The Magic Circle Is Coming to America

U.K. Magic Circle firms are increasingly looking to extend their reach to North America. Two Magic Circle firms in particular, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters, have recently made senior lateral hires from U.S. rivals to achieve these ends.

A&O hired corporate partner Jesse Debban in Silicon Valley from Farella Braun + Martel, while Linklaters picked up employment partner Andrew Gaines in New York from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

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Debban will join A&O’s corporate team. He spent more than a decade as a partner and chair of Farella Braun’s business transactions group and three years as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Los Angeles.

“Jesse’s arrival reflects our commitment to building our corporate practice in Silicon Valley both to serve existing clients and to deepen our connection with the market,” said Tim House, A&O’s U.S. senior partner. “Jesse's expertise, market knowledge, and versatility are a welcome addition and we are delighted he has joined us. He will help us attract more talent.”

Andrew Gaines started at Paul Weiss in 2012 and was a partner at both Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Weil, Gotshal & Manges prior to that.

He’s joining Linklaters as an employment and incentives partner and head of executive compensation and employee benefits for the U.S.

“Andy is one of the top lawyers in his field and we’re excited to have him join the firm,” said Tom McGrath, head of Linklaters’ U.S. practice. “His experience will greatly benefit the clients that seek our help with complex compensation-related matters. His counsel will be in high demand as we continue to grow our corporate and private equity practices in the U.S.”

Even before these hires, it was abundantly clear that Magic Circle firms are determined to build their presence in the U.S.

Linklaters recently added to its financial regulatory team in Washington, D.C. by poaching partner Donald Waack from Morgan Lewis, while Clifford Chance scooped up funds counsel Vadim Avdeychik of Paul Hastings as a partner in New York.

A&O, however, has by far been the most aggressive with its U.S. expansion, beginning back in 2016 when it hired five leveraged finance partners in New York from White & Case, Proskauer Rose, and Milbank.

More recently, A&O hired 13 partners last spring in California alone from Akin Gump and White & Case. Then, last September, it added Morrison & Foerster’s blockchain and smart contracts group co-chair Dario de Martino in New York. And this February, it hired five life sciences IP litigation partners from Goodwin Procter to launch an office in Boston (its fifth office in the U.S.). That same month, it picked up the head of Akin Gump’s energy regulation, markets, and enforcement practice, Chip Cannon, in Washington, D.C.

A&O’s North American expansion is off to a strong start. It remains to be seen whether the other four Magic Circle firms can keep pace.