McDermott signs up veteran dealmaker who led Kirkland’s London expansion in 2000s

Graham White, formerly of Kirkland and Fried Frank, adds gravitas to US firm’s transactional offering

The London office of McDermott Will & Emery has hired veteran private equity lawyer Graham White as a partner. 

White, who had previously retired from practice, has more than 30 years of experience working in the City of London, including stints with leadership roles at Kirkland & Ellis and Fried Frank. 

McDermott said the move was designed to enhance the firm’s transaction practice during intense interest in the sector and aimed at driving growth. It follows Tom Whelan’s departure as head of London private equity to join Reed Smith last month.

Harris Siskind, global head of McDermott’s transactions practice group, said: “Graham’s decades of experience in senior roles at top-tier firms makes him the ideal person to assist us in developing our M&A, private equity and financing capabilities in London. His exceptional knowledge of the London legal market is an added bonus.”

A Scottish solicitor by training, White was a partner at boutique firm Dickson Minto before joining legacy SJ Berwin, later King & Wood Mallesons, in 1999 where he spent three years before moving to Magic Circle law firm Linklaters, again as a partner. 

The market widely saw White’s move to Kirkland in 2006, along with Raymond McKeeve, as a statement of intent by the US law firm, where he became the de facto leader of the firm’s City practice, as Kirkland does not, by convention, officially name a London managing partner.

White led the firm’s corporate team at Kirkland, overseeing its private equity offering and leading its European offices. He also served as a member of the firm’s global management committee.

White subsequently left for Fried Frank in 2014, leading its London office. After several departures, he helped rebuild that firm’s office, including making lateral hires that boosted the firm’s City credentials, bringing in his former SJ Berwin colleague Mark Mifsud and his team.

Mifsud later replaced White as managing partner as his successor on retirement from active practice in 2017.

In 2014, Fried Frank’s chairman, David Greenwald, hailed White as “a proven leader with years of experience handling large and complex buyout transactions for some of the world’s most sophisticated organisations”.

Fast-forward to 2024, and Hamid Yunis, managing partner of McDermott’s London office, said White would work closely with him, London transactional heads and its global senior leadership to help grow the firm’s UK transactional capabilities. 

He added: “We are looking forward to Graham’s pivotal role in helping us build a great team.” 

Last month, McDermott hired life sciences M&A partner Michal Berkner from Cooley in London and a seven-lawyer team from Orrick in the US. 

White’s former firm, Kirkland, lost more than a dozen private equity partners to Paul Weiss in the US and UK over the course of the year, including debt finance heavyweight Neel Sachdev in London and capital markets lawyer Eric Wedel to open an office in Los Angeles. 

However, the worlds largest firm by turnover shrugged off those reverses to power through the $7bn revenue barrier last year off the back of a 10% rise in fees against a 6% increase in profits per equity partner (PEP) to $7.96m.  

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]