As summer draws to a close, vacations come to an end, and the kids go back to school, many lawyers are on the move as Am Law 200 firms and some smaller shops expand into new regions, either through mergers or lateral hires.
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, a 650-lawyer Am Law 100 labor and employment firm based out of Greenville, South Carolina, announced last week the opening of an office in London following its hire of partner Richard Linskell and two associates from British firm Speechly Bircham, according to sibling publication the Daily Report.
Last November Ogletree first unveiled plans to expand its international platform, a move that resulted in the opening of the firm’s first European outpost in Berlin after hiring a three-lawyer partner team from Salans, which was in the process of undergoing a three-way merger to form what is now Dentons.
At the time, the man tapped to head Ogletree’s London office was Michael Dixon, a cofounder of Webster Dixon, the first firm in the U.K. capital to be founded by black lawyers. But Dixon never became the managing partner of a new London base for Ogletree, which now has 45 offices around the world.
Dixon, who remains a partner at Webster Dixon, did not respond to a request for comment about his decision not to join Ogletree. A spokesman for the Am Law 100 firm told The Am Law Daily that Webster “decided to pursue his career elsewhere and we wish him every success.”
London-based commercial litigation and arbitration boutique Hage Aaronson, which made legal headlines earlier this year by picking up the U.K. tax practice of Dorsey & Whitney, is another firm expanding its horizons.
Hage Aaronson announced this week that it would change its name to Joseph Hage Aaronson after inking a tie-up with New York City’s Gregory P. Joseph Law Offices, a firm whose namesake is a former longtime head of litigation at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.
Gregory Joseph left Fried Frank to form his own firm in 2001, but has continued handling big cases, including helping Citigroup preserve a $245 million win last year in a credit default swap suit against Morgan Stanley and its lawyers from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Joseph’s firm will now have an exclusive referral relationship with Hage Aaronson.
MJ Hudson, a London-based firm whose founding by former SJ Berwin, O’Melveny & Myers, and Proskauer Rose private equity partner Matthew Hudson was covered by The Am Law Daily in 2010, announced a merger this month with offshore shop VerrasLaw, which is based in the British Channel Island tax haven of Jersey. The deal marks a rare tie-up between an onshore and offshore firm, according to U.K. publication The Lawyer.
Elsewhere abroad, Dentons has launched its second office in Kazakhstan by opening in the country’s sparkling new capital of Astana, a city that recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of its founding with several new projects dedicated to longtime Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. Dentons will relocate newly promoted partner Birzhan Zharasbayev from Almaty, Kazakhstan’s capital until 1997, to head up its base in Astana.
Also opening in Almaty this month is Kinstellar, a 130-lawyer firm formed in late 2008 as a spin-off by Magic Circle shop Linklaters, which hired Dentons’s Central Asia banking head Joel Benjamin and partner Adlet Yerkinbayev to helm its new outpost, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.
Further south on the Asian continent, Duane Morris became the first Am Law 100 and U.S. firm to enter Myanmar by opening a 12-lawyer office in the country’s former capital of Yangon, according to reports by sibling publications The Asian Lawyer and The Legal Intelligencer. The new office, which will be operated by Duane Morris’s Singapore joint venture partner Selvam, will focus on tax, regulatory, market entry, and U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and U.K. Bribery Act work.
Krishna Ramachandra, managing director of Duane Morris & Selvam in Singapore, will serve as head of the new Myanmar office, which will be called Selvam & Partners. Ramachandra told Legal Week that Selvam & Partners has also signed a lease for another office in Myanmar’s new capital of Naypidaw.
President Barack Obama visited Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, last year after the United States lifted economic sanctions levied against the country and its former ruling junta. The European Union lifted its own sanctions in April, and despite some setbacks for the burgeoning democracy, such as anti-Muslim violence and reporters having their emails hacked, the Southeast Asian nation has opened its doors to eager foreign investors, some of which make ideal clients for large firms.
The Asian Lawyer has reported that 490-lawyer leading Japanese firm Nishimura & Asahi has announced plans to expand into Yangon, as have top Singaporean firms like Rajah & Tann and Zaid Ibrahim & Co. British firm Stephenson Harwood launched its own Myanmar alliance in May, according to The Asian Lawyer.
In China, another country that has long befuddled foreign investors, Kirkland & Ellis officially opened its third Asian office this month with a new base in Beijing led by corporate partners David Zhang and Chuan Li, who will split their time between Hong Kong and Shanghai, respectively. The Asian Lawyer reported a year ago this month on Kirkland’s interest in setting up shop in Beijing.
Moving closer to U.S. shores, The Am Law Daily reported in late August on Holland & Knight’s entry into Mexico City through its hire of 10 lawyers from Chadbourne & Parke led by local managing partner Boris Otto.
Also expanding in the U.S. last month was Winston & Strawn, which branched out into Silicon Valley by relocating litigation partner David Enzminger from Los Angeles, according to sibling publication The Recorder, which also reported last week on Thompson Coburn’s decision to boost its presence in the latter city through its acquisition of 10-lawyer boutique Freedman Weisz. (Both firms are expected to finalize their merger by early October.)
Clark Hill, a 330-lawyer firm based out of Detroit that has its eyes on The Am Law 200, announced this week its acquisition of four-lawyer Phoenix shop Folk & Associates led by founding partner and construction and real estate expert Douglas Folk. It’s the second such tie-up this year for Clark Hill, which in April merged with Pittsburgh’s Thorp Reed & Armstrong.
Other potential unions may be in the works. The South Florida Business Journal reported last week that Tew Cardenas, a well-regarded litigation boutique in Miami, was in merger talks with at least two large national firms.
In August, Miami-based Lydecker Diaz neared the 100-lawyer mark after its acquisition of local commercial litigation shop Clyne & Associates, according to sibling publication the Daily Business Review.