Welcome to the 73rd edition of Law Firm Partner Moves in London, from the specialist partner team at Edwards Gibson, where we look back at announced partner-level recruitment activity in London over the past two months and give you a ‘who’s moved where’ update.
With few exceptions, our January-February “the transfer season” edition tends to record the highest number of moves in any given year. This bi-monthly round-up contains 89 partner moves – a decrease of 5% on the number of hires we saw during the same period last year (94) and although down 2% on the cumulative five-year average it remains 2% up on the ten-year average (87).
So far, 2023 has seen no fewer than nine firms hire three or more partners. The two most covetous firms this edition were DWF and Stephenson Harwood, which welcomed 4 partners apiece.
The largest multi-partner team hire was New York firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s dramatic raid on Travers Smith for a trio of asset management flavoured laterals. However, 7 other firms - (Akin Gump, Cleary Gottlieb, Clyde & Co, Cravath, DWF, Paul Hastings and Wedlake Bell) - all welcomed partner duos this edition.
Of particular note to market watchers, is the launch of an English law offering by one of New York’s finest - Cravath, Swaine & Moore - which swipes a two-partner leverage finance/high yield team from fellow white shoe outfit Shearman & Sterling. Whilst this move has excited much comment in the City, along the lines of “a new threat to the top of the established Big Law order", in practice, it is unlikely that the uber conservative 100 something partner firm will expand its English law capability much beyond its core lender-focused finance offering anytime soon.
Nevertheless, on the subject of elite New York headquartered firms with historically very conservative lateral hiring policies in London, Cleary Gottlieb’s welcoming of three new partners makes that firm look almost trigger happy … although, unlike most in its peer group, Cleary has been practising English law for more than a quarter of a century.
- Top partner recruiters in London January – February 2023
|Stephenson Harwood||4||(2 laterals)|
|Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton||3||(3 laterals)|
|Clyde & Co||3||(3 laterals)|
|Goodwin Procter||3||(2 laterals)|
|Paul Hastings||3||(3 laterals)|
|Simpson Thacher & Bartlett||3||(3 laterals)|
|Weil Gotshal & Manges||3||(3 laterals)|
|Wilson Sonsini||3||(3 verticals)|
Ince, Travers Smith and White & Case saw the highest attrition – each loosing 5 laterals in the first two months of 2023, followed by Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Charles Russell Speechlys, Reed Smith and Shearman & Sterling, each losing 4 London partners apiece.
- Highest firm attrition rates in London (laterals only) January – February 2023
|White & Case||5|
|Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner||4|
|Charles Russell Speechlys||4|
|Shearman & Sterling||4|
|Norton Rose Fulbright
- The travails of Travers Smith
The first two months of 2023 has seen the 80 something partner London firm lose 5 laterals to US rivals (a three-partner team to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, along with its head of private equity to Clearly Gottlieb and a funds focused corporate tax lateral to White & Case). On top of the two partners it lost in the second half of 2022 (employment to Goodwin Procter and corporate to Fried Frank), Travers Smith, which has struggled with profitability in recent years, appears to have lost nearly 10% of its partnership in just six months. Indeed, the private equity focused silver circle firm, which in the 10-years prior to 2023 lost on average just one lateral p/a, suddenly appears to have become a metaphor for the ability of more profitable US firms to snatch prime talent almost at will from their UK rivals.
- Also of note in this edition
- 33% (29) of all hires were female.
- 18% (16) of all hires were non-partnerships moving into partnership.
- 3 firms hired from in-house this edition: Morrison & Foerster (from the Bank of England), Sidley Austin (from Strategic Value Partners) and Schulte Roth & Zabel (from Paratus).
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss this article or any other aspect of the market in more depth.
Scott Gibson, Director firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)7788 454 080
Sloane Poulton, Director email@example.com or +44 (0)7967 603 402
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