In its latest lateral raid, Kirkland & Ellis has recruited a five-partner investigations and government enforcement group from Ropes & Gray in Asia, the U.K. and U.S.
The team includes Asheesh Goel, who left Kirkland in 2008 to open Ropes & Gray’s office in Chicago, where he most recently served as the firm’s local managing partner and co-chair of its global anticorruption and international risk practice.
Other lawyers leaving Ropes & Gray for Kirkland include New York-based securities and enforcement co-head Zachary Brez and government enforcement partners Kim Nemirow in Chicago, Cori Lable in Hong Kong and Marcus Thompson in London.
Goel’s move back to Kirkland, where he worked from 2005 to 2008 after more than three years leading the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division in Chicago, also marks a similar return for Brez. The former SEC staff attorney joined Kirkland in 2002 and made partner three years later. In late 2010, Brez left Kirkland for Ropes & Gray.
Nemirow was part of Ropes & Gray’s Asia government enforcement practice in Hong Kong before relocating to Chicago earlier this year. She made partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office in 2012. Lable and Thompson, meanwhile, both made partner at Ropes & Gray in 2014.
Thompson, a barrister, joined Ropes & Gray’s London office in 2013 from leading offshore firm Walkers, where he was general counsel and chief compliance officer. At Ropes & Gray, Thompson also served as the firm’s assistant general counsel and looked after compliane and risk issues in London and Asia. He is also a former senior legal adviser to the U.K.’s Serious Organised Crime Agency.
In an internal memo provided to The Asian Lawyer and The American Lawyer, which was verified by a Ropes & Gray spokesman, the firm’s chairman R. Bradford Malt and managing partner David Chapin sought to ease any internal angst about the defections to Kirkland.
“Partner departures happen in law firms,” the memo said. “We have a deep and extraordinarily talented group of lawyers in government enforcement and business and securities litigation, including our anticorruption practice, who have secured important matters and recorded impressive wins. The same can be said of the offices where the group was located, and for that matter, all of our practices and offices.”
Kirkland saw its profits per partner soar by nearly 14 percent in 2016, to $4.1 million, with gross revenue rising 15 percent, to $2.65 billion. Those numbers moved the 1,759-lawyer firm into the No. 2 spot on this year’s Am Law 100 list. Kirkland is among an elite group of six firms with partner profits topping $4 million, one that includes Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; and Sullivan & Cromwell.
As a matter of comparison, Ropes & Gray’s profits per partner increased slightly last year, to $2.02 million, while gross revenue rose 6.9 percent, to $1.485 billion. The 1,161-lawyer firm has seen a number of partner leave in recent months, as in early August a patent prosecution practice officially spun-off from Ropes & Gray to form Haley Guiliano.
In April, a four-partner corporate team led by Hong Kong office managing partner Paul Boltz left Ropes & Gray to join Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In London, Ropes & Gray has seen partners depart in recent months for King & Spalding, Linklaters and White & Case. In late 2016, former Ropes & Gray senior partner Maurice Allen—who helped the firm open its London office in 2009— retired and eventually took a consulting role at DLA Piper.
In the U.S., Ropes & Gray watched two partners depart its Boston headquarters, with Kirkland picking up private equity expert Jason Serlenga and Goodwin Proctor bringing on real estate investments and transactions co-head Marc Lazar. Following the latest round of departures for Kirkland, Ropes & Gray will have around 50 partners in its global litigation group, including 22 anticorruption practitioners. Last week the firm recruited Scott McKeown, chair of the post-grant patent practice at Oblon in Washington, D.C., to fill a void left by the departure of IP litigation partner J. Steven Baughman in January.
Kirkland, which saw top bankruptcy partner Paul Basta leave its ranks last month, has also been busy on the hiring front in 2017. In June, the firm opened a Boston office after adding two partners from Proskauer Rose. The move put Kirkland in Ropes & Gray’s backyard, opening up a new front in the long-running battle between both firms for private equity clients.
“Asheesh, Zach, Marcus, Kim and Cori are market leaders in the international investigations and enforcement space,” said a statement by Kirkland’s global management executive committee chair Jeffrey Hammes announcing the firm’s new hires. “In addition to handling complex international enforcement matters, they are exceptionally adept at helping the most sophisticated investment firms in the world responsibly address cross-border transactional risk.”