(L-R) Reed Smith senior counsel Martin Bowen, partner Laura Brunnen, associate Nikki Delaney and partner Nick Williams

Finalists: Charles Russell Speechlys; Debevoise & Plimpton (highly commended); Dechert; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Hogan Lovells (highly commended); Macfarlanes; Weil Gotshal & Manges.

Reed Smith picked up the private equity team of the year title for its work in helping ensure Graphite Capital’s sale of Micheldever Tyre Services to Sumitomo Rubber Industries crossed the line after Graphite’s previous legal advisers – King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) – went into administration mid-deal.

Deep into the negotiations, Graphite had a difficult choice: instruct an entirely new team or stick with its existing lawyers from KWM as they moved to their new home at Reed Smith.

Given the complexity of the deal (it required numerous regulatory consents, compliance with Japanese stock exchange rules and unwinding multiple layers of financing), Graphite decided the least disruptive course of action would be to follow KWM private equity partners Laura Brunnen and Martin Bowen to Reed Smith.

That meant engaging Reed Smith before KWM’s European arm ceased trading to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible. Emergency arrangements also had to be made so that Reed Smith could secure ongoing access to KWM documents and emails once the latter firm had gone into administration.

“The way they put the client at the heart of what they do when the world was crumbling around them was impressive and it was remarkable that the client stuck with the team as KWM collapsed,” praised a judge.