Paul Weiss prepares for launch in London

After a two year wait, two top partners are flown in from New York

New York firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison is opening a London office in the autumn.

The firm is drafting two of its most senior New York partners to launch the office, along with four other lawyers. The head of the practice will be the current head of the securities group Mark Bergman, and the other partner will be senior M&A and private equity partner David Lakhdhir.

Paul Weiss has been considering such a move for more than two years (The Lawyer, 19 July 1999), and it comes on the back of demand from its US private equity clients to set up a practice.

The new office will focus on private equity and private M&A transactions in Europe, and on cross-border M&A transactions and capital markets transactions involving European issuers.

The firm has had an office in Paris for more than 20 years, and it has a best-friends relationship with German firm Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch and now with Herbert Smith.

In New York the firm is well known for its corporate and litigation practices, and has a focus on private equity. The firm is one of the most profitable in New York. According to The American Lawyer, in 2000 it recorded fee incomes totalling $278m (£194.2m), with equity partners taking home an average of just over $1m (£698,600).

But the firm has no plans to move into local law in London, preferring to look for similar relationships to its one with Gleiss Lutz.

Bergman says: “This is really just a platform on which we expect to build. The direction we take will be a function of what we learn when we get to London. We have a best-friends relationship with Gleiss Lutz in Germany and we expect to use that model in various other jurisdictions. We have an open mind and feel the best way to decide is once we are on the ground. We will certainly need to be working with the local lawyers, and we will see what makes the most sense.”

Paul Weiss is a 500-lawyer firm with additional offices in Washington DC, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing.