Bracewell launches London disputes practice with double partner hire from fellow US firms


US firm Bracewell has launched a London disputes practice with the hire of two City arbitration partners, from K&L Gates and McDermott Will & Emery.

The energy-focused firm has recruited McDermott partner Damian Watkin and K&L Gates partner John Gilbert, marking its first London laterals since its 2013 City relaunch.

The new additions will take the Houston-headquartered firm’s London partner headcount to 10.

Bracewell first opened for business in London in 2007, but ramped up its presence in the capital in 2013 with a series of partner hires including energy finance partner Jason Fox, who joined from Herbert Smith Freehills and now serves as London managing partner.

Fox (pictured) said: “This is the most significant development for this office since we relaunched in 2013. It was always our intention to cover transactions and disputes, but we wanted to establish and bed in the transactional side first. We have never had a disputes offering before in London.”

Bracewell’s other City practices are M&A, financing, project development and construction.

The firm is also looking to recruit two to three associates for the new practice. It is not looking to hire additional partners immediately, but does intend to do so in the medium term, both in its disputes and transactional practices.

Gilbert has spent two years at K&L Gates, having joined as a partner from Pinsent Masons. Before that, he worked at BP as senior counsel for nearly six years. He starts his new role at Bracewell next week.

Watkin, meanwhile, joins today (4 December) after less than a year at McDermott, before which he spent four years as a barrister and disputes of counsel at Jones Day.

Bracewell’s City partner count has remained stable at eight since 2013, when the firm made a string of hires including Simmons & Simmons partner Julian Nichol, Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Martin Stewart-Smith and Clifford Chance partner Tracy London.

Last year the firm went through a rebrand, changing its name from Bracewell & Giuliani following the departure of founding partner and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, a staunch advocate of Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, left in January 2016 to join Greenberg Traurig as global chair of its cybersecurity and crisis management practice.