Sidley Austin adds private equity strength in London with Dechert partner hire

Robert Darwin latest addition to Chicago giant's European PE bench as it rebuilds following team loss to Goodwin Procter

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Sidley Austin continues to restock its PE bench in Europe after losing six partners to US rival Goodwin Procter in 2020/21, this time with a life sciences specialist from Dechert.

Robert Darwin joins the Chicago-headquartered firm in London after three years at Dechert, where he was a partner. He focuses his practice on private equity, M&A and collaborative transactions with a particular focus on the life sciences and healthcare sectors, the firm said. 

Darwin, who also handles PE and M&A matters in the tech, consumer and industrial sectors, spent five years at Hogan Lovells before joining Dechert, including three years as a partner. Earlier he also had stints at Withers, Faegre & Benson and Slaughter and May. 

His addition follows Sidley’s hire of PE partner trio Dan Graham, Paul Dunbar and Emilie Stewart from US rival Vinson & Elkins in London last August, having lost six PE partners to US rival Goodwin Procter in London and Germany over the 14 months prior to this.

Among those to jump ship were Erik Dahl, formerly Munich managing partner and co-leader of Sidley’s global private equity practice, and London-based Christian Iwasko, who were credited with kick-starting Sidley’s European practice after joining from Kirkland & Ellis back in 2016.

Tom Thesing, a member of Sidley’s management and executive committees and managing partner of the firm’s London office, said Darwin “has an exceptional reputation in the UK and European markets, and his addition will enhance our European transactional capabilities in life sciences and healthcare, which is a priority.”

Thesing said the Sidley was “excited to have the chance to join forces” with Darwin as the firm continued to expand in Europe. 

Sidley’s 200-strong international life sciences practice covers the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries. The firm currently has 13 life sciences lawyers in London, including seven partners. 

“The opportunity to collaborate with partners across Sidley will immediately accelerate the growth of my practice,” Darwin said, adding that the firm’s recent growth of its life sciences and healthcare transactions group were “key factors” in his decision to move. 

Some of that growth happened stateside when Sidley added Hogan Lovells’ life science industry practice co-leader Asher Rubin last year in a move that significantly boosted the firm’s capabilities in the US. Rubin joined the firm alongside fellow life sciences partner Adriana Tibbitts in Baltimore last January. 

The firm also promoted seven private equity lawyers and two healthcare lawyers to partner in December as part of a wider promotions round that saw a total of 42 lawyers join the partnership across its offices in the US, London, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Dechert, meanwhile, managed to convince one of its London private equity lawyers, Mark Evans, to stay with the firm in November, a month after it was announced he would be joining White & Case alongside fellow partner Ross Allardice and senior associate Tony Brown. 



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