Cravath launches English law practice with hires from Shearman

Cravath, Swaine & Moore launched an English-law offering last week through the hire of partner duo Philip Stopford and Korey Fevzi from Shearman & Sterling.

Though Cravath has maintained an office in London since 1973, it has never fielded a team of English law practitioners. Its decision to do so now leaves Paul Weiss as the only US firm in London market without English law capabilities.

The move may also raise eyebrows at Slaughter and May, which maintains a ‘best friend’ relationship with Cravath. However, early reports suggest that Slaughters had prior knowledge of the move, and that the two firms will continue to work together. Stopford and Fevzi both focus on leveraged finance, and few expect Cravath to attempt a full-service English corporate practice any time soon.

Some have also questioned the firm’s decision to expand its leveraged finance offering in this way with the market seemingly past the peak. However, one recruiter has noted that this has not stopped City lawyers from making speculative enquiries about more openings at Cravath.

For Shearman, meanwhile, this is two more in a long string of recent losses, further depleting the firm’s London-based finance capacity. And Friday’s (3 March) news that the much-rumoured merger with Hogan Lovells has been called off will do little to stem the flow of departures.

The latest US firm to make its play in the London private equity market is Milbank, which has named the six partners it recruited from the London office of Dickson Minto at the end of last year.

Jordan Simpson leads the team, which includes partners Paul Buchan, James McClymont, Ajal Notowicz, Andrew Nuthall, and Lara Watt. The hires significantly extend Milbank’s private equity coverage, and bring the partner headcount in the London office up to 40. Dickson Minto, meanwhile, maintains an independent presence in Scotland.

Elsewhere, Pinsent Masons has hired international arbitration partner Sylvia Tonova from Jones Day. Qualified to practise in the state of New York and Washington DC as well as in England and Wales, Tonova joins Pinsents as co-head of its investor-state dispute settlement and public international law team.

International dispute resolution was also a focus for Squire Patton Boggs, which has hired experienced international commercial and investor-state arbitration lawyer Naomi Briercliffe from Allen & Overy, where she was counsel from 2020 after joining from Eversheds Sutherland in 2014. Briercliffe joins Squire as a partner.

Debevoise & Plimpton has announced the hire of Jeff Sullivan KC from Gibson Dunn. Set to join the firm in July, Sullivan will join as co-chair of international arbitration in Europe.

Kingsley Napley has also expanded its dispute resolution offering, launching a dedicated tax disputes and investigations practice with the hire of Waqar Shah from Mishcon de Reya. Shah made partner at Mishcon in 2021, and has experience in both litigation and ADR.

Richard Foss, head of dispute resolution at Kingsley Napley, explained the decision to launch a specialist practice to Legal Business. ‘When we look to develop our dispute resolution practice, we look for those areas of complementary service that we don’t already cover. Tax work is in the background of a lot of what we do, but we haven’t focused on it yet.’

Charles Russell Speechlys, meanwhile, announced the hire of Ziva Robertson into its London private wealth disputes team. Formerly co-head of McDemott Will & Emery’s London private client group, Robertson comes to the firm with expertise in high-value and cross-border trusts and estates disputes, and deepens its international bench strength.

Lateral hiring activity also continued in insolvency and restructuring, with Reed Smith bringing over Linton Bloomberg from Weil, where he recently spent eight months on secondment to the Bank of England.

In comments to Legal Business, Bloomberg explained what attracted him to the firm. ‘Reed Smith’s geographical spread over 10 countries in three continents means there are few places where we don’t have the local knowledge to help clients.’ This is especially important as ‘restructuring and insolvency mandates over the past 20 years or so have becoming increasingly global.’

Bloomberg also highlighted Reed Smith’s depth of sector expertise, which he argued was crucial in a market in which insolvencies have not been localised to any one industry. ‘Last year the most active sectors were retail, construction, power and utilities, and mining. And, perhaps with the addition of crypto, the trends for 2023 look similar.’

Akin Gump also made moves in the area, expanding its special situations and private credit team with the hire of Paul Yin from White & Case. Yin has broad experience in transactions from general corporate and real estate financing to rescue financing and restructuring, and will work closely with the firm’s global financial restructuring practice.

Yin’s move comes on the heels of that of debt finance partner Fergus Wheeler, who also left White & Case for Akin Gump in January.

Elsewhere, Womble Bond Dickinson made two new hires into its London corporate team: former Ince capital markets head Rebecca Ferguson and Shepherd and Wedderburn partner Carl Powlson.

‘We needed to build out in London’, said Womble Bond Dickinson UK corporate head Ben Butler. ‘We needed to make sure we could secure the types of deals in London as we’re doing elsewhere.’

Butler conceded that economic ‘headwinds’ may harm the corporate market in 2023. But he sounded a note of optimism. ‘In terms of transactional activity overall, I think it is right that the market is a bit slower. But the fundamentals are still good: there’s still capital to deploy, and many clients feel a bit more comfortable about where the economy’s going in terms of interest rates and inflation.’

Addleshaw Goddard has announced its hire of Catherine Williams from Shoosmiths. Williams returns to the firm, where she previously spent 13 years, after eight years growing Shoosmiths’ living sector practice. She comes to Addleshaw as co-head of living, alongside Peter Hardy.

The firm also announced the election of Aster Crawshaw as its new managing partner. Currently a partner in the firm’s professional practices group, Crawshaw will take over in May 2023 from current managing partner Charles Penney, whose second term comes to an end in April. The moves comes as the firm prepares for its 2024 relocation to a larger headquarters.

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