Hogan Lovells’ UK M&A co-head leaves US law firm

Ben Higson, co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Hogan Lovells in the UK, has resigned to join US law firm Vinson & Elkins in London.

Higson was one of the company’s most important UK business partners, with a practice that focuses on transactions in the energy and infrastructure sectors.

Higson is leaving the transatlantic company to join Texas-headquartered Vinson & Elkins as a partner in London, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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Hogan Lovells, Higson and Vinson & Elkins did not respond to requests for comment.

Higson served on Hogan Lovells’ global board of directors between 2014 and 2020 and was also a member of the company’s international business and finance leadership team, the company’s website said.

Higson has co-headed Hogan Lovells’ UK M&A team alongside colleague Patrick Sarch since the latter joined the business from White & Case in 2021.

The hire marks a major blow for Vinson in London following a series of departures from teams in recent years that have depleted his ranks in M&A and finance.

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The firm lost a team of five private equity lawyers to Sidley Austin in August 2021, followed by the departure of a team of three private equity lawyers to Gibson Dunn in October 2021.

A leveraged finance team of three lawyers led by Noel Hughes, head of finance and mergers and acquisitions at Vinson in London, joined Linklaters in March.

The Houston-based company posted revenue of $912 million and earnings per partner of $3.5 million in 2021.

The legal hiring market saw a boom in 2020 and 2021 as law firms rushed to recruit staff following an industry-wide hiring crisis when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

The global recording contract boom has led to a strong demand for associates and junior attorneys in hot practice areas such as private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and finance.

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However, the tailspin of the M&A boom following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February hit the transaction and financing markets that kept many law firms busy.

A recent survey of 200 law firm associates commissioned by funder Harbor found that a third were cutting lawyers in their departments under pressure from clients to cut costs.

In the United States, Kirkland & Ellis and Cooley have both recently laid off partners, fueling fears that young lawyers in London will suffer the same fate.

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