The London office of Haynes and Boone has recruited a group of international arbitration and disputes lawyers from legacy Andrews Kurth Kenyon, which earlier this year finalized a combination with Hunton & Williams to form Hunton Andrews Kurth.

The four-lawyer team, led by Andrews Kurth Kenyon’s former London managing partner and head of international arbitration Melanie Willems, joined Haynes and Boone’s 15-partner London office earlier this week. Haynes and Boone set up shop in the city two years ago after absorbing 20-lawyer U.K. firm Curtis Davis Garrard.

Willems is accompanied by arbitration partner Markus Esly, counsel Robert Blackett and associate Ryan Deane, alongside two support staff. The group has a longstanding history together, having previously moved from now-defunct Howrey to Chadbourne & Parke in 2010 before joining what was then Andrews Kurth in 2013.

Melanie Willems

Willems subsequently made headlines when she sued Chadbourne over the return of $127,000 in capital. Chadbourne, which was absorbed last year by Norton Rose Fulbright, earlier this year agreed to pay more than $3 million in a settlement with former partner Kerrie Campbell and two other female partners who had sued the firm over unfair pay practices.

In that litigation, Campbell’s legal team asserted in court papers that Willems was one of several female partners at Chadbourne to have voiced concerns about pay equity with men. (Outside of her law practice, Willems has also co-authored two romance novels about a New York lawyer who moves to London to pursue a career, as well as other extracurricular pursuits.)

At Andrews Kurth, which for months had been in discussions with Hunton & Williams about a merger, Willems served as head of international arbitration and managing partner of the firm’s London office. She will now become head of international arbitration at Haynes and Boone CDG, the entity formed in 2016 after the Dallas-based firm absorbed Curtis Davis Garrard. Haynes and Boone now has roughly 30 lawyers in London.

“Many of our clients seek to resolve their cross-borders disputes before London courts or in major international arbitral forums,” said Haynes and Boone managing partner Timothy Powers in a statement about his firm’s new hires. “We are now able to offer our clients even more robust commercial dispute resolution capabilities in nearly every major financial centre around the world.”

Hunton Andrews Kurth, however, now has an eight-partner team in London headed by local managing partner Aaron Simpson, who assumed that leadership role in April 2017. Legacy firm Hunton & Williams previously held unsuccessful tie-up talks with U.K. firm Addleshaw Goddard before clinching its agreement with Andrews Kurth in February.

Hunton Andrews Kurth officially went live on April 2, creating a 1,000-lawyer firm with 15 offices in the U.S. and five overseas.