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March 11, 2011 9:56 AM

Former Linklaters Managing Partner Joins SJ Berwin

Posted by Chris Johnson

U.K. firm SJ Berwin has left London lawyers speechless Friday after announcing the hire of former Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel as a nonexecutive director. Angel has joined the firm, effective immediately, although he will continue to serve as CEO of health care technology group Vantage Diagnostics Ltd.

Angel's move is a significant coup for SJ Berwin. The real estate and private equity focused firm has struggled during the recession. The firm's well-publicized merger discussions with Proskauer Rose collapsed in November.

Widely regarded as one of the most successful large law firm leaders of his generation, Angel, over two terms at the helm of Linklaters, guided the Magic Circle firm through a transformative period of global expansion. In that nine-year period, revenue increased 57 percent and average partner profits more than doubled. When he took over in 1998, 85 percent of Linklaters's staff were based in the firm's London headquarters. When he left the firm in 2007--to take up a position as executive managing director and head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa at ratings agency Standard & Poor's Financial Services—that figure dropped to just 35 percent.

Commenting on the hire, SJ Berwin senior partner Jonathan Blake said that Angel's "hugely relevant experience and expertise" would help the firm through its "next phase of growth." Despite the end of negotiations with Proskauer, that is likely to include a U.S. combination. Newly elected managing partner Rob Day told The Am Law Daily in December that pursuing a trans-Atlantic merger is "absolutely the right strategy" in the long term.

Angel's appointment comes less than a month after SJ Berwin completed a governance overhaul, which had been ongoing since November, and confirmed its new management committee. The committee is comprised of: managing partner Rob Day; corporate head Steven Davis; finance head Jeremy Cross; litigation head Craig Pollack; real estate cohead Simon Ricketts; IP partner David Rose; and corporate partner Simon Witney.

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