Biglaw, Lateral Moves, Mergers and Acquisitions, Musical Chairs, Partner Issues, Private Equity, Texas

Musical Chairs: Kirkland Raids A Rival To Launch In Houston

As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. The exceedingly prestigious and profitable Kirkland & Ellis, which has seen some partner defections in the past few months, seems to be taking that lesson to heart.

Kirkland recently launched in the hot legal market of Houston — by poaching a promising young partner from a competitor. Which super-elite firm did K&E just raid for talent?

A longstanding rival in the private equity space, Simpson Thacher. Here’s a report from Legal Week:

Kirkland & Ellis has opened a Houston office with the hire of M&A partner Andrew Calder from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. The base is Kirkland’s twelfth worldwide and seventh in the US, to be led by Calder, who was previously with Simpson Thacher in the city….

Specialising in M&A, securities law and corporate governance, with a focus on the energy sector, Calder’s key clients include private equity funds Blackstone Energy Partners and KKR, as well as GeoSouthern Eagle Ford Development, Alta Energy Luxembourg, Arch Coal, Petrohawk Energy Corporation and PPL Corporation among others.

Calder will be joined in K&E’s Houston office by one of his former Simpson colleagues, associate Rhett Van Syoc, and several current Kirkland lawyers who are relocating from Chicago to Houston: Benjamin Clinger, a lateral originally from Debevoise who just got promoted to share partner at K&E, as well as William Benitez, Andrew Dixon, and Kyle Watson. (This is all spelled out in the internal memo from Kirkland chairman Jeffrey Hammes, posted in full on the next page.)

It seems that Kirkland likes ’em young, at least when it comes to partners picked up from rival firms. Calder, who received his law degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2000 and joined Simpson in 2004 (after a stint at Herbert Smith), became a partner at STB effective January 2012 — so he had been a Simpson partner for just a shade over two years. Other relatively young partners that Kirkland has pirated in recent years from top-tier firms include Sean Rodgers, who was also spirited away from Simpson, and Sarkis Jebejian, who was snagged from Cravath.

How did Simpson receive the news? We’re hearing conflicting accounts. Some say Calder was not Mr. Popularity in the office and not producing as much business as expected, but others say that Simpson was unhappy to lose him: “Considering that Sean Rodgers was escorted out when he gave notice, I don’t think the firm is thrilled by another poach by Kirkland.”

We have in fact heard some juicy (but unconfirmed) rumors about how Calder’s departure went down, involving IT department intrigue and folks being locked out of offices. If you know what we’re talking about and can confirm, please email us or text us: 646-820-8477.

(In the meantime, flip to the next page for the Kirkland internal memo and for collected news coverage.)

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