Paul Weiss makes a splash in London with four-partner Kirkland raid

Hire of team led by ‘superstar’ Neel Sachdev signals move into practising English law

Wall Street firm Paul Weiss has signalled a strategic move to practise English law with an eye-catching four-partner raid on Kirkland & Ellis in London, led by “superstar” Neel Sachdev.

The decision of private equity debt finance specialist Sachdev to quit Kirkland has generated a string of headlines, not least because Kirkland is rarely on the receiving end of high-end partner raids.

The moves, which are yet to be officially acknowledged by Paul Weiss and were first reported by Financial News, also feature debt finance partner Kanesh Balasubramaniam and capital markets partners Matthew Merkle and Deirdre Jones.

A Kirkland spokesperson said: “Kirkland appreciates their contributions to the partnership and wishes them the best at their new firm.”

The Financial Times reported that Roger Johnson, who left Kirkland for an unknown destination last month, is also joining Paul Weiss.

Sachdev, who joined Kirkland in 2003 as an associate from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and made partner in 2006, and Johnson, who joined from Linklaters as a partner in 2015, are both credited as being driving forces behind Kirkland’s rise to the top of London’s legal market.

The hires by Paul Weiss are all the more striking given its loss of London office head and private equity specialist Alvaro Membrillera to Kirkland earlier this month.

That followed the departure of London deputy head Ramy Wahbeh for Sidley Austin in May alongside fellow corporate partner Kaisa Kuusk, with Wahbeh now co-head of Sidley’s private equity group, and left the firm with just three partners in London, according to its website.

Paul Weiss’s hires mean it has joined Cravath Swaine & Moore in recently branching out into English law. Until now, its European practice featured US trained and qualified lawyers working with independent firms. 

Cravath’s move to practise English law came in March when it hired heavyweight finance duo Korey Fevzi and Philip Stopford from Shearman & Sterling. 

The last 20 years have seen a succession of elite New York firms branch out into English law, with Wachtell among the few that now confine themselves to US law.

Paul Weiss, meanwhile, has also reportedly secured a four-partner team from Kirkland in New York and Los Angeles led by debt finance partner Eric Wedel.

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