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July 11, 2011 7:04 PM

Davis Polk Raids Mayer Brown for São Paulo Hires

Posted by Brian Baxter

Davis Polk & Wardwell hired away two of Mayer Brown's three São Paulo-based partners, as the firm gets ready to open its own office in Brazil's financial hub this summer.

Mayer Brown corporate finance partners Stephen Hood, the head of the firm's São Paulo office, and James Vickers have agreed to join Davis Polk, according to U.K. publication Legal Week. Securities lawyer Ricardo Gonzalez is the sole remaining Mayer Brown partner in São Paulo, along with two associates.

Davis Polk has been planning a São Paulo office since February, three months after Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton first announced its intention to open an office in the city. Davis Polk corporate partners Manuel Garciadiaz and Maurice Blanco will lead the office when it opens sometime in the next month. Vickers is joining the firm as a partner, while Hood is coming on as of counsel.

Hood joined Mayer Brown in September 2007 after a 30-year career at Clifford Chance. Vickers also previously worked at the Magic Circle firm. Mayer Brown opened an office in Brazil three months later, picking up an alliance with local firm Tauil & Chequer in December 2009.

Hood spoke to The American Lawyer's Ross Todd for a feature story in October about the half-dozen Am Law 200 firms that had braved a thicket of local regulations and relationship issues with local firms to expand to Brazil.

Recently, Brazilian firms have sought to increase barriers to foreign firms seeking to establish Brazilian beachheads. U.S. firms cannot practice local law in Brazil and the São Paulo Bar Association determined last year that tie-ups between Brazilian and foreign firms could breach local practice rules. The issue cropped up after Mayer Brown and DLA Piper formalized alliances with local firms, according to our previous reports, leading some U.S. lawyers to accuse their local colleagues of market protectionism.

The tagret of that expansion is the active M&A market in Brazil, which continued to surge during the first half of 2011. Local law firms dominated the rankings on complex cross-border deals, according to the latest league tables by Thomson Reuters. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom was the only Am Law 200 firm to crack the top five for first-half deal work, placing second behind leading Brazilian firm Pinheiro Neto Advogados.

Mayer Brown said in a statement to Legal Week that it wished Vickers and Hood "all the best in their future endeavors" but that the firm would continue its "successful association with Tauil & Chequer."

It was not the only firm to see its local operations in Brazil poached recently by an Am Law 200 rival with its sights set on Brazil's sunny shores. Last year Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy opened in Brazil by hiring Andrew Jánszky, then head of Shearman & Sterling's São Paulo office, to launch its own local operation.

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