Large Texas law firms, with their unmatched expertise in the energy sector, have been expanding in London.
Haynes and Boone, which opened its London office in 2016, recently hired a prominent London-based oil and gas and renewables partner from Addleshaw Goddard. Baker Botts, whose client list in London includes a number of major energy companies, hired two Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partners earlier this year—one who is an energy transaction specialist. And Locke Lord has added about half a dozen attorneys in London over the last 18 months, including international arbitration partner Paul Neufeld, who has done work for clients in the energy industry. And Vinson & Elkins, which handles a variety of specializations from London, including disputes, international arbitration, energy transactions and projects, and mergers and acquisitions, is also in expansion mode.
Energy is the “original tie” for all of the Texas firms with London offices, said Timothy Powers, managing partner of Dallas-based Haynes and Boone. ”All of us have reasonably similar reasons for why London is an important market for us, and it does start with the energy sector.”
But energy has given way to other opportunities in London for the Big-Tex firms.
Haynes and Boone, for example, hired a four-lawyer international arbitration and disputes team from Hunton Andrews Kurth in June. And just in the past two years, the firm’s London office has doubled in size—to 31 lawyers. Haynes and Boone is now looking for larger office space in London, Powers said.
It is imperative that the firm has lawyers in London because so much of its global business is transacted under English law, Powers noted, adding that this is the case for all of the practice areas the firm focuses on—energy, technology, financial services and private equity.
At Locke Lord, the attorneys who the firm has added in London over the past year-and-a-half include lawyers who specialize in corporate, real estate finance, technology and regulatory law, as well as investment advising.
“London is an important office,” said Locke Lord chair David Taylor. “Our plan continues to be strategic in London—strategic with where our clients are.”
V&E managing partner Mark Kelly says the London market is important to all global firms because it is one of the world’s financial centers. And V&E is particularly focused on beefing up its private equity, finance, leveraged finance, corporate and capital markets practices in London, Kelly recently told Texas Lawyer.
Indeed, V&E’s recent London hires include leveraged finance partners Lucy Jenkins, who joined from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in October, and Noel Hughes, who came from Sidley Austin‘s London office in September.
Other Big Tex firms are also active in the London lateral market. Last month Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld hired Thomas O’Connor, who previously was the London office practice group leader of Morgan Lewis’ transactional finance practice. O’Connor represents institutional investors, insurance companies, investment funds and other institutional lenders in connection with the acquisition of privately placed debt and equity securities.
And Baker Botts’ London expansion also goes beyond the firm’s strong energy roots. Mark Rowley, partner-in-charge of Baker Botts’ London office, recently told Texas Lawyer’s London-based affiliate Legal Week that the firm is recruiting in London in such areas as construction disputes and technology.
“Over our 20 years in London our growth has been steady, without significant bumps, but it has been unspectacular,” Rowley said. “We’ve been trying to do something about that recently.”
Akin Gump, which got its big boost in London back in 2014 when most of Bingham McCutchen’s London office, including 18 partners, defected, isn’t done expanding in the U.K. Akin Gump chair Kim Koopersmith said the London office, with 103 lawyers, is the third largest for the firm, trailing only Washington, D.C. and New York. But it will continue to grow, she said.
“We continue to play to our strengths in areas like financial restructuring, finance, funds practice, and energy practice,” she said. “All are globally connected with London.”