Welcome to the latest round-up of lateral partner moves in the legal market from 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.
There were 90 partner hires in the first two months of 2021 which, although 6% down on the 5-year statistical average for the same period, is actually 13% up on last year - 80. Indeed, as we have previously discussed, Big Law has, with some exceptions, so far managed to remain remarkably unscathed by the largest economic contraction the UK has ever seen.
No fewer than six firms took on three or more partners, with Hogan Lovells nabbing five: a four-partner litigation team (two laterals and two promotion hires) from Debevoise & Plimpton and the co-head of corporate - Patrick Sarch - from White & Case.
Top partner recruiters in London January – February 2021
- Hogan Lovells 5
- Addleshaw Goddard 3
- Bracewell 3
- Harcus Parker 3
- Paul Hastings 3
- Squire Patton Boggs 3
Given the inverse relationship between economic activity and commercial disputes, it is unsurprising that nearly a third of all hires were disputes lawyers and 12% were restructuring/ insolvency specialists, with three firms - Armstrong Teasdale, McDermott Will & Emery and Simpson Thacher – launching completely new practices in that space.
Firms hiring laterals whose practices were primarily restructuring or insolvency related
- Armstrong Teasdale (formerly Kerman & Co)
- Edwin Coe
- Faegre Drinker
- Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson
- Goodwin Procter
- Latham & Watkins
- McDermott Will & Emery (hired a two-partner team)
- Simpson Thacher & Bartlett (hired two partners from separate firms)
Although demand for restructuring and insolvency specialists clearly remains very high, many lawyers report that work levels remain eerily quiet due to governments across Europe pumping vast amounts of cash into the system to counter a COVID- lockdown induced economic collapse. Ironically, this debt fuelled stimulus has enabled many zombie companies which, “but for” COVID, would have collapsed, to survive. As such it is likely that many law firms, which paid a premium to acquire restructuring laterals in 2020, are yet to see a return on their investments.
Nevertheless, whilst it is rare in any market to find a restructuring lawyer who does not optimistically predict a sharp uptick in their work levels “by this time next year”, it is probable that, even with historically low interest rates, the inevitable tapering of government largess in 2020 will, at last, validate this oft’ repeated portent.
Outside of restructuring and disputes, our round-up contains plenty of market fizz with significant hires in corporate, finance and regulatory. Perhaps the most notable was Weil Gotshal & Manges’ snaring of that rarest of beasts in the London market – a Slaughter and May lateral, not even remotely close to that firm’s mandatory retirement age – congratulations to corporate partner Murray Cox.
Also of note in this edition
- Three firms hired partners from in-house: Clyde & Co (from RSM), Lewis Silkin (from Deliveroo) and Squire Patton Boggs (from MHMK Capital).
- 24% of all hires were non-partners moving into partnership.
- 24% of the total moves recorded were female.
The firm with the highest attrition rate was White & Case - which lost 4 laterals.
A significant number of US law firms have posted healthy financial results for 2020 – some have been spectacularly good. Whilst few UK headquartered law firms are expecting to report stellar results this year, it appears that many will perform far better than they were predicting in April last year. With this in mind, having learnt to work remotely and to take advantage of their inherent abilities to hedge their businesses to benefit from COVID-induced workflows, there is perhaps a note of guarded optimism amongst law firm management. Ordinarily, we would expect this to feed through to lateral recruitment but tapering of government stimulus and looming tax rises will doubtless temper this.
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.