New Year’s Day is in the rear view, but lateral hiring hasn’t slowed in Texas. As the calendar turned to February, several Big Law partners in Houston changed up their letterhead as large international firms added to their energy-related and corporate practices.
Byron Romain, who does global oil and gas M&A and projects, moved to White & Case from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. M&A partner Jonathan Castelan joined Latham & Watkins after leaving Kirkland & Ellis. And commodities partner Kirsten Polyansky moved to Reed Smith from Haynes and Boone.
Romain, who joined White & Case as a partner in the firm’s global project development and finance practice Monday, said his new firm is simply a perfect fit for his work doing upstream deals. “It’s one of the core practice areas of the firm,” he said.
At Simpson Thacher, Romain was head of the firm’s North American oil and gas A&D (acquisitions and divestitures) practice.
Jason Webber, a partner in New York and co-head of White & Case’s global oil and gas industry group, said the firm wants to expand its industry expertise across the oil and gas industry by 2020, and Romain helps the firm meet that objective.
“His sophisticated technical skills and extensive knowledge of the oil and gas sector will play an integral role in further enhancing our client offerings in Houston, and across the wider Americas region,” Webber wrote in a press release.
Philip Stopford, a senior partner in London who is co-head of the global oil and gas industry group, said Romain’s hiring, which coincides with the first anniversary of White & Case’s Houston office launch, signals the firm’s commitment to expanding its oil and gas expertise.
Before he joined Simpson Thacher two years ago, Romain worked in house at Marathon Oil Corp. and for Mubadala Development Co., and lived in Moscow, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Houston. He said White & Case’s extensive range of offices include those international regions. But recently, Romain said, he has done work for clients, including Marathon, in the Permian Basin and other shale plays.
“I’ve touched every basin, whether buying an asset, selling an asset, helping out with the development of an asset [or] in some cases all three. That’s an indication of where the funds are flowing right now,” he said.
A spokesman for Simpson Thacher did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Romain’s departure.
Midstream Project Work at Latham
Jonathan Castelan said he moved to Latham from Kirkland on Feb. 1 because it is a good fit for his focus on M&A and project development in the midstream sector, and provides him with opportunity to grow his practice.
“I was evaluating my practice and basically looking at the reputation of Latham in the midstream project infrastructure areas and it just made total sense,” Castelan said. “I came to realize this was a great place to be.”
Castelan, who was part of Kirkland’s Houston office for almost two years and practiced at Porter Hedges before that, represents private equity firms and energy companies in acquisitions, divestitures and strategic joint ventures in the midstream area. He declined to identify clients.
Tim Fenn, the managing partner of Latham’s Houston office, said in a press release that Castelan brings critical experience in core operating agreements to the M&A team.
“His strong relationships with private equity firms and energy companies will further expand our ability to serve the oil and gas industry,” Fenn wrote.
In January, Latham added another partner in Houston—oil and gas finance partner Trevor Wommack, who came from Vinson & Elkins.
Andrew Calder, a partner in Kirkland’s Houston office who is a member of the firm’s global management committee, said Kirkland enjoyed working with Castelan and “we wish him well at his next law firm.”
Taking a Niche to Reed Smith
Kirsten Polyansky, who joined Reed Smith as a partner in the energy and natural resources group Feb. 1, said she was attracted to Reed Smith’s expertise in global commodities and its network of offices.
“When you work in the commodities space, you have a lot of clients that expect you to have offices in Houston, London and Singapore,” she said, noting that Reed Smith checks those boxes and more.
She said her clients include financial institutions, refinery owners and trading and marketing entities. She said she does work for trading and marketing operations involving the supply, transport and storage of commodities, as well as specialized large-scale refinery inventory monetization transactions.
“What we do is pretty unique,” she said, adding that Reed Smith is “heavy in commodities” and her niche practice fits her new firm well.
Polansky, who was co-chair of the global commodities group at Haynes and Boone, joined Reed Smith along with counsel Jessica Cortez, also from Haynes and Boone.
Prajakt Samant, a Reed Smith partner in London who is global chair of the energy and natural resources group, said in a press release that Polansky is known for handling complex, high-value transactions.
“She and Jessica bring significant in-depth experience in the sophisticated aspects of commodities finance, as well as fresh, unique perspectives on in-house operations in the midstream and downstream spaces,” Samant wrote.
Tim Powers, managing partner of Haynes and Boone, said in a written statement that the firm thanks Polyansky for her service to the firm and its clients. “We wish her success in her new position,” he wrote.