Credit crunch hits US partner prospects

McDermott Will & Emery

has replenished its UK partnership after a spate of departures, bucking a downward trend that has seen US firms promote fewer associates in London than they have for two years.

The financial climate has hit the London offices of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Latham & Watkins, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy and O’Melveny & Myers, which all made up fewer partners than the previous year.

O’Melveny co-managing partner John Daghlian said: “I think there’s still a cultural difference between US offices and London offices. It takes a long time to develop a successful office here and the market’s extremely tough.”

McDermott has promoted one partner each in finance, corporate, IP and tax. Former corporate head William Charnley defected to Mayer Brown in September, shortly before head of IP Larry Cohen left for Latham in October.

McDermott head of European competition Scott Megregian said: “These lawyers have been promoted because of their quality. Each is deserving of being partner. These promotions aren’t related to the recent departures in any way. The IP and corporate lawyer operate in different sectors.”

McDermott, Shearman & Sterling and Weil Gotshal & Manges all promoted the same amount of partners as last year, while Gibson Dunn & Crutcher promoted just one partner compared with none last year.

Overall only 3.8 per cent of the total number of associates at the US firms in London were promoted to partner.

One US firm partner said: “Although firms such as Latham and Shearman have built strong reputations in London, overall US firms are still not succeeding here. The headquarters don’t understand the market and in many cases don’t appreciate the real benefits of building up in London.”

Mayer Brown, which stands apart from these US firms in that it opened in the UK with a merger, was the only firm to boost numbers significantly, with 10 new partners compared with last year’s two.