By Erin Geiger Smith
Dec 17 (Reuters) - In a rare move, corporate partner Sarkis
Jebejian has left Cravath, Swaine & Moore for Kirkland & Ellis.
Jebejian, 43, who has been at Cravath since 1994, joined
Kirkland's 75-lawyer mergers and acquisitions group on Monday,
according to Kirkland.
At Cravath, Jebejian's practice focused on domestic and
cross-border transactions. In November, he represented Flagstone
Reinsurance in its sale to reinsurance provider Validius
Holdings and he advised the independent directors of General
Motors in the conversion of its former financing arm GMAC into a
bank holding company.
Though it is rare for partners to leave Cravath, according
to legal industry experts, it is not unheard of. In January,
environmental and corporate attorney Jeffrey Smith left the firm
to become a partner at Crowell & Moring in New York; in January
2011, partner James Woolery became the co-head of North American
mergers and acquisitions at Cravath client JPMorgan Chase & Co.
According to the American Lawyer, Cravath reported profits
per partner of $3,100,000 in 2011. Kirkland's profits per
partner were just a bit lower, at $3,050,000, according to
Traditionally known for litigation and bankruptcy, Kirkland
has been working to bolster its M&A practice over the last few
years. In 2009, the firm made headlines when it brought on two
M&A partners from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, David
Fox and Daniel Wolf. Kirkland's 75-attorney M&A group now boasts
15 partners and is part of Kirkland's international corporate
practice, which has 600 partners worldwide.
Jebejian said in an interview that Kirkland approached him
about moving. He and the firm declined to comment on his pay
package or whether financial considerations played a part in his
decision to change firms.
Cravath pays its partners more conservatively than Kirkland,
using a lock-step pay model where partners are compensated
largely based on seniority. Kirkland, in contrast, pays partners
based on merit. Proponents of the lock-step model say it helps
maintain low turnover of lawyers, while supporters of the
merit-based model say it promotes entrepreneurship.
Jebejian said he believes the move will provide him with
broader and more diverse opportunities for client growth. He
also cited Kirkland's global footprint, noting he spent more
than two years in Hong Kong when he was an associate at Cravath
and that his practice includes cross-border work.
The majority of Cravath's approximately 475 attorneys are
based in New York, though the firm has a small London office.
Kirkland has 1,600 attorneys in 10 offices, including in Hong
Kong and Shanghai, according to the firm.
Jebejian said he has worked with Kirkland attorneys in many
deals over the last several years. Those transactions included
his representation of outsourcing management company Genpact's
acquisition of a Kirkland client, consulting and IT services
Jebejian became a partner at Cravath in 2002.
A Cravath spokeswoman said the firm wished Jebejian well in
the next phase of his career but declined further requests for
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