Shearman global co-managing partner takes six-strong M&A team to Linklaters in New York

UK firm hails 'transformational step' in US growth strategy as rainmaker George Casey joins as global co-chair of corporate alongside five more lawyers

Linklaters has hired a global co-managing partner of Shearman & Sterling as part of a six-strong M&A team in New York, in a move the UK Magic Circle firm hailed as a “transformational step” in its US growth strategy.  

Rainmaker George Casey will join Linklaters later this month as global co-head of corporate alongside five more lawyers, with the firm noting the new arrivals would add the “full spectrum of US and cross-border M&A capability” to its global corporate practice.  

The team’s departure comes ahead of the $3.5bn merger between Shearman and Linklaters’ Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy (A&O), which is expected to be completed by May and will see A&O leaders take charge of the merged firm.   

The deal is set to hand A&O a significant presence in the US and has put pressure on Linklaters and the other Magic Circle firms with a presence there – Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – to respond. Their growth in the US has long been limited by better-paying domestic rivals and in recent years all four have moved away from a pure lockstep pay model in a bid to better compete for top talent.  

“Growing our M&A capability in the US is a strategic priority for us and George and the team joining is a transformational step,” said Linklaters’ senior partner, Aedamar Comiskey. “Adding a top M&A practice in New York to our global M&A offering means we can support our clients in all core markets.” 

Casey has been one of two managing partners at Shearman since 2018, having joined the firm nearly 30 years ago at the start of his legal career and earlier been global M&A group leader and global head of corporate.  

Lauded as one of the top M&A lawyers in the US, Casey has advised on deals worth more than $300bn over the course of his career. His clients have included miner Anglo American, pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline and Dow Chemical, which he has advised on numerous multibillion-dollar transactions including its $130bn merger with rival DuPont in 2017 and subsequent spinoffs.  

Moving over alongside him is partner Heiko Schiwek, who has been at Shearman since 1998 and is known for working on complex deals in the chemicals and industrials space, including Dow’s merger with DuPont and KMG Chemicals’ $1.6bn sale to Cabot Microelectronics in 2018, a deal on which Casey also worked. He will join Linklaters as one of the global leaders of its chemicals sector. 

The new arrivals are rounded out by newly-minted partner Greg Gewirtz, who was a counsel at Shearman, counsel Yiting Du, a senior associate and an associate.

Linklaters has more than 650 M&A lawyers worldwide and is Band 1 ranked by Chambers for corporate/M&A in the UK, Europe and Asia. Last year it advised on deals worth $133.6bn, a result that saw it place 17th in LSEG’s global M&A legal advisor rankings, somewhat behind Shearman, which leapt from 47th place in 2022 to 14th after working on deals worth $162.4bn. Meantime A&O rose four places to 24th after working on $97.2bn worth of deals. 

Casey and Schiwek are expected to spearhead the next phase of Linklaters’ growth strategy in the US, where over the past 18 months it has added partners in its energy and infrastructure, financial regulation, capital markets and tax practices, among others.  

For its part Shearman saw a slew of partner departures in the run up to its successful merger vote with A&O last October, particularly in London, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong, although it also experienced some exits in the US

The departures have continued at a slowed pace following the vote, with the exit of Casey and his team preceded by private equity lawyer Sarah McClean’s move to Willkie Farr & Gallagher in Houston last week.  

Such departures are a common response to mergers, particularly in markets where both firms have an established presence.

However both Shearman and A&O have been bullish about the opportunities their tie-up represents and touted the enthusiasm for it among their respective partnerships, which was underscored by the fact that more than 99% of the votes cast at each firm were in favour of the merger – far higher than the 75% needed for it to be approved.   

A Shearman spokesperson commented: “Our M&A team had a stellar year in 2023, with rankings in the top 15 globally for both deal value and deal volume, driven by exceptional partners across the platform. 

“Upon the imminent completion of our merger with Allen & Overy, A&O Shearman is expected to have more than 180 M&A partners who, together, will provide unparalleled capability to global businesses. We thank George and Heiko for their contributions and wish them well.” 

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