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Allen & Overy suffers ‘data incident’ as ransomware group LockBit claims responsibility

Allen & Overy has confirmed that it has suffered a ‘data incident’. Posts from X user and self-described ‘threat intelligence platform for cybersecurity’ @FalconFeedsio on Wednesday 8 November suggested that cybercriminal group LockBit had targeted the firm, with a threat to release ‘all available data’ by 28 November.

‘We have experienced a data incident impacting a small number of storage servers’, said an A&O spokesperson. ‘Investigations to date have confirmed that data in our core systems, including our email and document management system, has not been affected.

‘The firm continues to operate normally with some disruption arising from steps taken to contain the incident.’

The firm claims that the incident is under control: ‘Our technical response team, working alongside an independent cybersecurity adviser, took immediate action to isolate and contain the incident. Detailed cyber forensic work continues to investigate and remediate the incident.

‘As a matter of priority, we are assessing exactly what data has been impacted, and we are informing affected clients. We appreciate that this is an important matter for our clients, and we take this very seriously. Keeping our clients’ data safe, secure, and confidential is an absolute priority.’

A&O declined to comment further. The firm did not respond to requests to confirm LockBit’s involvement.

In June, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a joint advisory alongside agencies from the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and New Zealand stating that LockBit was ‘almost certainly the most deployed ransomware strain in the UK and that it continues to present the highest ransomware threat to UK organisations.’

LockBit hit Royal Mail with a ransomware attack in January and leaked Royal Mail’s data on 23 February after Royal Mail refused to pay both an initial ransom demand of £66m and a subsequent demand for £47m. The cybercriminal group also announced that it had hit Boeing in late October. Boeing confirmed the cyberattack in early November and was re-added to LockBit’s list of victims on 7 November after disappearing from the list on 30 October, according to FalconFeeds.

The SRA in June 2022 issued a risk outlook report entitled ‘Information security and cybercrime in a new normal’. In the report, it noted that ‘increased dependence on IT’ since the Covid-19 pandemic ‘creates more opportunities for cybercriminals.’

A&O is not the first major firm to suffer from a data breach. DLA Piper was shut down by a cyberattack in 2017. And in June, ransomware group CL0P posted the names of Kirkland & Ellis, K&L Gates, and Proskauer Rose to its leak site, although none of the firms responded to requests for comment.

BCLP, meanwhile, discovered it had been hacked in late February, in a breach that exposed the personal data of more than 50,000 current and former employees of client Mondelēz International. In June, a class action suit was filed against BCLP in the Northern District of Illinois. The case remains ongoing. BCLP did not respond to requests for comment.

‘These [data breaches] are causing a tremendous amount of harm’, said Thomas Zimmerman, an attorney at Chicago-based Zimmerman Law Offices, which is bringing the class action against BCLP. ‘Clients I represent who have had data stolen have dealt with loans being opened up in their names, their credit score hijacked, mortgages opened up in their names for homes. And they’re stuck with it, you can’t change a social security number like you can open a new bank account, people suffer the consequences for years.’

There has never been a data breach group action litigated in an English court. The prospects for bringing such a claim are complicated by the fact that opt-out claims can currently only be brought in England at the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT). And many in the market are sceptical that a data breach claim could be adequately formulated as a competition claim.

The A&O data breach was first reported in the Financial Times.

This story first appeared on Legal Business.

It’s a ‘yes’ from them – A&O and Shearman partners vote through landmark $3.5bn transatlantic deal

Allen & Overy (A&O) and Shearman & Sterling are set to go ahead with their transatlantic merger, after partners at both firms voted overwhelmingly in favour of the union, with support from more than 99% of votes cast at each firm.

The pair is expected to combine as A&O Shearman from May 2024 at the latest – creating ‘the first fully integrated global elite law firm’, with nearly 4,000 lawyers across 48 offices and 29 countries.

With combined revenue of roughly $3.5bn, the merged firm will sit comfortably within the top five of the LB global 100 – behind Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and DLA Piper.

Partner voting on the combination kicked off on 28 September, and was scheduled to run until 13 October, with the firms needing to secure the approval of 75% of partners to get the deal over the line.

