Shearman finance partner joins Freshfields in London

Structured products and derivatives specialist one of three finance partner laterals unveiled by UK firm in London and New York
Panoramic View of City London in UK.

Lukasz Pajor; Shutterstock

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has hired a partner out of Shearman & Serling’s highly rated London structured products and derivatives team, one of three finance partner laterals announced today on both sides of the Atlantic by the UK Magic Circle firm.

James Duncan — a Legal 500 leading individual — is the third London-based partner to leave Shearman in the wake of last month’s news that it is planning to merge with Freshfields’ Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy (A&O).

Also in London, Freshfields has hired high-yield bond specialist Haden Henderson from Baker McKenzie, while across the Atlantic it has secured capital solutions specialist Damian P. Ridealgh from Weil Gotshal & Manges.

While all three hires are notable, attention will inevitably be drawn to Duncan’s departure from Shearman given its impending merger with A&O and in the context of a rash of partner losses ahead of the breakdown in March of earlier talks with Hogan Lovells.

Duncan has been a stalwart of Shearman’s London team, which he joined from legacy firm Berwin Leighton Paisner in 2012. He specialises in advising on cross-border buy-side and sell-side strategic equity solutions and equity financings.

It is understood he was serving out a notice period, meaning the proposed merger did not spark his departure. The same will have applied to the four-partner international energy team, including two partners based in London, whose move to Ashurst coincided with the announcement of Shearman’s deal with A&O.

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Commentators have agreed that some departures are all but inevitable ahead of the A&O Shearman deal, which still needs the approval of both firms’ partnerships and is expected to take many months to complete. 

This seems particularly likely in areas of mutual strength in the same geography, where conflicts may come into play: A&O’s London structured products and derivatives practice is rated as Band 1 by the Legal 500 directory with Shearman in Band 2.

Freshfields structured products and derivatives partner Richard Hart, meanwhile, said the hire demonstrated the firm’s “strategic growth ambitions in the private capital space where derivatives-based and other structured solutions are increasingly relevant to sponsors’ financing and risk-management needs”.

A Shearman spokesperson wished Duncan well, adding: “Our derivatives & structured products practice is recognized in the market for the breadth of our client base, the depth of our product experience and our true cross‐border capabilities.”

Joining Duncan in Freshfields’ London finance team is Henderson, who is moving across from Bakers, where he has been a partner since 2018. He specialises in advising on high-yield bond offerings, committed leveraged finance transactions and bond restructurings. 

Freshfields has also today boosted its partner ranks in the US, where the prospective A&O Shearman deal has put the spotlight on its US growth plans, as well as those of its other main UK rivals, Clifford Chance and Linklaters.

Damian P. Ridealgh has joined the US finance practice from Weil Gotshal & Manges. The former Ashurst and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson partner advises private capital clients on an array of including special situations and liability management transactions and US and European acquisition financings.

His private equity fund clients include Hayfin Capital Management, CPPIB Credit Investments, Angelo Gordon & Co and Blackstone.

On Monday CC unveiled plans to open an office in Houston focused on energy work with a ten-partner team, including seven lateral hires from rival firms. 

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