Watson Farley swaps US partners

WATSON Farley & Williams is returning New York partner David Osborne to its London headquarters almost six years after he opened the firm's US office.

Osborne will be replaced at the 25-lawyer US practice by banking partner Michael Kenny who moved to New York last month.

Kenny, who joined Watson Farley from Norton Rose in 1991, will remain as the only English-qualified partner, while Osborne, currently completing a case in the US, will join Andrew Muriel's asset finance team.

The US office, formed following the defection to Watson Farley of core partners from leading New York shipping practice Burlingham, Underwood & Lord, is one of the largest UK offices in the city. It advises on both New York and US Federal cases as well as English law.

“Because the core partners of this office all came from one firm, the majority of their practice was shipping and maritime work,” said Kenny. “But in the last five years we've bolted on and we've grown from the core business to include other specialties.

“It seemed to me it was a challenging opportunity to come here and try to develop further the banking work and particularly the international banking work.

“I want to try to develop further a cross-border international finance and transportation practice. That has been the appeal of this position.”

Kenny, who worked in Bahrain and Hong Kong before returning to London, said his placement was “open-ended”, but it was likely that he would remain in the US for at least three years.

“New York is an extremely competitive legal market. There are a lot of lawyers here and a lot of banking lawyers,” he said.

“We see our role as focusing on fairly well-targeted and defined areas. We're looking at the cross-border side of it.”