Announcing the move, A&O senior partner Wim Dejonghe (pictured) said: ‘This is a historic moment for both firms and our profession. We are delighted that our partners have voted so resoundingly in favour of this merger, which is a transformational step for the legal industry. We have long admired Shearman & Sterling for its outstanding reputation, talent, and client base, and we are confident that together we will create a truly exceptional global firm that will serve our clients’ needs in an increasingly complex and dynamic world.’

Shearman senior partner Adam Hakki added: ‘Our partners have recognized and welcomed this unparalleled opportunity to combine our individual market leadership and brands to serve clients as an integrated global law firm, preeminent in all our markets. A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world, built to achieve exceptional outcomes for our clients through an intentional focus on quality, excellence, and collaboration. We are creating a new industry leader, with truly global capabilities, and we are excited for what is to come.’

The firms announced they were in merger discussions in May this year and the deal had been widely expected to go ahead, with management at both firms embarking on a series of roadshows around the world over the summer to shore up support.

The combination marks the first transatlantic merger involving a Magic Circle firm since Clifford Chance’s ill-fated union with Rogers & Wells in 2000 and comes after A&O held unsuccessful talks with O’Melveny & Myers in 2019.

Shearman, meanwhile, was engaged in talks with Hogan Lovells as recently as this year, with the pair announcing the end of discussions in March. The firm has struggled to keep pace with New York rivals in recent years. With its traditional banking client-base, it has not made the same push into private equity as its rivals, something management at the combined firm is keen to rectify.

Shearman has also been hit by partner exits around the world, including finance partners Philip Stopford and Korey Fevzi, who left in March this year to launch the English-law offering at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in London. The firm named respected litigator Adam Hakki as the senior partner successor to David Beveridge the same month.

Market reaction to the deal has been largely positive. Jomati founder Tony Williams, who was previously managing partner at CC before its US merger, commented: ‘A&O was lucky. The previous discussions with O’Melveny made partners understand how difficult getting a US deal is. The partners were more amenable to compromise on issues that, if not for that experience, might have been sticking points.’

Another commentator noted: ‘It’s been handled extremely well. Both firms have had failed merger attempts recently. Both sides understood the importance of managing communications – even simple things like who gets informed in what order. Communications strategy is crucial and has been really well handled. The whole thing was presented as a proper corporate deal.’

The deal will heap pressure on the remaining magic circle firms to come up with credible offerings of their own in the US. There has not been a significant UK/US merger since 2018, when BCLP was created. This deal came after Eversheds Sutherland was formed in 2017, while Norton Rose Fulbright happened in 2013 and Hogan Lovells in 2010.

As Williams commented: ‘It’s transformative in one key respect: it is a fundamental shift in what the top UK firms have been able to achieve in the United States.’

‘You’ve now got one more 64,000lb gorilla, with a unique capability that doesn’t really exist elsewhere’ adds a former UK firm head. ‘A&O Shearman now has a capability that the other Magic Circle firms don’t have. These things don’t change overnight – no one will be out of business all of a sudden. But over time, over around 10 years, it could be transformative. It’s like a snowball. It gathers momentum. It’s really a challenge for the [rest of the] Magic Circle.’

Maurice Allen, founder of legal consultancy LTN & Partners, argued that in addition to the direct benefits from the merger itself, the merged firm will also be a more attractive proposition for other lawyers, potentially making it easier to further build on the corporate side: ‘It’s a big leg up for clients and for recruitment. There’s no doubt A&O is more attractive now.

‘For people sitting in London, either at a US firm where they’re not enjoying life, or at a UK firm where they feel they aren’t reacting to the challenge of the US firms, A&O Shearman starts to look very attractive.’

This story first appeared on Legal Business.

A&O managing partner Price departs pre-merger as revenue passes £2bn

Allen & Overy has announced the shock resignation of managing partner Gareth Price amid a set of financial results that saw the Magic Circle firm break £2bn in revenue for the first time.

The firm said Price’s resignation was due to ‘personal reasons’ and came as revenue jumped nearly 8% from £1.94bn last year to £2.1bn in 2022/23. While eye-catching, the level of turnover growth fell slightly short of the 10% uptick achieved last year, of which more than half was attributed to A&O’s US business.

Profit per equity partner (PEP) dropped 6.6% from £1.95m to £1.82m, while profit before tax dipped slightly to £892m after a 9% hike to £900m last year.

