Davis Polk to strengthen UK practice with Herbert Smith corporate hire

Davis Polk & Wardwell is set to boost its City corporate practice with the hire of Herbert Smith Freehills partner Will Pearce.

Pearce, who focuses on M&A and capital markets work, is one of Herbert Smith’s best known junior corporate partners.

High profile recent advisory roles have included representing retailer JJB Sports on its lengthy restructuring and administration and advising joint bookrunners JP Morgan and Cenkos Securities in Entertainment One’s C$225m (£144m) acquisition of Canadian film distribution company Alliance Films.

The hire, which will be seen as a blow to Herbert Smith, will make Pearce the third English law partner in Davis Polk’s London arm.

The Wall Street leader only started practising UK law in January 2012 with the hire of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate veteran Simon Witty, who joined in April. The firm went on to hire tax partner Jonathan Cooklin in April, also from Freshfields.

Davis Polk currently has eight partners based full-time in its London office including the UK qualified duo. In addition two partners spend some of their time in London, including global managing partner Tom Reid, who previously worked in the City arm before taking up his firmwide leadership role.

Reid has previously cited ECM, M&A, leveraged finance and tax as the key areas the firm is looking to offer from its English law practice.

Reid said: “Will is another tremendous addition to our English law team in London. His skill and experience with intricate cross-border takeovers and combinations meshes perfectly with our global M&A practice. He also brings considerable versatility with his extensive background in securities transactions.

“We are thrilled with the growth and direction of our London office and are committed to continuing the focused build out of our English law offerings there, as well as in Hong Kong, with additional lateral hires and ongoing organic development.”

News of Pearce’s resignation comes after the merger between Herbert Smith and Australia’s Freehills went live last month, creating a combined firm with revenues of around £800m based on Herbert Smith’s 2011-12 turnover and Freehills’ 2011 income.