McDermott strengthens London private equity practice with partner hire from Sidley Austin

Mid-market specialist Fatema Orjela adds further bench depth to firm’s transactions group

Fatema Orjela Photo courtesy of McDermott, Will & Emery

McDermott Will & Emery has boosted its private equity practice in London by adding Fatema Orjela as a partner from Sidley Austin.

Orjela’s expertise in private equity transactions and related advisory matters is expected to significantly elevate the firm’s capabilities. Her arrival underscores McDermott’s ambition to enhance its international standing and leverage its global private equity expertise across Europe and the US. 

Her speciality lies in mid-market deals, for which she has received market recognition. Her past clients include Apollo Global Management, Altamont Capital, H.I.G. Europe and GIC.

Haris Siskind, global head of McDermott’s transactions group, said: “Fatema is a fantastic addition to the practice and firm. She has an outstanding reputation in the market, synergistic client relationships and an excellent cultural fit with our values.”

She leaves Sidley after eight years, joining the firm in 2016 as a partner from Kirkland & Ellis. There, she overlapped with recent McDermott hire Graham White during his tenure, saying she looked forward to joining forces with him again, “whose leadership I’ve historically thrived under”.  

The scale of McDermott’s ambition also fuelled her desire to join, saying: “McDermott understands the nature and needs of private equity sponsors at its core, is fiercely ambitious in terms of its international standing and has experienced exceptional multi-year growth to date. It is a privilege to join at this stage in the trajectory.” 

Orjela trained and qualified at Hogan Lovells, during which time she was seconded as in-house counsel, building solid client-facing experience that has stood her in good stead throughout her career.

She has pan-European cross-sector experience in various corporate transactions, including leveraged buyouts, strategic mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, structured and minority equity investments, equity and debt restructurings, and management equity plans.

Equally notable is her work in diversity and inclusion, having served as the London chair of Sidley Women and on Sidley’s committee for assignment and compensation of associates, while actively mentoring lawyers within and outside the firm.

Orjela’s engagement in diversity and inclusion has also seen her actively involved in initiatives across the City, including her role as co-founder of Women in Law, London (WILL), a network with more than 2,000 members across London aiming to promote and engage the next generation of women leaders in law. She is also a member of the City Women’s Network and an advisory panel member of Oxford Women in Law.

At McDermott, she adds further bench strength to a practice group bolstered by recent M&A hires including White, Peter Lu and Michal Berkner.

White joined last month, while Lu, also based out of McDermott’s London office, joined last year with a four-member team from Baker McKenzie, where he led the firm’s China practice in the UK.

Berkner, meanwhile, joined McDermott from Cooley in January, having built her considerable reputation within the life sciences sector, having joined Cooley in 2018 from Skadden Arps, itself no slouch in the dealmaking space.

Noting the three senior hires, Siskind added that with Orjela’s arrival, “we want to take our private equity offering to the next level”.

Meantime, Orjela’s former firm Sidley Austin has also been actively boosting its private equity and M&A prowess in London. The firm hired Ramy Wahbeh in London as co-head of its global private equity practice alongside a team that included partner Kaisa Kuusk, a pair of counsel and three associates.  

It previously made strategic moves to bolster its London office, with a notable twin partner hire from Weil, bringing in James MacArthur and Ed Freeman in March last year, to enhance its private equity and infrastructure practice.

The firm welcomed Tony Downes from Proskauer Rose in 2022, further strengthening its private equity offering, while in 2021 it added three partners from Vinson & Elkins. This was all part of Sidley’s initiative to replenish its European bench strength following significant departures to Goodwin Procter in 2020. 

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