Weekly Update – 30th May 2023


UK & Ireland

Paul Weiss London Partner Duo Walks to Sidley

The firm’s London deputy head is among the leavers in a very rare loss for the firm’s U.K. base. Ramy J. Wahbeh, Paul Weiss’ deputy London head, and Kaisa Kuusk are leaving the firm to join U.S. rival Sidley, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

5-Strong Shearman Team Defects to Ashurst

The global energy and infrastructure team hire comes just two days after Shearman and A&O announced their merger. Joining Ashurst are London-based project finance partners Sanja Udovicic and Julia Derrick, Seoul-based partner Anna Chung, and Singapore office head Jean-Louis Neves Mandelli and Singapore lawyer Scott Baggett, who is elevated from counsel to partner.

Van Bael & Bellis Launches London International Trade Practice, Hires Ashurst, Crowell Veterans

The firm said the new additions come at a time when clients are facing “growing regulatory scrutiny” from both the EU and the U.K. Michelle Linderman is set to join the new team from Crowell & Moring, where she has spent six years as a partner in the firm’s international trade group.

Quinn Emanuel Launches London IP Litigation Group

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is launching a contentious IP practice in London, the firm announced on Monday. The practice will be led by David Lancaster, who is set to join the firm from Pinsent Masons in August.


Simmons & Simmons Hires Kennedys Partner in Madrid

Simmons & Simmons said it is further developing its insurance capabilities in Spain to help meet the demands of an expanding market. Olivia Delagrange has joined the U.K. firm’s office in Madrid as an insurance partner after nearly a dozen years at Kennedy’s, according to her LinkedIn profile.


HFW Takes SK Ecoplant GC as Partner for Singapore Practice

Joining from sustainable construction engineering firm, SK Ecoplant, where she was general counsel, Helen Lee will be relocating from Seoul to Singapore.

Han Kun Hires A&O Shanghai Joint Operation Practice Partner

A former Kirkland & Ellis partner, Jing Li joins Han Kun from Allen & Overy’s Shanghai Free Trade Zone joint operation firm, where she was a partner.

Anjie’s Founding Partner Michael Gu Joins Hylands As Senior Partner In Shanghai

The senior partner hire comes less than four months after Hylands made its international debut with the establishment of an overseas office in San Francisco.

Ashurst JV Adds M&A Partner From Korea’s Oldest Law Firm

The appointment of M&A partner Lawrence Jhe coincides with the firm’s hire of five Shearman & Sterling energy and infrastructure lawyers.

Stephenson Harwood Adds Corporate Partner in Hong Kong From Top Chinese Law Firm

Justin Ma is admitted as a solicitor in both Hong Kong and Australia and focuses on the mainland China market.

Beijing-based Commerce & Finance Adds Ex-Norton Rose Corporate Finance Partner in Hong Kong

Terence Lau, previously a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright and Hogan Lovells, has joined the Hong Kong office of Chinese firm Commerce & Finance Law Offices.

Clayton Utz Takes the 3-Lawyer Litigation Team From DLA Piper

Partner Matt Spain joins the Australian firm after three years at DLA Piper. Australian law firm Clayton Utz has hired a partner-led litigation team from DLA Piper, bolstering its litigation and dispute resolution practice in Melbourne.

Freshfields Adds White & Case M&A Partner in Singapore

With the new hire, Freshfields now has seven partners in Singapore. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has hired White & Case partner Jon Bowden in Singapore as the firm continues to build out its office in the city-state.

Stephenson Harwood Takes Hill Dickinson’s Asia Regulatory Head in Singapore

The arrival of M&A and international sanctions partner Jonathan Goacher has boosted Stephenson Harwood’s partner headcount in Singapore to 23.

Linklaters Lands Corporate Partner from Nishimura & Asahi in Tokyo

Linklaters has hired corporate lawyer Yoshiyuki Asaoka from Japan’s largest law firm Nishimura & Asahi as a partner for its Tokyo office. This marks the U.K. firm’s first lateral partner hire in Japan since its appointment of former Ashurst Japan’s corporate partner Tracy Whiriskey in April last year.

