Jeffrey Bjork

Latham & Watkins has hired Sidley Austin’s Jeffrey Bjork to join the firm’s Los Angeles office as a partner in its restructuring, insolvency and workouts practice.

Bjork will work within Latham’s finance department once he officially starts at the firm on Feb. 12. Bjork spent more than 15 years at Sidley, where he made partner in 2006, gaining experience in handling large U.S. municipal bankruptcies and representing debtors and creditors in various aspects of restructurings.

“I’m excited about Latham’s platform and the quality of the firm’s client base, which supports the cross-border work I am increasingly seeing in my practice,” said Bjork, noting that his new firm has a significant presence on the West Coast.

Bjork said that Latham’s private equity platform, high-yield practice and capacity for public company representation stood out to him when making his decision to switch firms.

According to Latham, the 2,280-lawyer legal giant has 79 lawyers around the world in its restructuring, insolvency and workouts practice cross the global, with 28 of those lawyers in the U.S. and the remaining 51 abroad.

Jeffrey Greenberg, managing partner of Latham’s Los Angeles office, said that Bjork will drive the firm’s practice forward with his expertise solving complex restructuring challenges.

“If you look at Jeff’s history, he has had success on the debtor side, on the creditor side and in municipal bankruptcies and distressed M&A,” Greenberg said. “He is the complete package in a day when you need a lawyer who can practice in multiple areas at an elite level.”

Latham has two offices in the greater Los Angeles area, one downtown and another in Century City, which opened in November 2014 after a raid on O’Melveny & Myers. Bjork’s arrival brings Latham’s head count in Los Angeles to 240 lawyers, with 192 working downtown and another 48 in Century City.

Bjork, who earned an undergraduate degree from Pepperdine University in 1995 and his law degree from Emory University in 1998, got his first taste of restructuring work while clerking for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Massey in Atlanta. (Massey retired from the bench in 2014.) Since then, Bjork has specialized in bankruptcy and restructuring matters.

“I like the fact that you can blend the deal and transitions side with the courtroom litigation experience,” Bjork said. “You can represent a number of different constituencies including debtors, creditors and other stakeholders … and represent clients across different industries.”

Some of the clients that Bjork has represented over the years include debtors’ side roles for Houston-based oilfield services provider Key Energy Services Inc. and Dynegy Inc., a Houston-based electric utility that undertook an unusual “upside-down bankruptcy” in 2011, as well as creditors in the Chapter 11 cases of Devon Convenience Stores Inc. and Metropolitan Automotive Warehouse Inc.

“I’ve seen Jeff described as ‘fearless’ in his representation of clients, which is an apt description of the drive and knowledge he brings to the task at hand,” said a statement from Los Angeles-based Latham partner Peter Gilhuly, who serves as co-chair of the firm’s restructuring, insolvency and workouts practice.

Latham, which earlier this week lost private equity co-head Jennifer Perkins to Kirkland & Ellis in New York, has started off 2018 with several of its own additions, including a pair of new litigation partners in London and hiring former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in Madrid. Latham also recruited McDermott Will & Emery tax controversy co-chair Jean Pawlow last month as a partner in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

As for Sidley, the firm has also been busy on the lateral recruitment front this year, picking up Greenberg Traurig’s former national financial institutions co-chair Andrew Cardonick in Chicago and snagging Bracewell environmental partner Heather Palmer in Houston. On Thursday, Sidley also announced its hire of Vinson & Elkins partner Kai Haakon Liekefett in New York, where he will head the firm’s shareholder activism practice.