Kirkland & Ellis kicks off wellbeing program

Kirkland & Ellis announced this week the creation of a new firmwide wellness program with a new director, part of the ongoing efforts by Big Law to tackle mental health issues that plague the legal profession.

Robin Belleau will be Kirkland & Ellis’ first firmwide director of well-being. A former assistant state’s attorney turned counselor, Belleau officially joined the firm back in March.

She is the former executive director of the Lawyers’ Assistance Program in Illinois and is a member of the advisory commission of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyers’ Assistance Programs.

Kirkland’s new program will proactively work with its attorneys and staff on issues related to mental health and substance misuse and will offer education and enhanced dialogue across three core areas: resilience, connection and fitness and nutrition.

As a part of the program, the firm will host educational courses and seminars on well-being. It will also introduce two well-being apps that aim to support stress reduction, increase resiliency and support individuals in combating substance abuse and other addictive behaviors. The firm will also launch an internal website that will provide its employees with additional resources.

“One of the main goals is to start this conversation and help reduce the stigma around people having mental health issues or substance misuse issues,” Belleau said.

The wellness program will help identify paths to support individuals dealing with substance abuse issues and other mental health concerns rampant in the legal profession like depression, stress or anxiety.

“Kirkland is committed to supporting the well-being of our attorneys. This initiative is something lawyers, particularly younger lawyers and law students, throughout the legal community are asking of their law firms,” said chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee Jeffrey C. Hammes in a statement.

“We are embracing the call for a more open and transparent dialog about mental health within our profession, and believe this program will become an important part of our culture,” he added.

Kirkland’s new program is just the latest initiative offered by law firms to help their attorneys and staff deal with the pressures within the profession. Earlier this year, Morgan Lewis & Bockius launched a new initiative “ML Well” and added its first-ever director of employee well-being. Reed Smith launched a firmwide program “Wellness Works” to support the health and well-being of its lawyers and staff.

And in addition to its “Be Well” program, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld added an on-site counselor to its Washington office to provide therapy sessions its attorneys one day a week. Hogan Lovells has had on-site psychologists available at some of its offices for several years.

According to a 2016 American Bar Association study of lawyers, 28 percent dealt with depression and 19 percent dealt with anxiety. Between 21 and 36 percent were “problem drinkers.”

“People want to work on their mental health,” Belleau said. “Even though there’s still stigma attached to issues, its moving along the spectrum.”


Baker McKenzie grows Life Sciences practice in New York

The co-chairman of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ life sciences practice, Randall Sunberg, and partner Denis Segota are moving to Baker McKenzie in the Big Apple.

Sunberg and Segota will join Baker McKenzie as partners in its health care industry group and its North America corporate and securities practice, the firm announced Tuesday. Though they are officially members of the firm’s New York office, they will operate out of the life sciences corridor in Princeton, New Jersey.

“The international platform is just unbeatable [at Baker McKenzie],” said Sunberg, who will now serve as co-head of the firm’s North America life sciences practice.

Sunberg joined Morgan Lewis in 1999 from Shook, Hardy & Bacon and has worked with clients on M&A and private financing transactions for more than 35 years.

He works with life sciences clients from biotech startups to multinational pharmaceutical and medical device companies on complex collaborations, joint ventures and licensing transactions, as well as equity investments and alternative financing arrangements. He also works with clients on contractual arrangements for drug discovery, development and manufacturing.

It was the focus on health care and life sciences worldwide that drove the pair to make the jump to Baker McKenzie, Sunberg said. From the number of cross-border transactions to the firm’s role in M&A and emerging markets across the globe, Baker McKenzie offered “a compelling story for us and for our ability to serve our clients on an even larger platform,” he added.

And Baker McKenzie’s presence in these emerging markets provides a strategic advantage for some of the pair’s clients looking to access services in those locations.

“Our pharmaceutical clients are focusing on growth and they’re looking at emerging markets for [that] growth,” said Segota, who spent nearly 20 years at Morgan Lewis advising companies in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors on joint ventures, strategic alliances, licensing and other arrangements promoting the research and development of new products.

Segota advises clients on M&A and private financing transactions, working with both financial institutions and companies in royalty monetizations, venture capital and other private equity financings.

“Randy and Denis are trusted advisers to companies across the life sciences sector, from biotech startups to global pharmaceutical companies,” Alan Zoccolillo, chairman of Baker McKenzie’s North America health care industry group, said in a statement.

“As health care companies look to grow in a hypercompetitive environment, they need pragmatic, business-focused solutions. Randy and Denis bring deep industry and technical knowledge that will immediately benefit our team and our clients.”

Sunberg said there is a lot of client overlap already between the firm and his and Segota’s practice, but the pair will now bring the licensing and collaboration expertise to representations on a more global scale.

“We are really looking forward to working with the rest of the health care team at Baker McKenzie to build [the practice] and make it even stronger and have a really purposeful approach toward adding elements where we think we need additional expertise to better serve our clients on their worldwide transactions,” he added.

The pair worked with Sabina Lippman and Vijay Luthra of global legal recruitment firm Lippman Jungers in their move.

The addition of Sunberg and Segota is one of the first major hires stateside for Baker McKenzie, which earlier this year added White & Case M&A attorney Peter Lu as a partner and head of the firm’s China group in London. The firm also added consultants Casey Flaherty and Jae Um as director of legal project management and director of pricing strategy, respectively, as the firm looks to re-engineer the delivery of its services.


Transatlantic M&A Team of the Year: Niederer Kraft Frey

Finalists: Allen & Overy; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Noerr (highly commended); Shearman & Sterling; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Sullivan & Cromwell.

Niederer Kraft Frey received the M&A team of the year prize for large deals, in recognition of its role in Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of European biotech company Actelion.

