WFW makes waves with entry into German shipping

Come October, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) will have its first-ever office in Germany. As reported in today’s edition of The Lawyer (page 4), the top 50 City firm is launching an office in Hamburg with the appointment of two German partners to focus initially on shipping and shipping finance.

WFW decided to move into Germany almost six years ago. During that time, the German shipping finance market has grown from strength to strength and is now booming. Hamburg is also well located, being an important gateway into the Baltic states.

So while WFW was relatively slow in getting its act together, the firm could not have chosen a better time to dip its toe into the Hamburg legal market. The firm also has the advantage of having virtually no competition from rival UK firms – the only other City firm with a presence in Hamburg is Ince & Co, which focuses on shipping litigation.

US energy players power up in London

US firms with an energy bent seem to be gearing up in London. Last week, Texas-based oil and gas firm Thompson & Knight launched in London with the hire of Anthony Golding from LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae. This news followed the relaunch party of fellow Texans Fulbright & Jaworski the week before.

Fulbright was celebrating the hire of highly rated litigator Lista Cannon from Richards Butler and other new lawyers, such as Graham Simkin, also from Richards Butler, and David Howell from Baker & McKenzie.

Fulbright is beefing up its disputes practice in London on the back of work for clients such as BP, Shell and Yukos. With other leading energy-focused Yanks such as Leboeuf and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld also tooling up in the City, it’s a good time to be American and active in the energy sector. Just ask George W Bush. Perhaps, though, you should only whisper the name Vinson & Elkins.

Kirkland shoulders Shearman in City contentious scene

As exclusively revealed on (1 July), Kirkland & Ellis has become the latest US firm to make a splash in the London contentious scene.

The Chicago firm has lured away Shearman & Sterling‘s only litigation and arbitration partner Chris Colbridge.

Litigation forms one of Kirkland’s four key practice areas, alongside IP, private equity and restructuring. But by contrast, litigation has been less central at Shearman, contributing only 17 per cent to turnover. However, the firm is currently expanding the group to provide a counter-cyclical balance to its powerful finance group.

According to The AmLaw 100, Kirkland last year posted an average profit per equity partner of $1.97m (£1.1m), compared with Shearman’s $1.15m (£640,000), which is not even enough to earn it a place in the 20 most profitable firms in the US.

Shearman’s London office has had headhunters on the prowl for contentious partners for some time. With a relatively small litigation practice and profits falling behind those of many of its US rivals, Shearman’s headhunters may have a tough sell ahead of them.

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