The Americas

Foley & Lardner Poaches Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s LatAm Leaders in Miami

Ruben Diaz and Federico Goudie are joining the firm Monday after spending years working together at Hughes Hubbard on mostly Latin American transactional work. The pair say they jumped ship because of the ability to scale at Foley.

Paul Weiss Adds Former Wachtell Executive Compensation Partner in New York

Andrea Wahlquist Brown has decades of experience at both Wachtell and Simpson Thacher.

Milbank Trial Lawyer Jumps to Jenner & Block in LA

Alex Romain is the second litigation partner to join Jenner in California in 2023.

Wiley Builds Telecom Team Amid Growing Activity From AI and Privacy Laws

Several D.C. law firms have been adding talent to their telecom practices, seeing work from AI advancements, new data privacy laws and other recent legislation. Wiley has brought on Crystal Tully as special counsel, bringing years of experience on Capitol Hill.

Gibson Dunn Adds Kirkland M&A Partner as Oil and Gas Co-Chair in Houston

Kirkland & Ellis oil and gas M&A partner Rahul Vashi moved to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Houston, where he is excited to help the office grow.

Trio of Cahill Finance Partners Jump to Paul Hastings

Paul Hastings, continuing a string of lateral hiring in its finance practice, has added three partners from Cahill Gordon & Reindel in New York, including Marc Lashbrook, Josh Zelig and David Barash.

Latham M&A and Finance Partners Jump to Davis Polk

David Penna’s arrival establishes Davis Polk’s infrastructure finance practice, the firm said, adding Thomas Malone’s arrival in the M&A department will “further solidify our leadership position in the market.”


ASOS Appoints Next General Counsel

The internal appointment at the online clothing retailer is a former Slaughter and May lawyer. In an internal appointment, Emma Whyte takes over from former general counsel and company secretary Anna Suchopar.

AI Startup Valued at $1.5 Billion Hires First General Counsel

“It’s an honour to have the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and work alongside the fantastic team here, moving creativity forward through our powerful AI research,” newly hired Runway GC Cathleen Hartge said on LinkedIn.

Energy GC Stepping Down After Negotiating $19B Purchase

17-year Oneok attorney Stephen Allen departs for GuideStone, a faith-based financial services company.

Promotions & Appointments:

Corporate Litigation Practice Leader Named Potter Anderson’s Next Chair

Peter J. Walsh Jr., who has been at Potter Anderson for the entirety of his more than 35-year career to date, frequently appears in Court of Chancery litigation and has argued before the Supreme Court of Delaware and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mergers & Alliances:

A&O Shearman Needs 75% Partnership Approval to Get Merger Done

The firms’ leaders insist they are confident of getting the required partner support at a vote to take place this summer.

Office Openings & Closing:

Han Kun Launches First-Ever International Office – in Singapore

The Singapore outfit will be the firm’s third new office in 18 months. Beijing-based Han Kun Law Offices has become the latest law firm to break into the Singapore market, launching a new office in the city-state, according to the firm’s official invitation to its opening ceremony on June 15.

Firms Settling Into New Spaces Amid Flurry of Manhattan Leasing Activity by Legal Industry

According to a report this month from Cushman & Wakefield on leasing activity by law firms across the United States, the top 10 list for new leases or renewals based on square footage included five firms either re-signing or moving into new spaces in New York City over the past year.

Am Law 200 Law Firm Opens in Atlanta, Luring Veteran Lawyers From Georgia Firms

Bradley Arant is launching an office with 20 lawyers, including lawyers who were already leaders at their prior firms, said managing partner Jon Skeeters.


Where Are Partner Billing Rates Surging the Most in Big Law?

The median hourly rate for partners in M&A shot up the highest, while partners in Chicago, D.C. and LA saw some of the largest increases. While partner billing rates rose last year all over, they skyrocketed in certain practice areas in Big Law and several U.S. cities, according to a new analysis. Going forward, billing rates are expected to continue another steep increase this year.