The challenges of the deal were twofold: it can take years for new drugs to be developed, and trials are not always successful (therefore potential buyers rarely attach much value to early stage drug pipelines), while acquisitive big pharma firms tend not to be very good at advancing drug discovery and early stage clinical trials at the companies they end up buying. Niederer therefore advised Actelion on a novel transaction structure that would bridge the valuation gap while maintaining its drug discovery and clinical pipeline potential. In short, let the sale go ahead at the value Johnson & Johnson placed on Actelion’s marketed products and then spin off the drug development business into a newly listed company (ensuring Actelion’s shareholders could participate in any upside to successful clinical trials that would otherwise have been lost in the merger).

“Big pharma deals are usually difficult to lawyer, and this one especially so. The firm devised really clever and elegant workarounds that have the potential to be adapted to future pharma transactions,” a judge said.


Law firm duo among winners at 2018 Asia Legal Awards

Davis Polk & Wardwell and Korean law firm Lee & Ko were among the biggest winners at the fifth annual Asia Legal Awards, held last week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong.

Davis Polk stood out from a group that included Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Kirkland & Ellis, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and for the second year in a row, claimed the International Law Firm of the Year award.

Davis Polk was also awarded Dispute Resolution Firm of the Year, while Asia managing partner William Barron was named Securities Lawyer of the Year.

UK law firms to take home awards included Simmons & Simmons, which was named Employment Firm of the Year, and Watson Farley & Williams, which came out top in the Shipping and Maritime Firm of the Year category.

Two Freshfields lawyers were among the individual winners, with global M&A co-head Robert Ashworth named M&A Lawyer of the Year and Asia international arbitration head Nicholas Lingard recognised as International Arbitration Lawyer of the Year.

Meanwhile, Seoul-based Lee & Ko took home Asian Law Firm of the Year. The finalists in that category included Singapore’s Allen & Gledhill, India’s Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Indonesia’s Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung, and China’s Han Kun Law Offices and Zhong Lun Law Firm. The 590-lawyer Korean firm also took home Finance Firm of the Year and Insurance Firm of the Year.

Mumbai-based Cyril Amarchand received Firm of the Year awards in the energy and private client practices. Skadden, whose head of China practice Julie Gao was named International Law Firm Leader of the Year, also won M&A Firm of the Year.

Asian Law Firm Leader of the Year went to Jonathan Zhou, management chair of China’s Fangda Partners.

Korean firm Bae Kim & Lee’s programme to support local firefighters received the Asian Pro Bono Initiative of the Year. HSF’s diversity and inclusion programme among Asia-Pacific offices was awarded the inaugural Asian Diversity Initiative of the Year, which intends to honour initiatives law firms implement in Asia to improve diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability.

EYulchon, an interactive mobile application launched by Korea’s Yulchon for in-house legal departments, was the first winner of the Asian Technology and Innovation Initiative of the Year award. US litigation specialist Kobre & Kim’s two-and-a-half-year-old Seoul office took home the debut New Asian Office of the Year.

Japanese automaker Nissan received Asian In-House Legal Department of the Year award, while legal teams at Ant Financial, adidas, Shanghai Real Estate and Uber were recognised in their respective sectors.

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Orrick becomes latest international law firm to pull out of Moscow

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has closed its office in Moscow, with corporate partner Konstantin Kroll relocating to London to head up the US firm’s Russia operations in the City.

A firm spokeswoman confirmed that its small Moscow base closed at the end of 2017.

The move comes seven months after Herbert Smith Freehills hired Orrick partner Dmitry Gubarev in Moscow, where he headed the US firm’s Russian banking and finance practice. Olga Anisimova, a contract tax partner with Orrick in Moscow, has also recently left the firm, although others have relocated elsewhere.

Kroll, who joined Orrick’s Moscow office in 2014 from Jones Day, now heads the Russia desk in Orrick’s London office. The firm also maintains a Russia-focused practice based in Washington DC, where private equity and M&A partner Olga Sirodoeva is now based.

Sirodoeva and Anisimova previously worked at Coudert Brothers, which dissolved in 2005, the same year that Orrick opened in Moscow after absorbing a large group of lawyers from the now-defunct firm in that city and London. The raid would later form the crux of a claim by Coudert’s bankrupt estate against Orrick.

Sirodoeva and Anisimova were part of that group, as was former corporate partner John Sheedy, who left Orrick in January 2010 for Baker Botts. (Almost a year later, Sheedy was found dead in his Moscow apartment.)

Once one of the world’s hottest emerging legal markets, a deep freeze has settled on Russia in recent years, as noted by The American Lawyer last summer.

Geopolitical tensions with the US and other countries, economic sanctions and an often complicated local regulatory regime have led many large law firms to close up shop in Moscow.

Low energy prices have also continued to hit hard the Russian economy, lessening the need for Western lawyers to handle cross-border transactional work. In their stead, leading domestic firms, such as Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners, have moved to capture more market share.

Despite closing in Moscow, a move that comes nearly a year after Orrick revamped its Asia strategy following the departure of a large China capital markets and corporate team to Morgan Lewis & Bockius and almost three years after Orrick consolidated its offices in Germany, the firm is reallocating its resources elsewhere. An Orrick spokeswoman said that since 2013, the firm has grown from 237 lawyers across Africa and Europe to 302 today, making 38 lateral hires during that period.

Orrick opened offices in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Geneva, Switzerland, in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and set up shop in Houston the following year. The firm is currently in discussions to take on roughly 25 public finance lawyers in Texas from Andrews Kurth Kenyon, a move that comes more than a month after Orrick acquired 15-lawyer litigation boutique Morvillo in New York.