Aug 15, 2023, 12:29pm EDT

Paul Weiss raids Kirkland’s private-equity rainmakers in BigLaw coup

Reuters/Andrew Kelly

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The Scoop

Law firm Paul Weiss is poaching more than a dozen of Kirkland & Ellis’ top private-equity partners, people familiar with the matter said, one of the largest legal coups in recent memory.

Thirteen Kirkland partners from London and Los Angeles are decamping for Paul Weiss, including dealmakers with close ties to KKR, Warburg Pincus, EQT, and Bain, people familiar with the matter said.

Joining in London are Neel Sachdev, Matt Merkle, Deirdre Jones, and Kanesh Balasubramaniam. In Los Angeles: Eric Wedel, who will open an L.A. office for Paul Weiss, along with Ben Steadman, Matt Leist, and Caroline Epstein.

Roger Johnson, who left Kirkland in an acrimonious split two weeks ago, will also join and bring at least two partners with him, people familiar with the matter said. (Johnson was unhappy about Kirkland’s own poaching of Alvaro Membrillera, the head of Paul Weiss’ London office, and sparred with Kirkland Chair Jon Ballis about the hire, leading to Johnson’s exit, some of the people said.) Membrillera is bringing three other Paul Weiss partners with him, one person said.

“Kirkland appreciates their contributions to the partnership and wishes them the best at their new firm,” a spokesman said.

Some of the moves were earlier reported by the Financial Times.

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Step Back

Law firms that once measured themselves by their stable of corporate clients are increasingly courting private investment firms, which have become the dominant force in dealmaking and capital markets and are huge fee payers. Semafor reported last week that Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the ultimate corporate concierge, is on the hunt for buyout whisperers, too.

Kirkland was an early pioneer, growing from its roots as a Chicago bankruptcy firm to be the top law firm to private-equity shops. Freshfields, the London firm that’s pushed into the U.S. over the past decade, has hired two debt specialists from Weil, Gotshal & Manges over the past year.