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Nixon Peabody has grabbed a whopping 25 lawyers from the French wing of Taylor Wessing a little over a month after a New York judge rejected Taylor's argument that Nixon was illegally stealing its lawyers.
The move is part of the firm's strategic plan, crafted over 18 months ago, that calls for 25 percent of the firm's lawyers to work overseas by 2013, says Richard Langan Jr., Nixon's managing partner. Currently, about 5 percent of the firm's lawyers work abroad, including the 25 new attorneys in France.
"It's a formidable goal," Langan says, "but I've been practicing long enough to know that this kind of thing is a long march."
The march did not start smoothly.
Taylor filed a lawsuit arguing that Nixon's move to hire 12 Taylor partners violated a noncompete agreement the two firms struck in July 2007, when they began merger talks, according to several prior stories in The Am Law Daily.
The talks fell through, and Nixon tried to lure the partners through secret talks with Taylor's managing partner, Arnaud de Senilhes. Taylor loyalists discovered evidence of those talks when an equity partner found pages from a PowerPoint presentation intended for Nixon management left sitting on a Taylor printer, court filings show. Taylor's suit sought to block the hires.
But Judge Kenneth Fisher of New York essentially ruled that such noncompete agreements are unenforceable, since they place unreasonable limits on a lawyer's ability to move around. Firm merger experts took notice, since merger dance partners usually enter such agreements to give the smaller firm some guarantee that the larger firm isn't just out to poach its best lawyers.
Taylor's legal team at Dreier has not filed an appeal, according to court records, and the firms said Tuesday they have agreed to drop all litigation.
Nixon is ready to start work in France, the firm's third international location after opening in London and Shanghai over the past two years. Expanding globally is one of the main principles outlined in Nixon's strategic plan, which the firm unveiled at its annual meeting in May after consulting with Harvard Business School associate professor Boris Groysberg, Langan says.
The lawyers will focus on private equity, finance, insurance and intellectual property, Nixon said in a statement. De Senilhes will head the new office.
"Frankly, our clients are looking for global capabilities," Langan says.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.