Dentons is starting the year with a bang. The global legal giant confirmed Thursday that it had struck a deal with a 45-lawyer banking and finance team from Matthew Arnold & Baldwin (MAB), a leading U.K. regional firm.
The mass lateral move is the first this year for 7,300-lawyer Dentons, which in 2015 made several notable acquisitions, as well as eight combinations around the world, including a landmark union with China’s largest firm, Dacheng. The Dacheng deal became official in November, the same month that Dentons announced two more deals in Colombia and Mexico.
Joseph Andrew, Dentons’ global chair, has said that the firm could reach 10,000 lawyers spanning 200 offices. Dentons’ latest additions in the U.K., an 11-partner, 34-associate team from MAB co-led by Clare Stothard and Steven Mills, focuses on bank financial litigation and investigatory matters. The group, which will officially join Dentons on Feb. 1, will increase the firm’s U.K. disputes practice to 37 partners and roughly 130 fee-earners, according to Dentons.
The new additions leaving MAB, based just outside London in Watford, England, come from a firm focused on three niche practices: banking and finance disputes; life sciences and health care; and media and technology. MAB has experienced wild swings in its financial performance over the past three years. In the fiscal year that ended last summer, the firm’s partners earned an average of $430,000, according to U.K. legal publication The Lawyer.
At the time, MAB and Dentons were engaged in merger talks about a deal that would have brought 80 lawyers into the Dentons fold. The current deal leaves behind just a dozen MAB partners. Since 2013, Dentons has focused its U.K. efforts on the same three areas—banking, health care and media—as MAB. (In October, Dentons hired Tracey Sheehan, head of the telecommunications group at Anglo-German firm Taylor Wessing, as a partner in London.)
“While we have great respect for all of the talented lawyers at MAB, our discussions have always focused on expanding and deepening our banking and finance offering as part of a specific practice and sector strategy,” said a Dentons spokeswoman. “We are interested in continued growth in the U.K.—indeed anywhere there is legal talent—as opportunities in multiple industry sectors and practice areas require us to attract even more talent to meet their needs.”
The planned defection of MAB’s banking and finance group, including Mills, the firm’s senior partner, has been known since early October. Mills said in a statement that Dentons offered the group a vastly expanded geographic reach and a larger range of specialists to serve its clients.
Andrew and Dentons CEO Elliott Portnoy—whose charitable endeavors The Am Law Daily covered last month—were unavailable for immediate comment Thursday. But in a statement, Dentons’ U.K. managing partner Brandon Ransley noted that the MAB group was known for providing “high-quality, cost-effective” legal services for “important banking clients.”
The new hires led by Mills and Stothard have worked regularly with a number of big banks, including Allied Irish Bank, Banco Santander, Barclays, Coutts, Investec, National Westminster Bank, The Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Woolwich. MAB, for its part, has its own plans.
“We are actively exploring other opportunities which we believe will significantly enhance our business and the ways in which we operate,” the firm’s corporate head, Richard Phillips, said in an email, noting that there would be “further announcements very soon.”
Dentons dramatically increased its presence in the U.K. back in 2010 when legacy firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal merged with Denton Wilde Sapte. The 1,400-lawyer firm forged by that union was initially known as SNR Denton, but changed its name to Dentons in 2012 after combining with European firm Salans and Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain.