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California agricultural law firm Saqui links with Dowling Aaron

The Saqui Law Group PC, which often presents continuing education seminars for Sonoma County Winegrowers, joined Dowling Aaron Incorporated in the of-counsel role.

The Saqui Law Group was established in 2007 to represent California growers, packers and shippers with their labor needs.

Dowling Aaron has represented clients in agribusiness and agricultural litigation including farmers, growers, packers, shippers, dairies, wineries, cooperatives, investors, lenders, processors, insurance providers and others involved in the food production industry.

A full merger of the two firms is set for 2019. Dowling Aaron will maintain offices in Fresno, Bakersfield, Visalia, Salinas and Sacramento.

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DLA Piper offloads stake in ALSP to Big Four accounting firm EY

The Big Four’s march into Big Law territory continues as accounting giant EY has taken over Riverview Law, an alternative legal services provider backed financially by DLA Piper.

EY’s acquisition of Riverview Law means DLA Piper has offloaded its stake in the ALSP, which focuses on fixed-fee, process-driven work through managed services, legal operations and technology offerings.

The Big Four accounting firm said that the purchase—which will create a new company called EY Riverview Law—will help it to provide a more efficient service to clients by improving transparency and reducing the costs of routine legal activities.

“Legal managed services is one of the fastest growing segments of the legal market,” said Cornelius Grossmann, EY’s global law leader. “This acquisition underlines the position of EY as a leading disruptor of legal services; it will provide a springboard for current EY legal managed services offerings and bolster the capabilities that we can help deliver for EY clients.”

“We recognise the expertise that Riverview Law has in this growing market area, which when married with the global EY footprint and legal understanding will help drive significant opportunities for EY clients.”

Riverview launched in 2012 with financial backing from DLA Piper, which initially took a 21 percent stake in Riverview’s parent company, LawVest. That ownership stake has reduced over time to 14 percent.

A number of senior DLA Piper partners also had personal investments in LawVest, including former joint CEO and managing partner Sir Nigel Knowles—now chairman at DWF—who is non-executive chair of Riverview and held shares amounting to a 0.9 percent stake in the business. Those partners have now also sold their shares as part of the deal, The American Lawyer affiliate Legal Week has reported.

A DLA Piper spokesperson said “We can confirm that the firm has sold its minority shareholding in Riverview Law and we wish them every success in their next venture.”

DLA has, however, retained a small stake in Kim Technologies, an artificial intelligence platform that was acquired by Riverview in 2015 but demerged from the company in September 2017.

Chris Price, EY’s global head of alliances for tax, led the team advising on the Riverview acquisition and will become CEO of EY Riverview Law once the transaction is complete, which is expected to take place at the end of August.

A Manchester-based Fieldfisher team, led by corporate partner Tom Ward, advised EY on cross-sector issues across Fieldfisher’s technology and outsourcing teams alongside the rest of its M&A team. Technology partner Sam Jardine advised on technology and software matters, with Ward being supported by corporate solicitor Rachel Leigh and tax and structuring counsel Andrew Loan, who led on tax matters.

EY now has more than 2,200 legal practitioners in member firms across 81 jurisdictions. The accountancy giant has recruited a number of partners from private practice competitors in recent years, including former Addleshaw Goddard managing partner Paul Devitt and corporate head Philip Goodstone, who now serves as head of law for the UK and Ireland.

The news comes after Deloitte last month became the final member of the Big Four to receive an alternative business structure license, as the accountancy giants continue to make inroads into the legal services market. Deloitte’s UK arm also recently agreed to an alliance with US immigration firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, a deal that has seen it acquire the law firm’s operations outside of the United States.

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Latham adds leading Mergers & Acquisitions partner in New York

Latham & Watkins LLP is pleased to announce that Jane Greyf has rejoined the firm’s New York office as a partner in the Corporate Department and member of the Mergers & Acquisitions Practice. Greyf’s practice focuses on representing private equity firms and their portfolio companies in leveraged buyouts, private M&A transactions, joint ventures, and growth equity investments. She also advises corporate clients in strategic M&A matters.

Greyf has an extensive track record representing leveraged buyout sponsors, venture capital funds, hedge funds, and other private equity investors and portfolio companies in various acquisitions, dispositions, investments, joint ventures, buyouts, tender offers, co-investments, and leveraged finance transactions. She also advises public and private companies in various corporate and securities law issues, including corporate governance, securities law compliance, and general corporate matters. Her experience spans several industry segments, including energy, general industrials, and technology.

