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19 August 2020

Keystone Law continues recruitment drive with bumper hiring spree from Clifford Chance and others

'Virtual' law firm adds 15 new partners and announces new Abu Dhabi office

By Lauren Woodhead

Pic of James Knight

James Knight, Keystone Law's CEO

Keystone Law has hired 15 new partners from several major UK law firms including Clifford Chance and Clyde & Co to broaden its offering across multiple practice areas.

Several of the new recruits are leaders in their field, including Fara Mohammad in Islamic finance, Sharmila Mehta in immigration, and Simon Chalkley in intellectual property. Mohammad joins from Foot Anstey, where she was a consultant; Mehta is chair of the Law Society’s immigration law committee, and joins from Farrer & Co; Chalkley joins from IP boutique Wiggin. 

The hires highlight the attraction of the virtual law firm’s business model, particularly as the ongoing pandemic continues to reshape attitudes towards working from home and flexible work patterns. 

James Knight, Keystone Law’s CEO, said: “I am delighted to welcome these excellent lawyers to Keystone. Their breadth of experience enhances our existing capabilities and reinforces our full-service offering to assist clients with their complex legal requirements.” 

He added: “Highly experienced lawyers continue to be attracted to the flexibility and freedom our firm can provide, as our latest hires demonstrate. Now that many lawyers have been working remotely during lockdown, the appetite for an alternative to the traditional law firm model is stronger than ever.”

The appointment of partners Jeremy Davis, David Bennett, Paul-Michael Rebus and Chris Bannister—all of whom have corporate backgrounds—follows a trend shown by US and UK firms in building up their ranks recently, with HSF, Simpson Thacher and Gibson Dunn all making corporate partner hires this month.

Davis joins from US firm McGuireWoods, while Rebus, who is treble-qualified in Alberta, New York, and England & Wales, has extensive US and UK law firm experience, joining from Canadian firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

Bennett joins from Druces, where he specialised in small cap deals and transactions under £50m, while Bannister joins from Greenwoods, and also has a commercial advisory practice.

Additional hires, such as experienced restructuring and insolvency partner Henry Kikoyo, who joins from Brown Rudnick, and dispute resolution expert Chris Botsman, who joins from the Financial Conduct Authority, bring knowledge and expertise likely to be crucial as the consequences of Covid-19 become clearer.

Also joining the firm are experienced partners Jamie Horner, Terrence Trainor, Rachel Lemon and Sally Pilott, alongside newly promoted partners Nick Weaser and Sheena Ray, all of whom work in sectors impacted by the pandemic.

Sports lawyer Horner arrives from Ashfords; Trainor and Lemon are family lawyers from Vardags and Munday’s respectively; Pilott and Ray are real estate lawyers from DMT Legal and Clifford Chance, while Weaser is a music and entertainment lawyer joining from Clintons. 

Separately, Keystone has announced the establishment of a new Abu Dhabi office, led by Waseem Khokhar. 

Khokhar, who has previously established PwC Legal in the Middle East and led DWF’s Middle East offices until 2018, said: “The Middle East has a vibrant and diverse legal market, which is now [a prime location] for Keystone’s unique model offering independence and flexibility to experienced lawyers.”  

A second office in Dubai is likely to follow due to significant interest from lawyers in the region, according to the firm.

Keystone’s impressive growth is arguably indicative of the increasing popularity of virtual firms, and the firm’s positive financial situation was reflected in the firm’s decision not to make use of the UK government’s furlough scheme

Financial results have shown Keystone’s earnings to be rising fast, with several market analysts tipping the listed firm for further future growth. 

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