Akin Gump and Simpson Thacher hire energy partners from competitors

By Mark Curriden
Texas Lawbook

It pays off for lawyers to be professional with the counsel across the table in a big transaction.

Two major law firms – Simpson Thacher & Barlett and Akin Gump – said Monday they are expanding their corporate energy practices in Houston by hiring partners from competitor law firms. In both instances, the law firms and their new partners represented clients across the table in major M&A transactions during the past two years.

M. Breen Haire, 41, said Monday he is joining the Houston office of New York-based Simpson Thacher after 10 years in the corporate energy practice at Baker Botts. Haire represented Houston-based TPC Group in its $700 million sale to First Reserve in 2012. Simpson advised First Reserve and became impressed with Haire’s work.

“We’ve been incredibly busy throughout the fall and into the new year and our clients let us know they have more work for us and that we needed to expand,” said Andrew Calder, who leads Simpson’s corporate practice in Houston.

“We did a survey of the Houston market and Breen’s name kept popping up,” said Calder.

Haire is also representing Regency Partners in its pending $5.6 billion acquisition of PVR Partners. He’s also represented Schlumberger, Mariner Energy, McMoRan Exploration and Valero Energy Corp. in corporate merger and acquisitions.

“I think we are going to see a lot more upstream activity in 2014 and the midstream activity will continue to be hot,” said Haire. “It is going to be a very busy year.”

The lateral recruiting wars between Houston law firms continued later Monday when Akin Gump announced it has lured prominent M&A lawyer Michael Byrd to join its energy law practice in Houston.

Byrd, who served as the global chair of oil and gas practice group at Baker & McKenzie, said he was recruited by several large corporate law firms, but he chose Akin Gump because he’s known several lawyers at the firm for more than two decades and he appreciates the culture of a law firm with such long and strong roots in Texas.

“Akin Gump offers the ideal cross-selling opportunity for me,” said Byrd, who is a 1987 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. “My clients need the firm’s expertise in corporate securities and other practices and several current Akin Gump clients need my expertise.

“In this market, there are a lot of opportunities for lateral movement, including recruiting form large national law firms seeking to expand in Houston,” he said. “Akin Gump has a lot of momentum and I like the firm’s culture.”

Byrd has represented several private oil and gas exploration and development companies in M&A deals in South Texas, Pennsylvania and the Gulf of Mexico. He represented Goodrich Petroleum Corp. in a 2012 divestiture of $95 million of oil and gas assets in East Texas to Houston-based Memorial Production Partners, which was represented by Akin Gump.

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