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Freshfields Names New U.S. Managing Partner Amid Growth (1)

Aug. 16, 2021, 5:02 PMUpdated: Aug. 16, 2021, 9:04 PM

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which has steadily been growing its U.S. footprint, has named Silicon Valley-based Sarah Solum as its new regional managing partner in the U.S.

The U.K.-founded firm nabbed Solum from Davis Polk & Wardwell to co-found Freshfields’ Northern California office in July 2020. She is the office’s managing partner, a position she will continue to hold, according to the firm.

“The last year has felt a little bit like rocket ride. It’s my privilege be put in this role so soon after I got here,” Solum said in an interview. “But more importantly my privilege to be part of this fantastic firm, and to be at the helm of the U.S. practice.”

Freshfields’ Silicon Valley office has expanded in recent days with Christine Lyon, a former Morrison & Foerster data privacy and security partner. The firm back in May hired Brock Dahl, a cybersecurity expert and former deputy general counsel at the National Security Agency, in Silicon Valley and Washington.

Freshfields has built quickly in the U.S. over the past two years, particularly in New York, Washington, and Silicon Valley. The firm has largely favored transatlantic growth through targeted hires, rather than pursuing a merger with an American firm.

Other firms founded across the pond are also making new inroads in the U.S. Earlier in August, Allen & Overy opened two new offices in California and hired eight partners from White & Case’s technology practice. That was shortly after A&O opened a Los Angeles office following its hiring of a project finance and renewables practice group from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Solum, who succeeds Matthew Herman as U.S. managing partner, is also head of the firm’s U.S. capital markets practice. A highly-rated corporate lawyer in the Bay Area, she was one of seven partners from various rival firms that Freshfields initially recruited for its Silicon Valley office.

Freshfields signaled the scale of its U.S. ambitions in late 2019 when it hired a four-partner New York team from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, led by dealmaker Ethan Klingsberg, who has counseled the likes of Google, AstraZeneca, and Pinterest, Inc.

One of the rare top firms with female leadership, Freshfields named Georgia Dawson in September 2020 as its senior partner. The Singapore-based lawyer had led the firm’s Asia dispute resolution practice prior to her elevation.

Solum’s appointment will put another female leader in an important strategic role for Freshfields.

The firm has grown since 2018 to three U.S. offices, and doubled the number of U.S. partners to about 60 in that period of time, according to Solum.

Solum said the firm “will be going in the same direction that we’ve been going in for a while,” with the practice focus on transactional (M&A and capital markets), litigation (including investigations and arbitration), and regulatory work (including antitrust and CFIUS).

“It’s really clear that Freshfields has been a global powerhouse for a very long time,” Solum said, “What is newer is investment in the U.S., and we have really focused on expanding our capabilities across the board in the U.S. with investment in all three practice areas.”

(Updates throughout with information from Solum interview.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com