“Jane is an accomplished lawyer who has worked on significant M&A transactions,” said Michèle Penzer, Office Managing Partner of Latham & Watkins in New York. “As the New York office continues to grow in a number of areas, including private equity and strategic M&A, we are thrilled to welcome Jane back to the firm.”

“Jane’s practice is a perfect fit for our corporate ambitions in the US and globally. We are focused on building the premier public M&A and private equity practice around the world, advising major listed companies and the world’s leading private equity firms and their portfolio companies on their complex business and legal needs. Jane’s boardroom experience, commercial approach, and mix of skills strongly support our growth in New York, and her arrival marks another step forward in achieving our goals,” added Marc Jaffe, Global Chair of Latham & Watkins’ Corporate Department.

“We continue to see increased demand and opportunities in all areas of our New York M&A practice with a diversity of clients, both public and private,” said David Allinson, Co-Chair of Latham’s Corporate Department in New York and M&A partner. “Jane’s experience advising on high-stakes M&A adds further depth to our platform.”

“We are delighted to add someone of Jane’s stature to our practice, as we are increasingly working on M&A matters that require substantial support across practice areas and geographies,” said Kathleen Walsh, Global Vice Chair of Latham & Watkins’ Corporate Department. “Jane’s expertise will be of tremendous benefit to our clients not only in New York, but around the globe.”

“I started my career at Latham and I know the culture well. I’ve been excited to watch the firm’s strong growth and the execution of its strategy over the years. I am thrilled to rejoin the team and to be a part of the firm’s continued success in New York and beyond,” said Greyf.

Greyf joins Latham & Watkins from Goodwin Procter in New York. She was an associate in the Corporate Department at Latham & Watkins from 1998 – 2006. She received her JD from Columbia University, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and her BA from New York University.

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California partners are switching from BIG LAW to small law

Partners have long left large law firms to branch out on their own. But in a legal market increasingly under pressure from a variety of sources, including higher associate salaries, it seems that more and more California-based partners have recently left behind their practices at Am Law 200 firms to start their own shops.

Those that have picked up stakes for new endeavours include Michael Hassen, a former chair of the appellate practice at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, who in May formed Reallaw in Walnut Creek, California. John Cermak Jr., a former managing partner of the Los Angeles office at Baker & Hostetler, has launched local firm Cermak & Inglin with former Baker & Hostetler environmental partner Sonja Inglin. And Armen Zenjiryan, a former Jackson Lewis partner in Los Angeles, in June became the co-founder of Burbank, California-based Remedy Law Group. (Zenjiryan declined to comment about his new firm, while Hassen was unavailable by the time of this story to discuss his next enterprise.)

These break-off boutiques from Big Law are often specialized and frequently located in areas where a certain amount of flexibility, whether it be in real estate or hourly rates, is desirable.

“From a business perspective, I felt like it was a good time to start an environmental boutique,” said Cermak, when asked about his decision to leave Baker & Hostetler after more than a decade at the Am Law 100 firm.

Cermak joined Baker & Hostetler in 2007 as part of a mass lateral move from Jenkens & Gilchrist, where he was a member of the now-defunct firm’s board. Cermak cited rate pressure and conflicts with Baker & Hostetler’s other practices as the primary driver for his decision to start his own firm to cater to the needs of his various clients.

“My clients realized that they can get great quality lawyers at smaller firms, there is a lot of rate pressure for in-house counsels,” Cermak said. “We have a long-time relationship with these clients. We have been with them for almost 30 years.”

As clients become more careful about spending, Cermak said setting up his own shop allows him to offer more flexible rates. As associates at large firms are under increased pressure to keep up their billable hours, in part due to salary raises, Cermak noted that a boutique is better suited to training young lawyers interested in a specific practice, such as environmental law.

At the moment, Cermak’s two-partner firm has only one associate. The former Baker & Hostetler partner said he does plan to hire a few more contract lawyers or associates.

While flying solo might appeal to some large firm lawyers, there are also others that seek out a smaller firm atmosphere for the same benefits of flexibility and hands-on experience, but still want less risk.

George Borkowski, a former chair of intellectual property litigation at Venable, last month left his role as senior vice president of litigation and legal affairs at the Recording Industry Association of America to join Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass as a partner in San Francisco.

“I think that a firm such as 84-lawyer Coblentz Patch is perfectly situated—it can be very flexible, it doesn’t have too much bureaucracy, it doesn’t charge ridiculously high hourly rates,” Borkowski said. “You get a lot more bang for your buck, you pay fees that are somewhat less, but you get representation that I think is even better than most of the big firms because you get individualized attention, you get partners paying attention to your cases.”

