Freshfields loses two private equity partners as Kirkland swoops again

Kirkland & Ellis has hired two private equity partners from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in its latest raid on the Magic Circle firm.

The US behemoth has poached Keir MacLennan and Vincent Bergin as partners in its London office, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The move marks a follow-up raid from Kirkland, which hired private equity heavyweights David Higgins and Adrian Maguire from Freshfields in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

READ Freshfields poaches top dealmaker from Cravath

“We’re very excited to welcome Keir and Vinnie,” said Jon Ballis, chair of Kirkland’s executive
committee. “They are two of the leading young private equity lawyers in London, and will help further
strengthen our European private equity practice.”

A Freshfields spokesperson said: “Our business continues to grow at pace and we remain well placed to continue providing our clients with the best service, led by a strong group of private equity partners and a talented pipeline of future partners.”

US firm Kirkland has grown into the largest law firm in the world by revenue in recent years thanks to its keen focus on the private equity sector.

The firm posted revenue of $4.8bn and profit per equity partner of nearly $6.2m in 2020, according to industry publication the American Lawyer.

Freshfields announced revenue of £1.59bn for the year ended 30 April, up 5%, and profit per equity partner of £1.91m, also up 5%.

Kirkland has used its financial muscle to make hires from the traditional London elite in recent years.

In May, the firm hired Clifford Chance private equity rising star Gregory Scott as a partner in its London office.

The firm has also targeted Linklaters, with joiners including private equity real estate specialist Matthew Elliott and private equity deal lawyers David Holdsworth, Stuart Boyd and Roger Johnson.

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Freshfields’ London private equity team includes global financial sponsors co-head Charles Hayes and London private equity head Victoria Sigeti.

The firm acts for private equity firms such as CVC, Cinven, General Atlantic and Hellman and Friedman.

Last month, Freshfields announced the hire of Damien Zoubek in New York from Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Zoubek joined the firm as co-head of corporate and mergers and acquisitions alongside Ethan Klingsberg who joined the firm in 2019 from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

The firm has identified the US as a major target for growth and launched a Silicon Valley branch last year to target tech work.

Separately, Kirkland announced on 11 October that it would leave its London office in the Gherkin to take up space at 40 Leadenhall Street which is under construction in the City.

The firm said its London office — which was established in 1994 — now has more than 550 employees.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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