Law: US law firms swoop on the UK

American practices are hiring some of the best local talent to help them set up in London. Catrin Griffith reports

Five years ago it would have been unthinkable to argue that the Americans could compete head-on with City giants such as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields. But the past 18 months have seen an end to the uneasy truce between Wall Street and City law firms, with an increasing number of US companies raiding top-line UK practices. For example, this time last year, New York-based Weil Gotshal & Manges poached ex- Clifford Chance banking star Maurice Allen - from under the nose of Freshfields, which was wooing him at the time. Allen, a maverick player who is on a salary package of pounds 500,000, has built up Weil Gotshal's London office to 30 lawyers from a standing start, bringing in such names as Linklaters & Paines's capital markets partner Nia Morris.

Although Allen is the highest-profile defector to the Americans, he is just one of many recent hirings. White & Case has recruited Margaret Cole, a Stephenson Harwood banking litigator, and John Bellhouse, a McKenna & Co construction-arbitration partner. Skadden Arps took Theodore Goddard's young corporate star, Michael Hatchard, while Chicago-based Sidley & Austin lured Clifford Chance's telecoms partner, John Edwards. They were followed by three banking/securitisation hires: Cameron Markby Hewitt's Graham Penn and Howard Waterman, plus Simmons & Simmons's Jane Borrows.

US firms in London fall into three categories: those that won't consider hiring UK-qualified lawyers in the near future, those that are considering it, and those that are already doing it.

Won't do it

Long established in London, four companies make up much of Wall Street's so-called white-shoe elite: Sullivan & Cromwell, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Cravath Swaine & Moore, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. All enjoy cosy referral relationships with many of the leading City practices, despite the fact that Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy have themselves been hiring US lawyers.

Typical work: representing underwriters in major UK and European privatisations involving global equity offerings with a US tranche, or US advice on mega- mergers and acquisitions such as Glaxo/ Wellcome and Rentokil/BET.

Typical comment: "We serve clients by reaching out to those London firms which are best able to deal with a particular UK problem" (David Brownwood, Cravath).

Typical profits per partner: massive. Average profits per partner at Cravath in 1994 were pounds 817,000; at Sullivan & Cromwell they were pounds 790,000.

Prospects: rosy. Hugely profitable, these firms have a virtual lock on work from the major Wall Street investment banks.

Might do it

Not all of the Wall Street elite have rejected the idea of developing a UK practice. It would make perfect sense for firms like Cleary Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton and Shearman & Sterling to recruit UK lawyers; both have local practices in Frankfurt and Paris. Also considering the possibility is Debevoise & Plimpton, while Rogers & Wells does not rule it out entirely.

Typical work: similar to that of the Wall Street firms above, centred on securities and international financing, but also with a strong European telecoms element.

Typical comment: "We have a strong European commitment. Just as English firms are trying to build up their US practice, we will be building up the UK side," (Ed Greene, Cleary Gottlieb).

Typical profits per partner: huge. These firms have the financial muscle to seduce UK lawyers - Clearys averaged pounds 590,000 in 1994, while Shearman & Sterling averaged pounds 417,000.

Prospects: couple Wall Street clout with proven international success, and you have some serious City contenders, should they decide to go for it.

Already doing it

The fastest-growing group of all, these firms have identified UK law as an essential part of a European and global practice. Newest on the scene are Dewey Ballantine, which broke off its association with City firm Theodore Goddard in April, and Chadbourne & Park, which hit the headlines, with its offer of up to pounds 700,000 for project finance partners.

Typical work: varies, but mostly project finance (where UK law is increasingly required) and general banking and securities. Milbank Tweed has revamped its project-finance presence since it poached Ken MacRitchie and Nick Buckworth from Clifford Chance. The other major player is White & Case.

There are other niches, too: White & Case has been developing a litigation and arbitration presence in London to tie in with its arbitration practices in Paris and Stockholm. LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae has 17 lawyers advising on insurance work.

Typical comment: "It's become very much easier to recruit. Good people want to be rewarded for their merit" (Margaret Cole, White & Case).

Typical profits per partner: variable, but hovering around City levels. Skadden Arps averaged pounds 547,000 in 1994, with White & Case on pounds 370,000 and Weil Gotshal on pounds 467,000. Many of these firms do not have a lockstep where partner earnings are tied to seniority; instead, partners are remunerated according to merit, which may be a help in recruitment.

Prospects: Milbank Tweed, White & Case, Skadden Arps and Mayer Brown are all taken seriously in project-finance circles, while banking lawyers are watching Weil Gotshal like hawks. The jury is still out on new entrants such as Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Dewey Ballantine, and Chadbourne & Park.

All profit-per-partner figures in the article are taken from the AmLaw 100.

The writer is editor of `Legal Business'.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories