Welcome to the 74th 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.
This bi-monthly round-up contains 88 partner moves – up 11% on the same period in 2022 (79), and 16% and 25% above the cumulative five-year and ten-year averages (76 and 70 respectively).
The numbers in this edition are flattered by two factors in particular: Milbank’s acquisition of a half-dozen laterals from the London office of clandestine Scottish private equity boutique Dickson Minto; and by the enforced departure of a quintet of émigrés from the collapse of the legal services arm of funds boutique MJ Hudson. Whilst it was announced at the end of last year that the entire London office of Dickson Minto was to defect to Milbank Tweed (reported in our 72nd Edition), in the event, finance lateral Chris Barron broke off to join rival New York firm Fried Frank in February 2023 (reported in our 73rd Edition) and the final line up of arrivals was not confirmed until their appearance at Milbank in March.
- Top partner recruiters in London March – April 2023
|Addleshaw Goddard||3||(3 laterals)|
|Dechert||3||(1 lateral, 2 verticals)|
|Haynes and Boone||3||(3 laterals)|
|Kingsley Napley||3||(3 laterals)|
|Pinsent Masons||3||(3 laterals)|
In addition to the above, the following firms all hired 2 partners apiece: Burges Salmon, Charles Russell, Fladgate, Gowling WLG, Shakespeare Martineau, Sidley, Squire Patton Boggs, Stephenson Harwood and Withers.
The two most sizable multi-partner team moves this edition were: Milbank’s acquisition of a 6 partner private equity and antitrust team from Dickson Minto (mentioned above) and Texas born Haynes and Boone’s poaching of a 3 partner private funds and venture capital team from (the now defunct) MJ Hudson. As per our methodology Edwards Gibson does not record as a “partner move” the transfer of individual partners to their new entity on a formal law firm merger. As such the hire of three contentious construction partners into Howard Kennedy - following its acquisition of construction boutique Corbett & Co in March 2023 - does not feature in our statistics.
- Highest firm attrition rates in London (laterals only) March – April 2023
|Weil Gotshal & Manges||3|
In addition to the above, 8 firms: BCLP, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ince, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, Shearman & Sterling and Travers Smith all lost 2 London-based partners to rival law firms.
Of interest to market watchers this round-up is an uber rare hire by white shoe firm Sullivan & Cromwell - which picks up a private equity lateral from Allen & Overy, as well as yet another hire by, traditionally conservative fellow New Yorker Cleary Gottlieb - which snaps up its fourth lateral in as many months (this time in the form of a finance partner from Linklaters). Despite losing two laterals Linklaters itself comes out net positive following its hire of three laterals from: Shearman & Sterling, Travers Smith and Latham & Watkins respectively. Indeed, in a quirky twist of recruitment fate Linklaters and Latham & Watkins trade partners with the magic circle outfit picking up a corporate infrastructure partner whilst at the same time losing an antitrust lateral to its LA headquartered rival.
The travails of Travers Smith continue …
In our last edition we commented on the very high lateral attrition rate at Travers Smith – which had seen the 80 something partner firm lose no fewer than seven laterals to rivals in the preceding six months (against a 10-year historic attrition rate of one lateral p/a). Unfortunately, the travails of Travers Smith continue into this edition with the silver circle firm losing a further two partners in the form of a private funds specialist (to Dechert) and a private equity lateral (to Linklaters). As the quality of all the recently departed partners appears to be high (not to mentioned that at the time of writing there appears to be at least two further Travers Smith partners whose profiles have recently been taken down from the firm’s website), presumably the management at Snow Hill are considering contingencies – if so, we know an excellent legal recruiter they can speak to!
Ince … and out
In April it was announced that the 100 something partner AIM listed legal business Ince Group was to go into administration. The troubled firm - a chimera comprising two legacy law firms: Ince & Co (a shipping, insurance, energy and aviation blue blood) and Gordon Dadds (a west end private client flavoured outfit) – has seen a steady stream of defections, including two this edition. Whilst rumours abound of potential suitors for the business, it is probable that the number of partner moves (enforced or otherwise) in our future editions will be bolstered by the flotsam and jetsam from the collapse of Ince Group. Similarly, by our reckoning, three further MJ Hudson partners may yet emerge at new homes following that (also listed) firm’s winding up of its legal business.
Also of note in this edition
- 25% (22) of all hires were female.
- 19% (17) of all hires were non-partners moving into partnership.
- 5 firms hired from in-house this edition: Ashurst (from Goldman Sachs), Bird & Bird (from the Information Commissioner's Office), Gately (from Cromwell Property Group), McGuireWoods from Co-Operative Bank) and Norton Rose Fulbright (from Morgan Stanley).
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 email@example.com or +44 (0)7788 454 080
Sloane Poulton, Director firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)7967 603 402
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