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Kirkland Lawyers Flock to Posts at Private Equity Companies

April 7, 2021, 9:30 AM

Nine Kirkland & Ellis lawyers have taken in-house private equity positions during the first quarter of 2021, with most leaving for legal chief roles.

Kirkland corporate partner Nadia Karkar left the firm’s San Francisco office last month to join TPG Global LLC as a general counsel based in the same city. Elizabeth Freechack, a New York-based mergers and acquisitions and private equity partner, joined private equity firm L Catterton as a deputy general counsel, also in March.

Among other notable exits, Andrew Fleischman, a New York-based corporate partner, jumped to FTV Management Co. LP in February as general counsel. Joshua Merrill, a newly promoted private equity and M&A partner in Dallas, also left that month to become legal chief at Echo Investment Capital.

Large firms like Kirkland, while eager to hang on to talent, also stand to benefit if lawyers leave their ranks for in-house positions at coveted clients. Once those recruits are in their new posts, they may be well-placed to direct legal work to their former employers.

Kirkland declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the departures. The firm did confirm the exits when Bloomberg Law inquired about them.

Kirkland, known for its legions of non-share partners and restructuring expertise, has a prominent private equity practice geared toward global buyout firms.

Bloomberg Law reported this week on private equity transactions being partially responsible for Kirkland’s strong performance at the top of quarterly M&A tables.

In January, Kirkland corporate partner Gerald “Jerry” Nowak in Chicago joined private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC as a managing director, general counsel, and chief administrative officer. Nowak told Bloomberg Law at the time that prior to joining Thoma Bravo he had been the buyout firm’s primary outside counsel for 20 years.

Nowak’s move came after another Kirkland private equity client, Paine Schwartz Partners LLC, turned to the firm when it needed a new in-house legal chief last year.

TPG, a longtime Kirkland client, hired Karkar to be the top lawyer for its Growth & Rise fund, which focuses on investments that will generate returns and have a positive social and environmental impact.

Karkar, who once served as CEO of a luxury real estate agency in her native Australia, didn’t respond to a request for comment about leaving Kirkland for TPG.

She joined Kirkland in 2016 from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, where she spent about five years as an associate in New York and Hong Kong. Karkar left Weil in 2012 but returned to the firm in 2015 after concluding her time Down Under as a CEO.

Freechack now works in the Greenwich, Conn., office of L Catterton, a U.S.-French buyout firm that’s also an investor in Equinox Holdings Inc. The luxury gym chain lost $350 million last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and retained Kirkland for restructuring counsel.

Fleischman, prior to moving in-house with FTV, led a Kirkland team in January that advised the firm on its investment in residential solar financing platform Sunlight Financial LLC, which agreed to go public by merging with a SPAC. Kirkland also handled a $1.2 billion fundraising by FTV last year.

Echo Investment Capital, which hired Merrill, is an Oklahoma City-based investment firm started by Echo Energy LLC founder and CEO Christian Kanady. Echo Energy, like many other U.S. energy companies, filed for bankruptcy last year.

The other Kirkland lawyers that left this year for the private equity world include:

Alisha Patterson – The Boston-based private investment and fund formation associate decamped in January to join Canadian private equity firm Whitehorse Liquidity Partners Inc. as a director of legal in Toronto.

Jacob Hansen – The New York-based corporate partner joined buyout behemoth Cerberus Capital Management LP in January as a director and deputy general counsel for its Cerberus Operations and Advisory Co. LLC. Kirkland counseled Cerberus and Koch Minerals & Trading LLC in March on its $1.1 billion buy of a performance chemicals business from PQ Group Holdings Inc.

Peter Anderson – The Chicago-based corporate partner joined aviation data investor Tony Aquila’s Argyle, Texas-based private equity firm AFV Partners LLC as general counsel in January. AFV brought on Anderson after several acquisitions—it bought Seattle Avionics, RocketRoute Ltd., and Aircraft Performance Group LLC within the last year. Kirkland has represented AFV and Aquila in litigation.

Sara-Ashley Moreno – Cardinal System Holdings LLC, a family-owned holding company that makes strategic investments in various industries, hired the Houston-based Moreno as general counsel in January. Cardinal System’s operations are primarily located in Houston and Tampa.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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