Baker Botts has recruited Hogan Lovells’ outgoing Brussels managing partner, a well-known antitrust lawyer in the EU, as it sets out ambitious new plans for growth in London.
Matthew Levitt spent almost 25 years at Hogan Lovells, after joining legacy Lovells in 1994 and making partner in 2002. At Baker Botts, he will work with Brussels head Catriona Hatton, who co-chairs the firm’s global antitrust and competition law group. The firm’s Brussels base will now consist of three partners.
Levitt stepped down as Hogan Lovells’ Brussels chief this week after three years in the role. Salome Cisnal De Ugarte, who joined from Crowell & Moring last year, will succeeded him.
For Baker Botts, the key European hire comes as it also gears up for a renewed expansion drive in several key sectors in London.
Office partner-in-charge Mark Rowley says the firm is aiming to recruit in several areas, including construction disputes and technology, after an extended period of “unspectacular” growth that “hasn’t met ambitions.”
“Over our 20 years in London our growth has been steady, without significant bumps, but it has been unspectacular—we’ve been trying to do something about that recently,” he told Legal Week, Law.com’s London-based affiliate.
The London office currently has 17 partners and around 40 fee-earners. Since 2010 it has made just 12 lateral hires, but two of those were made this year as the firm refocuses its recruitment strategy.
Rowley, who describes corporate as “the beating heart of any firm” in London, says Baker Botts is targeting growth in its transactional offering, particularly in the technology and energy sectors.
The London office’s client list includes a number of major energy companies, including BP, Cobalt Energy International, Marathon Oil, and Petrogas Reganosa.
Partners David Ramm and Lewis Jones, who joined the firm from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in London earlier this year, focus on the two priority areas for the firm: Ramm specializes in private equity, venture capital, and M&A work across a range of technology sectors, while Jones is an energy transactions specialist.
Baker Botts is highly rated for its firmwide energy and tech practices, but Rowley acknowledges it is less well-known for tech in the U.K. and is aiming to change that with further investment.
The firm is also looking to add project finance and construction disputes capability in London. “Traditionally, we’ve been more focused on project development and having an enhanced capability in these areas would give us the benefit of being able to cover the full life cycle of many of our matters and projects,” Rowley said.
While the firm has no specific head count target for its London office, Rowley says it needs to grow with around 20 fee earners to be “self-sustaining,” and further lateral hires are expected next year.
And following Brexit, the firm will “keep a close eye” on how intellectual property work will flow between the U.K. and Europe, and “whether, and in which geography, we’ll need to expand our IP offering.” he said.