Davis Polk targets EU bank clients

Slaughter and May's “best friend” in the US Davis Polk & Wardwell is changing its international strategy to concentrate on its merchant bank clients.

John McCarthy, head of Davis Polk's international practice committee, says the change will include “an emphasis on private equity, because of the way the market is moving”.

McCarthy moved to London from New York in September this year. He says: “We do quite a bit of work for US and other funds who have quite publicly indicated that they are interested in investing abroad, particularly in Europe, so it is important for us to get our staffing up as part of the programme.”

Much of the firm's international work is based in Europe, he says, advising clients including JP Morgan & Co and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

Davis Polk is particularly active in securities deals. It advises on pooled investment in the US and Europe.

The firm is advising JP Morgan and the clearance settlement system for international trade in securities Euroclear on its joint venture with France's Sicovam, Clearnet and ParisBourse. It is likely to be a rival to the European clearing house formed through the merger of Cedel and Deutsche Barse Clearing.

McCarthy says: “We now have 10 per cent of our head count in Europe. Our activity level and evolution is an aspect that is happening at a greater pace here than elsewhere.”

Davis Polk recently moved to larger premises, raising speculation that it intended to hire UK lawyers. McCarthy denies this.

He says: “It certainly isn't at a level one would wish it to remain at.

“It is going to grow. We have that space to grow and we certainly intend to use it.”