Price was elected A&O’s managing partner in February 2020. News of his departure has been met by surprise, not least because he had been hotly tipped internally to stand again for managing partner in the firm’s 2024 leadership elections, a move that could be seen as a vote for continuity as A&O faces inevitable challenges posed by its proposed merger with Shearman & Sterling.

‘The board has asked me to step in to cover the [managing partner] role’, senior partner Wim Dejonghe told Legal Business. ‘They will make a decision on a more permanent solution in the autumn. Leadership elections were scheduled for early next year, after the merger vote. The board also has to decide whether they stick to that schedule or not.’

On the financials, A&O reported strong growth in private capital revenue of more than 60% for the last two years. In the US, ‘growth and expansion has remained a high priority’ – unsurprising given the firm’s pursuit of the Shearman merger. A&O pointed to the region as one of its strong performers, alongside Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, which saw its ‘strongest financial performance ever’, driven by what it describes as ‘a hot IPO market’, as well as by opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

A&O’s Advanced Delivery & Solutions (AD&S) business also grew by 13%.

While the US accounted for over 50% of the firm’s revenue growth last year, this year Dejonghe said it accounted for less than half. ‘It’s up in absolute figures, but it’s not 50% of the growth,’ he said.

A&O also reported strong performance in energy transition, technology, and private capital: ‘With the energy transition, there’s a lot of financing needed in the energy and infrastructure space. That’s definitely a strong growth point for us. Technology, both on the litigation and the transactional side, has also seen massive growth, as has private capital on the debt side,’ Dejonghe added.

Dejonghe explained the drop in PEP with reference to macroeconomic conditions and a competitive legal market. ‘We’re in an inflationary environment. Costs generally have gone up. And of course there’s been a salary war in the industry around the world. We’ve defended our position, and we’ve had to spend quite a bit more on salaries to keep and recruit the best talent.’

A&O has no plans to slow its investment. ‘In terms of sectors, we’re focusing on technology, energy transition, and private money. We’re investing quite heavily in those practices around the world.’

But, unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of attention will go to the proposed combination with Shearman. ‘Obviously, the merger will be a priority going forward’, said Dejonghe. ‘There’s no doubt about that.’

This article first appeared on Legal Business

Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling announce merger

In what the firms describe as ‘the first fully integrated global elite law firm’ Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have announced a planned merger to create a ‘unique global law firm’ named Allen Overy Shearman Sterling – A&O Shearman for short.

In a statement, the firms said: ‘This merger will combine two of the world’s most prestigious law firms, leaders in their respective markets, to create an integrated global elite firm.

‘Together A&O Shearman will have  3,900 lawyers and 800 Partners across 49 offices. Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling have 250 years of combined experience and some of the greatest legal talent in the world. A&O Shearman will be the only global firm with US law, English law, and local law capabilities in equal measure. This merger is driven by clients’ needs for a seamless global offering of the highest quality and depth to support them in navigating an increasingly complex legal, regulatory, and geopolitical environment.

‘Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling are complementary with distinct market leadership, and between them they have huge strength in the US, UK, and markets all across the globe. This merger will transform their offering to clients: Shearman & Sterling will gain access to a dramatically expanded ‘rest of the world’ offering across practice areas, and Allen & Overy will benefit from increased board-level recognition and expanded access to a corporate client base in the US. The combined firm will be perfectly positioned to capitalise on global macro trends including energy transition, technology, and private capital.’

Wim Dejonghe, senior partner at Allen & Overy, said: ‘This combination of two great firms is such an exciting step for us. Both firms have a history of excellence, and together we think A&O Shearman will be a firm unlike any other in the world. We have listened to our clients and their requests for the highest quality advice to help navigate the demands they face, and to do so in an integrated and globally consistent way. We, A&O Shearman, will do this by accelerating our ability to bring the best of both firms, regardless of geography.

‘Shearman & Sterling is an incredible group of legal minds; a firm built on integrity and excellence, founded like us in a premier global financial capital and with an extraordinary group of longstanding clients. What excites me about this merger is the complementary cultures of our two firms. We have striking similarities across the board, and I believe we are going to be wonderful partners to one another on this journey.’

