K&L Gates reels in seven-partner private equity team from Dentons' Pittsburgh arm

Defections from Dentons Cohen & Grigsby come three years after it signed up with global giant under project golden spike

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K&L Gates has hired a seven-partner corporate and private equity team from Pittsburgh-based rival Dentons Cohen & Grigsby.

Partners Chris Thel, Ron Aulbach, Curt Anderson, John Wingerter, Lauren Crossett, Andrea Steiner and Jeff Berkey are all moving across to K&L Gates in what will count as a highly significant development in a tight-knit legal market built around the city's manufacturing, healthcare, energy and technology sectors.

The mass defection comes amid a flurry of similar deals instigated by top 50 US firms as they seek to build out their national US network: : Morrison Foerster's takeover of Californian IP litigation boutique Durie Tangri went live earlier this month, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe is merging with Washington DC-based specialist fintech firm Buckley and firm Goodwin Procter has secured a group of 14 partners from Troutman Pepper to officially launch in Philadelphia.

Jim Segerdahl, K&L Gates’ global managing partner, said the team would "fit beautifully", adding: “They will be an immediately impactful addition to our Pittsburgh office, and to our broader corporate and private equity practice...”

The legal directory Chambers and Partners rates K&L Gates as a Band 1 corporate, M&A and private equity practice in Pittsburgh alongside Reed Smith while Dentons Cohen & Grigsby sits a tier below with Anderson singled out as a leading individual.

According to K&L Gates, the team represents private equity and private credit funds with more than $4bn of assets under management, as well as their portfolio companies.

For two of the team members, the deal brings them back to the firm where they started their careers. Thel was at the firm from 2002-2006 while Aulbach worked out of K&L Gates from 1998-2012.

K&L Gates’ boasts a 500-lawyer corporate practice spread across its US and international network. Over the past 12 months, the firm has hired eight corporate partnes, including last November's addition of James Lonie and Natalya Hards in Sydney.

The team's defection, meanwhile, comes three years after Cohen & Grigsby signed up with Dentons as part of the global giant's ‘project golden spike’ strategy to build a network of regional US firms that will ultimately cover the entire US.

The strategy provides regional US firms seeking to become part of a larger national network with an alternative to the merger route.

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