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Like many American attorneys who pack their bags for London, White & Case’s Jayanthi Sadanandan made the move primarily for personal reasons. A corporate associate in the firm’s Los Angeles office, she was tired of being 5,000 miles away from her significant other, an attorney in Linklaters‘ London office. London’s status as a global financial center didn’t hurt, however. Sadanandan transferred to White & Case’s London office in 2004, changing her specialty to finance. The move paid off. After three years and a diet of some of Europe’s largest acquisition finance assignments, she made partner and got married — and even grew accustomed to English weather. Since U.S. firms started to seriously invest in their London offices 20 years ago, much of their focus has been on hiring U.K. attorneys to staff their U.K. outposts. But there’s also a steady flow of U.S. attorneys, overwhelmingly to London, on short-term rotations or for the long haul. The American Bar Association estimates that there are just more than 1,000 U.S. lawyers in the United Kingdom, out of some 130,000 attorneys in England and Wales. In the London offices of Am Law 200 firms, U.S.-qualified lawyers are a minority, but a sizable one. White & Case, one of the largest U.S. presences in London, has 47 U.S.-qualified lawyers out of a total of 430 attorneys there. Dewey & LeBoeuf has slightly more than 20 U.S.-qualified lawyers out of 200 in London. Among London’s attractions for young American lawyers are generous compensation and — increasingly — a good shot at partnership. “International experience only adds to partnership consideration,” says Marina Sirras, a New York-based recruiter at Marina Sirras & Associates. “A few years ago it could be a case of out of sight, out of mind.” Each year at the major firms, a steady trickle of U.S. lawyers make partner in London: This year Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Davis Polk & Wardwell; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges all elevated U.S.-trained associates to partner in their London offices. Traditionally, a large proportion of American lawyers in London have done capital markets work. Increasingly, though, American firms have stationed U.S. mergers and acquisitions lawyers and even litigators in London. In each case, the logic is the same: Provide European clients access to U.S. law specialists. To many, of course, London is a byword for expensive living. That’s why many firms offer American associates there an annual cost-of-living allowance (COLA). Originally devised to cover the costs of a transatlantic move, COLAs are now often seen as a way to lessen the impact of the weak dollar and to help associates pay off outstanding law school debt. The $110,000 COLA at Cravath, Swaine & Moore is one of the highest in the market, according to one London headhunter. (Cravath declined to comment.) Not all are so generous: Sidley Austin and Dorsey & Whitney pay COLAs of around $50,000. While firms have varying policies on base pay, most U.S. lawyers who go to London are paid at U.S. rates — generally higher than U.K. rates, especially at more junior levels. The $160,000 salary for starting associates in New York compares to a typical 65,000 pounds ($130,000) in the Magic Circle. At major U.K. firms such as Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, a first-year U.S. associate in London would be paid $160,000, which is then converted into pounds sterling at a very favorable rate. The result can be a pay package of more than 90,000 pounds. Why the discrepancy in compensation for English and American associates? “Because that’s the market,” says one London-based U.S. partner. If a firm moves associates from New York or hires directly from the United States, it has to pay them at American rates. The gap is smaller at some U.S. firms, such as Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Other firms, including Skadden and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, pay New York salaries in their London offices to Brits and Americans alike. Aside from the chance to pay off student loans fast, a London posting can offer unique opportunities for advancement. White & Case’s Sadanandan found that for her partnership prospects, the timing of her 2004 move to London couldn’t have been better. Global M&A volumes were picking up, and London was challenging New York as the world’s financial capital. She also joined an office and a practice area in growth mode. “The firm was clearly investing in finance, and I could always go back to corporate,” she says. Sadanandan could also qualify relatively easily as an English solicitor, since she had worked and qualified in Singapore, a former British colony. (To become an English solicitor, a U.S. lawyer generally needs a minimum of two years’ experience in practice and must pass a special bar exam for foreign lawyers.) In her new post, Sadanandan was part of the team that advised a group of banks including Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas on a 2.6 billion euro loan for the acquisition of Europcar Group by Eurazeo. She also helped advise BNP Paribas and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group on a $2.9 billion loan facility to a private equity consortium in the acquisition of The Hertz Corp. Sadanandan raised her profile in the firm’s global network, helping her reach partnership in 2007. “I hadn’t appreciated that making this move gave me the opportunity to work with a lot more people in our network of offices,” says Sadanandan. On the other hand, most U.S. associates in London go back to the States after a few years. But whether it’s a short-term or permanent move, a U.S. associate’s prospects in London depend on her firm’s plans there. “If a firm is investing in its U.K. office, then it’s a good career move,” says Alisa Levin, a recruiter with Greene-Levin-Snyder in New York. When firms haven’t made a strong commitment to the U.K. market, a London move is riskier. After capital markets associate Stuart Rubin transferred from Willkie Farr & Gallagher‘s New York office in 2003 — because, he says, he “wanted to try something new” — he became the sole associate in the firm’s tiny London office. With just one partner on the premises, the chances of becoming a Willkie partner in London were slim. “Willkie has a small office, and, in the short term, I knew it was going to remain a small office,” Rubin says. (In July the firm announced an alliance with the U.K.’s Dickson Minto, ruling out for now any major expansion in London.) In April 2007, Rubin left Willkie for the seven-lawyer U.S. equity capital markets group at Ashurst. Practicing U.S. law at a U.K. firm appealed to him. “I thought I could get the best training as a U.S. capital markets lawyer in the London market at a traditional U.K. firm,” Rubin says. Ashurst’s U.K. and European client base has given Rubin roles on high-profile assignments, such as tobacco company Imperial Tobacco Group’s 5.4 billion-pound rights issue in 2007 and the $400 million initial public offering of India’s Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd. And the challenges of practicing in London? However well-compensated, American lawyers mention the cost of living — and the British climate. “When I arrived here at the start of June in 1991, it rained every day for the rest of the month,” recalls Dewey & LeBoeuf partner Fred Gander. Sadanandan, though, notes one welcome cultural difference: In the U.K., lawyers actually take their vacation.

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