A rundown of commercial property’s big guns used to go something like this: in at number three was Freshfields, at number two came Lovells and sharing the top spot were Linklaters and Clifford Chance, for obvious reasons. No one else came near this international superleague in terms of sheer commitment to real estate and the essential back-up they offer in tax, finance, competition and projects.
But while those four have been sitting on their laurels, a fifth firm has been forging ahead in its own unique way. As this week’s issue of The Lawyer reveals, Allen & Overy (A&O) has hired its very own New York real estate partner from Paul Hastings. The hire represents a huge vote of confidence from the A&O partnership in the New York office and the international real estate strategy, which is being driven at a pace by real estate head Adam Cleal.
As you’ve probably guessed, the New York real estate plan doesn’t stop here. The man in question, Kevin O’Shea, will be bulking up the practice pretty damn quick. In a land where real estate lawyers are ten-a-penny, A&O has found itself a big name who combines pure real estate with the clever stuff for which Cleal’s practice has such panache and for which it is increasingly well-known. O’Shea has a huge practice domestically and will feed into Cleal’s efforts to meet growing client demand for multijurisdictional advice. With A&O’s US tax capability in both London and New York, you can see how the gameplan is coming together. (Note: A&O has more US-qualified lawyers in London than any other firm, US or UK.)
At the moment, the move is something that no other superleague member can match. Rogers & Wells was hardly known for its real estate expertise, while Linklaters is focusing its energy on finding finance laterals in New York.
And Cleal has other irons in the fire. Only a few weeks earlier, The Lawyer reported the launch of its Frankfurt real estate group, with eight existing A&O partners putting their muscle into targeting real estate work as a standalone function, as well as supporting other areas of the firm. A&O now needs to do more in Europe to keep raising its profile at the sexy end of real estate, so expect a number of similar moves in other jurisdictions soon and a few key hires thrown in for good measure. A London lateral would also be rather nice.