(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)
Jenner & Block is bolstering its fledgling London office with the hire of Jason Yardley, a senior White & Case disputes partner and a member of the firm’s global management committee.
Yardley, one of eight partners elected to White & Case’s global partnership committee, will join Jenner & Block’s disputes-focused office on Monday.
“We wish him every success in his future endeavors,” a White & Case spokesman said.
The move is only the second lateral partner hire made by Jenner & Block in London since it launched in the city in 2015 with the recruitment of a four-lawyer disputes team from Dechert. The office, which remains the Chicago-based firm’s sole international outpost, now has 14 lawyers, including six partners.
Jenner & Block’s London managing partner Charlie Lightfoot, who previously worked alongside Yardley at White & Case before joining Jenner & Block shortly after it launched in the U.K., said the firm has adopted a policy of “steady, considered growth” in London. “The firm has taken a sensible and patient approach,” he said. “We’ve tried to make right decisions, not rushed ones.”
Lightfoot said that building a practice in London has been challenging, however, and has required a degree of “education” with some prospective clients and hires in the U.K. that are less familiar with the firm. “Frankly, when I was first approached by Jenner [to be recruited], I didn’t know the firm that well, but you don’t have to do too much digging to realize what a great firm it is,” he said.
The office has performed “better than we could have hoped,” Lightfoot said, generating a profit in its first full year of operation. The majority of the firm’s work in London is generated locally, but efforts to integrate the relatively new practice into Jenner & Block’s U.S. business are “starting to bear fruit,” he added. Last month, white-collar litigator Kelly Hagedorn, one of the lawyers who joined from Dechert to help launch the office, became the firm’s first internal partner promotion in London.
Lightfoot said the firm is now looking to continue to expand the office. He anticipates that Jenner & Block will have about 20 lawyers in London by 2018, and 40 lawyers within the next five years. “We’re not looking for huge growth, but we don’t have the critical mass that we want,” he said.
The office will in the short term remain purely focused on three core areas of disputes: commercial litigation; international arbitration; and white-collar and contentious regulatory work, including investigations.
But Lightfoot said the firm may ultimately seek to build a transactional practice in London. Jenner & Block has a small but growing corporate practice in the U.S., and Lightfoot said continuing to develop this offering is a “strategic priority” for the firm, although he stressed there are “no current plans” to start handling corporate work in London.
Jenner & Block recently appointed three partners to jointly head its leading U.S. appellate practice following the departure of former chief Paul Smith, who has left Big Law to teach at Georgetown University Law Center and litigate for voting rights and campaign reform at The Campaign Legal Center, a public interest nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.