We think we’re better off investing in areas where we can make an impact and make a profit.”

To that end, Lovells recently brought in Veronica Mullally from Orrick to use the firm’s global position in IP to help kick-start the patent litigation practice in New York.

It didn’t take her long to bring in David Leichtman (although the chance for Leichtman to renew his acquaintance with his former Morgan Lewis mentor, Joe Cyr, probably helped make up his mind).

On the restructuring side the former Stroock & Stroock & Lavan duo Chris Donoho and Robin Keller also got off to a flyer, bringing work on the Global Power and Delta Mills bankruptcies with them from their old firm.

“We’re definitely looking at future lateral hires in IP and restructuring,” says Gottridge.

He’ll need to. Lovells’ 80 or so lawyers in the US are, as Gottridge admits, “a drop in a bucket”. But the firm is growing.

Showing them who’s boss
17 October 2007

Yesterday (Tuesday 16 October) was National Boss’s Day in the US. No, I had no idea what it was either.

Apparently on Boss’s Day, you’re supposed to get your esteemed employer a present for being so great all year.

I only found out because on Monday I was walking down Broadway (as you do), and was interviewed in the street by a TV reporter from Fox Business News. Makes a change from asking the questions, I suppose.

Fox just launched here on Monday with a big splash and the reporters were out in force chasing, er, a big splash. Such as National Boss’s Day.

The reporter asked me what I was going to do for my boss on Tuesday (answer: ‘Nothing’). But it got me thinking about what New York’s law firms might be doing to honour this worthy cause.
Answer: ‘Nothing’.

Over at White & Case, New York PR Reilly Starr nailed it: “I make my boss look good everyday, and so today is just another good day for him”.

The only firm that got even close was that well-known US outfit Linklaters, where the legendary Susie Llewellyn-Jones told me the firm does mark Administrative Professionals Day (or in its previous incarnation, Secretaries’ Day), with tea and gifts for all staff.

I think the reality is that even in the US – which, according to Gibson Dunn litigator Bob Serio, “has a national day for anything” – Boss’s Day is a bit of a joke. An excuse for Hallmark to sell a few more cards (apparently this year the company increased the number of National Boss’s Day products by 90 per cent).

Still, it gave me a good excuse to phone Sidley and ask whether any of the ‘partners’ who were demoted to counsel in 1999, and then found themselves on the right side of a $27.5m (£13.5m) age discrimination settlement last week would be sending chairman Tom Cole a card this year?

I’d rather not print the reply, but the gist was “probably not”.

Relatively speaking
15 October 2007

We’ve all been there: the first meeting of two families, your first chance to check out the fabled Crazy Uncle Harry.

For K&L Gates, the Inner Harbour in Baltimore was the location for its engagement party-style bash last week. The occasion was the firm’s annual partnership retreat. And the guests of honour were 26 equity partners from Hughes & Luce, the Texas firm that earlier this year found itself in the takeover target cross hairs of managing partner Peter Kalis.

Around 90 per cent of K&L Gates’ partnership made the trip to Baltimore. The theme was Parallel Tracks: Development and Integration.

As Kalis told me last Friday, moments before he headed into the event’s closing dinner: “You don’t build law firms by taking a step and then pausing and resting. Big business organisations don’t pause and rest. They continue to build, and while they do that they develop and integrate.”

Kalis has been on a mission in recent years to build his firm aggressively. Exactly one year ago he extended a similar annual retreat invitation to a bunch of partners from what was then the west coast-headquartered firm Preston Gates & Ellis. On 1 January this year, Preston Gates joined forces with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart.

This time, the partners from Hughes & Luce (including 80-year-old name partner Vester Hughes), although not yet part of K&L Gates were there for every minute of the retreat. Although both sides can still walk away from the deal in theory, last week’s ‘integration’ appearance makes that unlikely.

As for mad relatives? Let’s leave it to Kalis to nail that one: “I’ve spent enough time getting to know them recently. If they had any Crazy Uncle Harrys, I wouldn’t have invited the whole lot of them up here.”

To read Byrne in the USA from The Lawyer (15 October) click here.

To read last week’s Byrne in the USA blogs from click here.