02 July 2020

Freshfields hires five partners from quartet of US rivals to launch Silicon Valley office

Menlo Park

Menlo Park, home to what will be Freshfields' third US office.

Magic circle UK firm hails 'dream team' as it targets lucrative West Coast tech sector

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is to open a seven-partner Silicon Valley office after hiring five partners from four US rivals.

The UK magic circle firm has secured senior lawyers from Davis Polk, Latham & Watkins, Sidley Austin and Wilson Sonsini to assemble what US head of corporate and M&A Ethan Klingsberg described as a “dream team”.

The contingent is completed by two partners moving across to the Menlo Park office from other bases.

The eye-catching move makes Freshfields the first magic circle firm to target the West Coast’s lucrative tech client base with an on-the-ground presence since Clifford Chance’s ill-fated venture in the early 2000s when it took on nearly 50 lawyers from disintegrating dotcom firm Brobeck Phleger & Harrison only to retreat from the region in 2007.

Freshfields chair Edward Braham said Freshfields had secured “five of the country’s top corporate and litigation lawyers” from “one of the most dynamic regions in the world”.

He added: “The impact and strategic importance of technology and life sciences businesses will only continue to grow and advisers who can provide strategic counsel on key domestic issues within a global context will be highly prized.”

The office — Freshfields’ third in the US after New York and Washington DC — will be led by Sarah Solum, who is joining from Davis Polk and will also assume the role of head of US capital markets.

Joining from Sidley Austin as head of US technology and life sciences M&A is John Fisher while employee benefits, executive compensation and corporate governance specialist Maj Vaseghi is moving across from Latham.

The Wilson Sonsini contingent is made up of shareholder and securities litigator Boris Feldman, who is described as ‘legendary’ by his new firm and becomes head of its US technology practice, and fellow litigator Doru Gavril.

Meanwhile, capital markets partner Pamela Marcogliese is moving across from the firm’s New York office and European antitrust specialist Alan Ryan is transferring from Brussels and will offer European regulatory advice for Silicon Valley clients.

“Combining this dream team of talent with our global platform and our high-powered teams in New York and DC enables us to respond to the needs of Bay Area clients. These needs are global, complex and demanding of constant focus and creativity,” said Klingsberg.

“Just as Bay Area clients are fearless in their approach, so is Freshfields. We are committed to serving our clients with the broad and deep resources that their strategic plans merit.”

The UK’s magic circle quartet of Freshfields, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Clifford Chance have nursed long-held ambitions to build heavyweight US practices to complement the rest of their international networks.

But it has been an uphill task, given the deep pockets of their US rivals who enjoy the advantage of having the world’s most lucrative legal market in their back yards.

Last October, Freshfields secured Klingsberg from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton along with two other M&A partners and a litigation partner.

However, in the spring it lost US head of M&A and global transactions Mitchell Presser and corporate partner Omar Pringle to Morrison & Foerster.

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