Adam Hakki, senior partner at Shearman & Sterling, said: ‘Client need for global elite firms has never been greater. They are calling for integrated global legal solutions and advice: merging with Allen & Overy will dramatically accelerate our ability to meet their needs in an increasingly complex environment. Allen & Overy is an outstanding firm whose work we have long admired and thought of as a kindred spirit. We have both always placed great emphasis on attracting and retaining top talent, were early to globalise, and are relentlessly focused on quality, excellence, and collaboration.

‘This is truly a game-changing moment for both firms that will create an unparalleled offering for our clients. It is also a fantastic opportunity for our people to be part of a transformative transaction and an institution of such significance, and we look forward to recruiting even more stellar talent in the coming years.’

Lazard is serving as financial adviser and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is serving as legal counsel to A&O,  while Davis Polk & Wardwell is advising Shearman.

The proposed merger is subject to customary closing conditions, including a vote of the partners of each of the respective firms.

More detail can be found on, a site set up by the firms.

This article first appeared on Legal Business

A&O opens in Boston as Simmons launches in Silicon Valley

UK firms have made significant moves stateside, with Allen & Overy and Simmons & Simmons announcing the opening of new US offices.

Allen & Overy’s US expansion project appears set to continue. With a new office in Boston set to open following the arrival of a five-partner group from Goodwin. The firm, which has been recruiting across numerous US practice areas since the collapse of the planned merger with O’Melveny & Myers, welcomed the new partners into its intellectual property litigation practice, significantly bolstering its offering in the life sciences industry. Elizabeth Holland will join the New York office and is set to become the head of the US life sciences practice, with Bill James joining the firm in Washington.

The new Boston office is set to be established by the additions of John Bennett, Nick Mitrokostas and Daniel Margolis, all of whom bring experience of litigation in life sciences.

US senior partner Tim House said: ‘Our sustained expansion across the US speaks to our strategy to become the only elite global law firm to offer scaled, coordinated, top tier intellectual property litigation capabilities to life sciences businesses across the US, UK, continental Europe and Asia-Pacific. The ability to develop coordinated, cross-border IP protection strategies from within a single firm with a uniform commitment to quality and client service is something that is requested by more and more of our global clients.’

The new arrivals are the latest in a string of hires in the contentious life sciences space and follow the addition of Sapna Palla and Stephen Neuhaus, who joined the New York and Germany groups in July and May 2021 respectively.

Elsewhere, Simmons & Simmons announced the opening of its first US office, with the new Silicon Valley practice poised to open in May.

The new office, which will not practise US law, follows the introduction of a Shenzhen practice in 2019 and signifies the overarching strategy of the firm to establish itself as a significant presence on the international tech market. Commenting on the development, head of TMT Alex Brown said: ‘This is a globally significant move for the firm’s TMT sector service. Silicon Valley is the epicentre of the global technology sector and is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies. With Simmons’ existing TMT sector expertise and its new on-the-ground presence, the firm is poised to win new work and forge stronger relationships with our existing US TMT sector clients. Together with firm’s office in Shenzhen, this will give us a presence in the two largest tech hubs in the world.’

Situated in San Francisco, the office is to be headed by new recruit Emily Jones. Having spent the previous five years leading Osborne Clarke’s practice in the area, Jones specialises in technology and data privacy and will oversee a practice focused on serving US TMT clients.

Jones said: ‘Having spent the last five years building my client base and reputation in Silicon Valley, working closely with companies as they expand outside the US and gaining valuable experience and understanding of the issues and challenges that are most important to them, I am ideally placed to represent Simmons on the US West Coast. It’s a time of tremendous growth and innovation in the technology market and Silicon Valley remains the focal point of this activity.’

This story first appeared on Legal Business.

Revolving doors: A&O launches Silicon Valley tech team as Linklaters hires litigation star

In a major expansion of its US operations, Allen & Overy (A&O) has made an eye-catching move for seven White & Case technology partners to establish a new Silicon Valley presence.

Making the switch are partners Shamita Etienne-Cummings, Bijal Vakil, David Tennant, Eric Lancaster, Adam Chernichaw, Daren Orzechowski and Alex Touma. The new multidisciplinary team will be headed by Orzechowski and Vakil, with all of the arriving partners operating from the current locations in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York and Washington DC.

