Winston & Strawn in shock London launch

US firm set for City hiring spree; UK merger on agenda; Christmas opening planned

Chicago firm Winston & Strawn is set to brave the volatile UK market as it forges ahead with plans to open a London office within the next eight weeks.

Winston, which has been eyeing the London market for a number of months, will make a push towards the end of the year into corporate and transactional work, and intends to take on both UK and US lawyers.

Robert Bostrum, managing partner at Winston's New York office, said: “It's a strong possibility that by the year end we'll open an office in London. It's really in response to clients who have expressed a need for us to have a presence.”

Bostrum declined to comment on which clients had requested that the firm expand into the UK. However, Winston is known to have strong relationships with a number of high-profile investment banks. These include Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, WestLB and Schroder Salomon Smith Barney.

Bostrum said the firm would initially opt for organic growth, but refused to rule out the possibility of a merger.

Winston is not averse to growing through bolt-on acquisitions, since in 2000 the Midwestern firm nearly doubled the size of its New York office by linking up with Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan.

So far the firm has only a scant presence in Europe, with offices in both Paris and Geneva.

Commenting on why the firm was moving into London as fears continue to increase over the dearth of corporate work in the UK, Bostrum said: “We've always been a very cautious firm. I think that our approach and our strength is that we make sure that we'll get a return on the investment in year one; and our assessment is that there are enough opportunities in London to achieve that.”

Giles Rubens, director at Hildebrandt International, said: “I think that it's erroneous to look at this just from an economic point of view; you need to look at it from a strategic viewpoint aswell.”

He added: “There are a number of US law firms that shouldn't be in London because they don't have the strategic rationale, but there are those who do. For them, now might be the right time to expand.”