Kirkland high-yield partner set for Freshfields in latest exit

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is close to hiring Kirkland & Ellis high-yield partner Ward McKimm, with a partner vote understood to be taking place in the coming weeks.

McKimm, who has not yet tendered his resignation at Kirkland, would be the fifth partner to depart Kirkland since former London senior partner Graham White left for Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

McKimm joined Kirkland in 2011 from Shearman & Sterling, and represents both underwriters and issuers on international securities offerings, with a particular focus on high-yield transactions.

Sources within the firm suggest that McKimm was attracted to Freshfields because of its wider corporate and financial institutions focus, away from Kirkland’s traditional private equity focus.

It is expected that Kirkland will hold on to its relationships with key clients McKimm has worked for, including BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley.

It is also understood that Freshfields is considering bringing McKimm in above its London lockstep, but a change in the system has yet to be put to vote.

“They’re really stretching to get him,” said one Kirkland partner. “European high yield is lucrative but has been dominated by US law firms, and London firms have struggled to make progress.”

Last month Fried Frank picked up a trio of Kirkland funds partners – Mark Mifsud, Kate Downey and Alexandra Conroy.

However, the firm has also made key hires this year including Linklaters real estate M&A head Matthew Elliott and competition head Paula Riedel.

Partners at Kirkland said the firm was looking at new partner recruits, but these were in “very early stages”.