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King & Spalding will become the next Georgia firm to expand across the Atlantic. Atlanta’s biggest law firm will open a London office Jan. 1. “We’ve discussed the London office for nearly 10 years and spent nearly six months developing the plan,” said firm Chairman Walter W. Driver. “We believe we have a very good idea of what is involved.” The firm’s partnership voted Friday morning to open the new office. Kilpatrick Stockton opened a London office in 1981 and Troutman Sanders did so last year. Complex international transactions drove the decision to expand abroad, added Driver. Attorneys in the London office also will focus on energy work and international arbitration, tax and finance. Six King & Spalding lawyers will move to London permanently. The new office will give King & Spalding attorneys easy access to continental Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. Geographic proximity to those areas was a convenience clients wanted, Driver said: “There are a number of clients that have expressed interest in this, but we are not responding to a single request.” Atlanta litigation partner George S. Branch will serve as London managing partner, Driver said. Branch was instrumental in opening the firm’s Washington office in 1979 and the Houston office in 1995. Branch said he began to study the feasibility of a London office in January. He also hit the road asking clients if they would back expansion there. “These clients have supported us,” Branch said. John L. Keffer, a partner with the firm’s global projects practice group and chairman of the Latin American Practice group in Houston, will move to London at the end of the year. “A London presence gives you so much more breadth than a Houston office as so many of the world’s energy resources are located within a few time zones of London,” Keffer said. Driver wouldn’t comment on how much the firm will spend on opening the office. Branch said office space in central London is about $100 per square foot per month. Initially, the firm will rent about 1,000 square feet of space there. King & Spalding has more than 700 lawyers and placed 40th on the 2001 Am Law 100. The firm had revenue of $352 million and average profits per equity partner of $895,000 last year. Houston partner John P. Cogan Jr., chairman of the firm’s international practice group, will spend about three weeks each month for a year in the London office. Cogan said the firm ruled out a merger with a London firm: “We gave that a little bit of thought, but that’s really not our style. We would rather find a few good lawyers who we think fit in with our culture and invite them to join us.” SIX TO START OFFICE In addition to Keffer and Branch, two King & Spalding partners and two associates will move to London later this year. Cogan said four other partners will spend at least one week a month in the London office. New York partners Michael J.T. McMillen, a member of the financial transactions group, and mergers and acquisitions attorney Mark E. Thompson will move. The associates transferring to London are Kevin D. Keenan, a member of the global projects team in Houston, and Jawad I. Ali, a financial transactions lawyer in New York. Washington partners Joseph W. Dorn, founder of the firm’s international trade practice, and Kevin R. Sullivan, a partner and head of the litigation and antitrust practice in the firm’s office there; and Atlanta partners William B. Fryer, a member of the firm’s real estate practice group, and William R. Spalding, head of the firm’s private equity team, will spend about one week per month in London. RAPID EXPANSION? Cogan said the firm plans to add about 20 to 25 lawyers to the office within three to five years, and he called that ambitious. Most of those lawyers will be British solicitors or barristers from other countries, Cogan said. All attorneys who work in King & Spalding’s London office will become registered foreign lawyers. The English Law Society, a British organization that monitors solicitors, prohibits English lawyers from practicing with nonmembers unless they are registered foreign lawyers, Cogan said. The firm will be a multinational partnership and will operate under the King & Spalding name. Branch, King & Spalding Chief Operating Officer Patrick C. Glisson and Atlanta real estate partner Scott J. Arnold have been scouting locations for the London office. Last week, they looked at 13 sites in central London and its West End and have narrowed their choices to a handful, Cogan said. Branch, citing a Hildebrandt International study, said there are about 100 U.S.-based law firms in London. Peter D. Zeughauser, a California legal consultant who heads The Zeughauser Group, said that while it’s hard to discuss King & Spalding’s move “in a vacuum,” the firm is on the tail end of a wave of U.S. firms opening London offices in the past few years. Zeughauser, a columnist for Legal Director Magazine in Europe, noted that it hasn’t been easy for all of them. “Many of them have gone and struggled,” he added. “Many of them didn’t have well-defined expectations or plans, and many of them who did have the best plans didn’t fare as well as they had hoped.” King & Spalding’s success will depend on its motivation for opening the London office, said Zeughauser, who added that he doesn’t have any business relationships with the firm. It’s unlikely that one or two clients requested the firm to open in London, said Zeughauser. Big clients generally have established relationships with British and other European firms, he added. WHAT’S DRIVING MOVE? “The question is: Is that really what’s driving it?” Zeughauser said. “It’s possible they feel that they’re losing too much business to British firms.” King & Spalding has opened three satellite offices — Washington, New York and Houston — in the past 23 years. The firm established its Washington and Houston offices in response to marquee clients’ requests. According to The National Journal, King & Spalding was reluctant to open in Washington while Jimmy Carter was president because it would appear the firm was capitalizing on its connections to the administration. But at least one King & Spalding client, The Coca-Cola Co., specifically asked the firm to open its three-lawyer Washington office in 1979, and King & Spalding now has 96 attorneys there. King & Spalding partner Griffin B. Bell had served as attorney general and partner Jack H. Watson Jr. was secretary to the cabinet and Carter’s intergovernmental affairs assistant. The late partner Charles H. Kirbo was a Carter confidant and trustee of his financial holdings. Texaco (now ChevronTexaco Corp.) asked King & Spalding to open its Houston office in 1995, and the firm sent three lawyers to set up shop there. Now King & Spalding has 65 attorneys in Texas. In 1990, King & Spalding merged with three-attorney Kageneck & Witthuhn of New York, which specialized in advising German and U.S. corporate clients about international negotiations. The Kageneck merger gave the firm entree into New York and strong ties to Germany. Now King & Spalding has 118 lawyers in the Big Apple. King & Spalding will be one of three Atlanta firms with a London presence. Last July, Troutman Sanders opened a three-lawyer London office. The firm’s airline industry and energy-trading practice areas necessitated the move, Managing Partner Robert W. Webb Jr. said at the time. Kilpatrick Stockton opened its London office with one lawyer in May 1981. Now it has five lawyers there.

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