The team will offer a combined strength in technology disputes, transactions, patent litigation and intellectual property. As well as a new Silicon Valley hub, the team transfer will also provide A&O with a new San Francisco office.

A&O senior partner Wim Dejonghe said: ‘All businesses are technology businesses now. Our clients have been asking us when we will have a presence in Silicon Valley and now we are adding an offering that we will grow to serve as the firm’s centre of excellence in a range of technology areas. This is truly a top team and integrating them into our existing practice will be game-changing for us, not just in the US, but in our capabilities to serve clients in the key markets of Europe and Asia as well.’

Continuing the Magic Circle’s US push this week, Linklaters has appointed litigation heavyweight Richard Smith as a partner in Washington DC, a rare exit from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. With over 30 years’ experience, Smith has an established reputation in litigation, particularly in white-collar defence.

Prior to private practice, Smith spent 15 years as a senior government prosecutor and was the former principal deputy chief for litigation of the fraud section of the US Department of Justice, Criminal Division.

Adam Lurie, head of Linklaters’ dispute resolution practice in the US, commented: ‘I’ve worked across from Richard on high-profile cases and our clients will benefit from his extensive experience, outstanding judgement and exceptional advocacy skills.’

In the UK, Walker Morris has made a significant addition to its real estate group, hiring partner George Bacon from Eversheds Sutherland. Ranked by The Legal 500 as a ‘leading individual’ for real estate in Yorkshire and the Humber, Bacon was previously head of real estate for Eversheds’ Leeds office.

Bacon said: ‘As a unique one-site firm located in Leeds, Walker Morris’ entrepreneurial philosophy, excellent reputation and breadth of expertise give it a distinctive edge and I am looking forward to being a part of one of the strongest specialist real estate teams in the country.’

Bird & Bird has expanded in London with the addition of experienced corporate finance partner Nick O’Donnell, who joins from Baker McKenzie. O’Donnell has spent 20 years advising clients across the technology, healthcare, energy, retail, media and financial services sectors on M&A, equity capital markets and ESG matters.

He has significant pedigree, having worked at Allen & Overy for over a decade with secondments at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Matt Bonass, head of Bird & Bird’s corporate group in London, said: ‘He has an excellent track record of advising on upper mid-market, cross-border deals; and his reputation is outstanding. We’re looking forward to having him onboard!’

Finally, in New York, Squire Patton Boggs has hired tax partner Jeffrey Koppele from Ashurst. Koppele has a wide practice advising clients on both domestic and international transactions, as well as dispositions, bankruptcy and restructurings, funds and investments, capital markets transactions and real estate investments.

Mitch Thompson, global head of the tax strategy and benefits practice group, said: ‘The expansion of our US tax team is an important part of our global growth strategy and Jeff will be significant boost our US and international tax offering to clients.’

This article first appeared on Legal Business.

Keeping pace with change: A&O becomes latest City firm to usher in parental leave reforms

Allen & Overy (A&O) has become the latest City firm to update its policies for working families, ushering in extensions to parental leave allowances.

The move will be a fillip for an industry still beset by out-dated policies and the ongoing battle to retain women into senior partnership.

The new policies include increased paternity leave from two to 12 weeks’ paid leave and new provisions for maternity and shared parental leave (SPL), including a phased return from maternity leave and SPL using accrued annual leave over an 8-week period.

They will take effect on 1 March 2020 and will initially be rolled out in the UK and UAE region, after the Magic Circle firm undertook a review and consultations.

The policies also allow for additional time off work for families whose baby is born prematurely or requires neonatal unit care, as well as a fertility treatment leave policy which provides five days’ paid leave over a 12-month rolling period for fertility treatment.

In addition, the firm has rebooted its adoption leave policies for both prospective parents to attend meetings and appointments in addition to eligibility for all parental leave entitlements.

After the rollout in the UK and UAE, other regions of the A&O network are expected to follow suit.

Sasha Hardman, A&O’s global HR director, said: ‘The face of family life is changing so we have listened to what’s important to our people to make sure we’re keeping pace with change. We want to make it clear that you can have a family and build a successful career at A&O.  There is more support, flexibility and encouragement to do this than ever.’

Ashurst last November took steps to modernise its parental leave models and the following month Linklaters announced that parental leave extended to 12 months would come into play in January.

This article first appeared on Legal Business.