What does a legal business reporter and editor do when presented with two Angus Duncans?
Write a story, of course.
The convoluted case of the Duncan duo began on Jan. 17, when Hunton & Williams announced its hire of Angus Duncan, a structured finance and securitization expert and former head of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s London office, from Winston & Strawn, a firm he joined last year.
That same day, London-based sibling publication Legal Week reported on Clyde & Co’s addition of two new insurance partners, Angus Duncan and Mandip Sagoo, formerly of Mayer Brown, whose London office has experienced a recent exodus of partners.
According to the U.K.’s Solicitors Regulatory Authority, there are only two Angus Duncans registered to practice law in England and Wales. A third individual, Angus Duncan MacRae, is a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang in Edinburgh.
But in London, there are only two men in Big Law sharing the Angus Duncan name—and they changed firms on the same day. Surely, this was a coordinated strike.
Alas, it was nothing of the sort, said Angus James Duncan, now of Hunton & Williams.
“It’s a funny coincidence,” said Duncan, who prior to joining his new firm, Winston & Strawn and Cadwalader, also spent a decade as a partner at Allen & Overy and more than five years as an associate at fellow Magic Circle shop Slaughter and May.
While they’ve never met in person, Duncan said he once checked into a hotel in France and the staff thought he was Angus Neil Duncan, now of Clyde & Co.
“At least I think it was him,” he joked.
At Hunton & Williams, Duncan will be only a five-minute walk away from Angus Neil Duncan’s new home at Clyde & Co. The latter Duncan, a former chair of Mayer Brown’s London LGBT group, did not return a request for comment about his move or his namesake.
Having the same name, as noted two years ago by The American Lawyer, can sometimes lead to confusion among clients, as well as erroneous gifts and phone calls. But Angus James Duncan said that aside from his one case of mistaken identity in France, he’s had no such issues. It helps to have different practice areas.
For nearly 25 years, Duncan has handled complex structured finance and specialty finance transactions in a range of different asset classes, such as collateralized loan obligations and insurance-linked products. Recently, his practice has focused on representing new entrants to financial markets in the U.S. and U.K.
While he was looking at a few potential new firms, Duncan said he was keen on joining an outfit with a collaborative atmosphere that also supported the work and clients that he has built within the past few decades.
“I wanted a firm that understood and knew what I did and with whom I shared common clients, which I think is really important when you’re growing a [structured finance] business from a platform that is less well-known in London,” Duncan said.
Hunton & Williams’ strong connection to financial services giants like Credit Suisse Group AG, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. made the firm an attractive place to develop his practice, he said.
The Richmond, Virginia-based Am Law 100 firm, which in recent months has reportedly been in merger talks with British firm Addleshaw Goddard and the newly-formed Andrews Kurth Kenyon, first moved into London in 1999. Since then, Hunton & Williams has expanded its office in the city to about 20 lawyers.
“For U.S. law firms in London, it’s a challenge,” said Duncan, who’s spent the latter part of his career working for Am Law 100 firms in London. “You have to focus on where you can be competitive and not try and compete with the large English firms in every area they operate in, because they have a big head start.”
Duncan noted that from his experience, U.S. firms need to be careful about the areas they target in London and identify those places where they can be competitive, where clients recognize a firm name and are happy to work with that firm. Ideally, he added, one would also want a prospective client to have a relationship with the firm in the U.S. as well.
“You need to have some buy-in from the mothership in the U.S. as to what you’re doing,” Duncan said. “You need to have a support base there for your business.”