Kirkland takes five-partner Ropes enforcement team in the US, London and Hong Kong

Kirkland & Ellis has recruited a five-partner investigations and government enforcement team from Ropes & Gray, including lawyers from four of the firm’s offices in the US, UK and Asia.

The team comprises Chicago managing partner and global anti-corruption and international risks co-chair Asheesh Goel, New York securities and futures enforcement co-head Zachary Brez, alongside three other government enforcement partners – Kim Nemirow in Chicago, Marcus Thompson in London and Cori Lable in Hong Kong.

Goel’s move marks a return to Kirkland, where he practised between 2005 and 2008 before leaving to open a Chicago office for Ropes. Before moving to private practice, he led the enforcement division at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Chicago.

Brez has a similar background. He joined Ropes in 2010 from Kirkland, where he had spent eight years, making partner in 2005. Earlier in his career, he was also a lawyer in the SEC’s enforcement division.

Nemirow was previously part of Ropes’ Asia government enforcement practice in Hong Kong before relocating to Chicago earlier this year. She made partner in Washington DC in 2012.

Lable and Thompson, meanwhile, both made partner at Ropes in 2014. Thompson, a barrister, joined Ropes’ London office in 2013 from offshore firm Walkers, where he was general counsel. At Ropes he also served as assistant general counsel and looked after compliance and risk issues in London and Asia. He is also a former senior legal adviser at the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

In an internal memo – seen by Legal Week and verified by a firm spokesman – Ropes chairman Brad Malt and managing partner David Chapin said: “Partner departures happen in law firms. We have a deep and extraordinarily talented group of lawyers in government enforcement and business and securities litigation, including our anti-corruption practice, who have secured important matters and recorded impressive wins. The same can be said of the offices where the group was located, and for that matter, all of our practice and offices.”

Kirkland saw profit per equity partner (PEP) soar by nearly 14% to $4.1m during 2016, with revenue rising 15% to $2.65bn, taking the firm up to second place in the Am Law 100 rankings.

The firm is now among an elite six-strong group with PEP of more than $4m, alongside Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, Cravath Swaine & Moore and Sullivan & Cromwell.

In comparison, Ropes saw PEP inch up by 0.2% to $2.02m during 2016, with revenues rising 6.9% to $1.485.5bn.

A number of partners have left Ropes in recent months. This April a four-partner Hong Kong corporate team led by office managing partner Paul Boltz left for Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, while in London, the firm has seen partners depart for LinklatersKing & Spalding and White & Case following the exit of former London senior partner Maurice Allen to DLA Piper.

In the US, the firm saw two Boston departures this June, with private equity partner Jason Serlenga joining Kirkland’s new office in the city and real estate investments and transactions co-head Marc Lazar leaving for Goodwin Procter. The firm also recently spun off its 100-lawyer patent prosecution practice into a new firm, Haley Guiliano, which launched earlier this month.

Following the departures, the firm will have around 50 partners in its global litigation group, including 22 anti-corruption practitioners.

In a statement, Jeffrey Hammes, the chair of Kirkland’s global management executive committee, said: “Asheesh, Zach, Marcus, Kim and Cori are market leaders in the international investigations and enforcement space. In addition to handling complex international enforcement matters, they are exceptionally adept at helping the most sophisticated investment firms in the world responsibly address cross-border transactional risk.”