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Covington & Burling has hired a four-partner team from Chadbourne & Parke, ahead of new office openings in Dubai and Johannesburg.
The US firm has hired London project finance duo Ben Donovan and Agnieszka Klich, as well as Chadbourne’s Dubai head David Greenwald and partner Richard Keenan.
Former Allen & Overy (A&O) partner David Miles will also join Covington in London, having worked as a temporary consultant for the magic circle firm’s Peerpoint business. Miles was a colleague of former A&O partner Graham Vinter, who now chairs Covington’s project finance practice. Vinter joined as of counsel last year from BG Group, where he was general counsel.
The hires come ahead of Chadbourne’s merger with Norton Rose Fulbright, which was announced earlier this year.
Earlier this month, The Lawyer revealed there was a bone of contention in the firm’s project finance groups, with sources in the market claiming there would be too much overlap with Norton Rose Fulbright’s current City partnership.
The departures are not isolated to London and the Middle East, with Chadbourne’s chair of IP in New York also headed to Alston & Bird.
New Covington partners Greenwald and Keenan will help launch the firm’s Dubai office.
Greenwald joins as co-chair of Covington’s Middle East initiative, alongside Washington DC partner Bruce Wilson who already spends the majority of his time in Dubai.
Project finance partner Ben Donovan will split his time between Covington’s new South Africa and London office, while Klich and Miles will be based solely in London.
Covington is mid-way through conversations with a number of the team’s associates, expecting to grow the project finance team by up to 30 lawyers.
Covington chair Tim Hester told The Lawyer: “We have been looking to build our project finance team for a long time.
“This group became available to us because of the merger that’s underway so we engaged with them in that respect. We see our two new offices as amplifying activity we were already engaged in.”
Project finance chair Graham Vinter added: “We had a search out and we were talking to a number of people. But this allows us to get a critical mass quite quickly.
“This team already know and work with each other, so the attraction of this group as a group is pretty obvious.”
There has been chatter in the market for some time about Covington’s Middle East ambitions, with sources claiming the US firm had been poised for an opening.
It has, until now, operated a “crash pad” in Dubai for visiting lawyers from the firm, with counsel Tarik Khansheat spending significant time in the office.
He was thought to have been in the running to help lead the US firm’s efforts in the Middle East region, although sources claimed Covington had also been looking for partners to spearhead the initiative.
The firm put in a licence application to the Dubai authorities in the summer of 2016, giving it the option to open up in the region whenever it wanted.
Covington is currently lining up temporary space in the Dubai International Financial Centre, where its “crash pad” is situated. The firm will also take temporary space in South Africa, before looking for permanent offices in the next few months.
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