Katten Muchin plots 'significant' London headcount growth by 2020

Katten Muchin Rosenman is planning to ramp up its London headcount by 2020, according to the US firm’s London managing partner and chairman.

The firm has more than tripled its headcount since 2012, when real estate partner Peter Sugden  (pictured) took up the London managing partner role, and plans to add significantly more people in the coming two years.

The firm had nine lawyers when Sugden joined from Mayer Brown, where he was London real estate head. Last month, regulatory partner Alan Meneghetti joined from Locke Lord, bringing the total number of lawyers in the office to 30.

Sugden said: “We would like to see London headcount grow significantly within the next two to three years. We need more critical mass in London but we’re clear that we don’t want to grow for the sake of growing. What sets us apart is our culture – people come to work at Katten knowing there is a future for them here.”

The Chicago-based firm launched in London in 2005 through a five-lawyer tie-up with UK hedge fund boutique MW Cornish Solicitors.

Since then, hires have included Hogan Lovells private equity partner Philip Watkins in 2014 and real estate partner Terry Green from Clyde & Co in 2014.

Sugden added: “We’re trying to grow in a better, more considered way. People can arrive at other firms with a really particular specialism and be a big market name, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. It can erode cultural identities.”

Katten chairman Roger Furey described the London hiring process as “robust”.

He added: “We find that US firms that shift US partners over to the UK to manage London offices don’t always work. Peter has a lot of autonomy – US management doesn’t pretend to always know what works best in London.”

The pair said the London office has a particular focus on real estate, financial services and the hospitality and leisure sector, and is looking to grow in those areas, with further hires in the pipeline for this year.

Katten’s clients in its key areas include multinational hotel groups Accor/ Fairmont, Wyndham and BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, as well as a FTSE 100 pension fund and a high street bank.

Sugden said: “Our real estate, financial services and hospitality practices are particularly strong. We believe we can really compete in the hospitality sector, which we think is fairly underdeveloped as an asset class in the UK.”

The Chicago-based firm has 11 offices in the US along with sole bases in the UK and Shanghai, and Sugden estimates that about 30% of London’s revenue is generated by referrals from the US offices.