Prior to returning to California, Borkowski has spent the past four years at the RIAA, which paid him $380,097 in 2016-17, according to the most recent federal tax filing by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Before that, Borkowski spent nearly three years as a partner at Los Angeles-based Freeman, Freeman & Smiley.

He began his legal career in 1988 at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, where Borkowski was a founder and chair of the IP and technology group during his two decades at that Los Angeles-based firm. Borkowski said he missed being a litigator and that he is excited to help the midsized Coblentz Patch expand its IP litigation practice on the West Coast.

“We do get the job done successfully for clients and we do it in a way that doesn’t break the bank,” Borkowski added.

Bruce Isaacs, a former founding partner of Beverly Hills-based entertainment boutique Wyman & Isaacs who joined Davis Wright Tremaine in early 2015, has also recently left Big Law.

“The clients always want their bill to be smaller,” said Isaacs, now a mediator at Benchmark Resolution Group, which he joined in May after leaving Davis Wright.

For Isaacs, it was a desire to pursue a long-time career interest that spurred his decision to leave the firm for BRG.

“I am 61 years old, and it was time to do something I really felt like doing,” said the veteran litigator about his move to BRG, which was formed last year. Isaacs noted that the new outfit is focused on “figuring out how to solve problems and end litigation.”

BRG’s founding partners included a number of prominent former judges in the Los Angeles area. Isaacs said he felt honoured to become one of the 13 members of that group, which includes nine ex-judges and other experienced litigators.

“I think this company will grow, because I think a lot of the judges that retired are going to want to work here,” Isaacs said. “The retired judges and lawyers are extremely dedicated, they work very hard, and they read every word of every brief and exhibit.“

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Gordon Dadds unveils revenue and profit growth since float

Listed law firm Gordon Dadds announced strong revenue and profit growth today in its first results since going public last year.

In its results for the year ended 31 March 2018 the firm grew revenue by 25.3 per cent to £31.24m and operating profit by 19.1 per cent to £8.8m.

Speaking to Advisory Excellence Gordon Dadds chief executive Adrian Biles said he was very happy with the results.

“We have done all the things we said we would do when we listed but we have been slightly more successful than we thought we would be during the period.”

The firm, which aims to improve profitability by acquiring smaller firms and integrating them onto its platform, made five acquisitions in the course of the year with aggregated revenues of £14m.

“The acquisitions we have made have proved our concept. We said we knew how to do them and integrate them and the results demonstrate that we do know how to take them on,” Biles said.

The firm has a pipeline of further potential acquisitions both in the UK and overseas, Biles said.

“We are talking to firms with a presence in a number of different jurisdictions, we see the emerging markets, Asia and the Middle East and as very attractive potential sources of revenue in the future.”

Biles said the firm was also on the look out for a “transformative” merger to help grow revenue significantly.

“Its quite possible we will be able to do a transformative deal at some point in the future. It’s a question of circumstances and opportunity really,” he said.

Gordon Dadds float in August 2017 made it just the third UK law firm to go public – it has since been joined on the public markets by Rosenblatt which listed in May and Knights which floated yesterday raising £50m.

“Its very encouraging that there is investor demand at the level for things like Knights in our sector,” Biles said.

He said he hoped and expected to see more law firms float to increase analyst and investor interest in the sector.

“For the subsector of legal and professional services as part of business services to be a proper subsector it probably needs a few more listings.”

Law firm DWF confirmed earlier this month that it is examining a float while both Keoghs and Fieldfisher have been tipped as possible candidates for listings.

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Knights joins UK law firms heading to the stock market

London is set for its biggest legal float so far as regional solicitor Knights Law confirmed plans for a City listing.

The move is set to value the company at more than £100 million and generate a paper fortune for chief executive David Beech, who owns 65% of the company along with other managers.

Knights, which traces its roots back to 1759, has around 7,500 clients including big corporate names such as Aldi, Paddy Power and Rolls-Royce.

Gateley was the first law firm to float in London in 2015, followed by Gordon Dadds and then Keystone Law last year, as practices move from the traditional partnership model and look for other sources of capital for acquisitions in a consolidating sector.

“The old model for the legal sector is rapidly becoming redundant,” said Beech.

Part of the proceeds from the IPO will be used to pay down the majority of the existing debt pile. The funds will also be used as “an alternative financing option to the group to further assist its strong acquisition strategy”, Knights said.