Law Firm Partner Hourly Rates Rose Last Year at Biggest Clip in at Least a Decade

“Touching partner compensation is the third rail of law firm politics. You don’t touch it. It can cause a lot of consequences you’re not ready for,” said Ken Callander, principal at Value Strategies.

A&O and Shearman to Adopt Modified Lockstep Model as Part of Merger

The proposed merger would entail both firms agreeing to a compensation model that is different to what they have operated with in the past.

Technology & Innovation:

ChatGPT Faces a Timeout as Legal Turns Its Attention to More Mature, Legal-Specific AI Tools

ChatGPT rarely finds itself in most severe conversations about the use of generative AI in legal, and the focus is instead on the advanced LLMs themselves, such as GPT-4, and how they can best be harnessed to address the needs and concerns of the legal industry.

How AI and Machine Learning Will Transform Your Legal Department

With 80% of executives believing that automation can be applied to any business decision, AI and ML tools are currently the most popular area where business IT departments will invest in 2023.

Does My Company Need an Acceptable AI Use Policy?

With any new technology, the use of AI tools comes with its own set of challenges, including ethical considerations and potential risks. Such issues make it essential for companies to establish an acceptable use policy for the usage of AI tools.

Will the AI Boom Rewrite the Job Description for General Counsel?

“The general counsel does not need to be an expert technologist no more than Bill Gates was actually writing code at the high end of his executive career at Microsoft,” said Jason Winmill, managing partner of the legal department consulting firm Argopoint.

Diversity & Inclusion:

Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel Believes ‘It’s Just Good Business’ to Have Diverse Staff

Diversity in our teams promotes diversity of thought and ideas and allows us to effectively understand and communicate through all spectrums of the legal field. Whether it be with juries or clients it is a strength that few firms can match.

Morgan & Morgan Launches $2 Million Summer Associates Program

For the first time, the firm selected 60 students for its summer associates program, which allows all participants to get exposure to the various levels of plaintiffs’ work from intake to trial, with a “large percentage” of them likely to land a job offer.

Market Commentary:

Why A&O’s Rivals View Its Merger With Shearman as a ‘Huge Threat’

Some insiders at Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Linklaters are inclined to play down the impact of A&O’s proposed merger with Shearman—but others concede it could lead to refreshed approaches to the U.S. market.

As Korean Corporates Exit China, Korean Law Firms Pivot, Focusing On Chinese Investments into Korea

Until a few years ago, Korean companies were pouring into China, giving the China practices of Korean law firms plenty of work. But as demand for that work has declined in the wake of geopolitical and economic pressures, those same firms have found a new revenue stream for their China practices: advising Chinese companies as they invest in South Korea.

The Allen & Overy-Shearman Merger and the End of the Magic Circle Era

In Asia, the merger will give Shearman a needed boost in Southeast Asia, where A&O is a recognized leader. And A&O will suddenly have a lot more bargaining power and pitch appeal with Asian clients looking at American matters, as Shearman is still considered Wall Street royalty.

Are Second Hundred Firms the New 100?

Am Law 100 partners are defecting to the Second Hundred firms for better business development opportunities, and their clients are on board.

Skadden To Mandate 4 Days In Office

The policy, which extends to all attorneys, will go into effect in early September. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom confirmed Thursday that the firm was returning to four days a week in the office, beginning in early September. A statement issued by the firm indicates that attorneys will be expected to work from the office from Monday to Thursday each week.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Cuts 47 Staff Globally, Citing Excess Capacity in Secretarial and Administrative Roles

The global law firm announced the layoffs Thursday morning, stating affected employees had been notified and provided with “competitive” severance benefits and outplacement assistance.

More First-Year Deferrals Likely as Firms Grapple With Dormant Corporate Practices, Large Incoming Class Sizes

Some firms are considering deferring start dates to January, coinciding with an expected uptick in demand.

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