MOVES-Cravath M&A lawyer Schiele to join Kirkland & Ellis-sources

Jan 22 (Reuters) - Eric Schiele, one of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s top M&A lawyers, has agreed to join rival U.S. law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The move makes Schiele the latest M&A lawyer to leave Cravath following the move of Jonathan Davis to Kirkland & Ellis in 2016. Scott Barshay, one of Cravath’s most prolific dealmakers, also left the firm in 2016 to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

The sources asked not to be identified because Schiele’s move has not yet been announced officially. A Kirkland & Ellis spokeswoman offered no comment, while a Cravath spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Schiele could not be immediately reached for comment.

Moves of seasoned partners in the legal industry have traditionally been few and far between. However, intensifying competition for top talent has made some law firms more aggressive.

Cravath is among the law firms that reward their partners based on seniority, rather than business generated, in a compensation system known in the legal industry as “lockstep,” designed to avoid disputes over who brought in a client. This has provided an opening to firms such as Kirkland & Ellis to use more flexible compensation structures as a selling point to recruit.

Schiele has worked on some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions of the last few years, including on Walt Disney Co’s pending $52.4 billion acquisition of assets from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, Time Warner Inc’s pending $109 billion sale to AT&T Inc, Anheuser Busch InBev NV’s $123 billion acquisition of SABMiller, and Heinz’s $60 billion merger with Kraft Foods Group to form Kraft Heinz Co.

He has also defended companies against shareholder activist campaigns by the likes of Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)