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A nameplate of the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP office in Frankfurt, Germany. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

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  • Damien Zoubek recently advised on Square's $29 billion purchase of Afterpay
  • Partner departures are still rare for Cravath
  • Freshfields' other U.S. M&A leader joined from Cleary Gottlieb in 2019

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on Wednesday announced it has brought on a 20-year veteran of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, marking the U.K.-founded firm's latest lateral coup in New York.

Damien Zoubek, whose most recent deals include advising Australia's Afterpay Ltd on its pending $29 billion acquisition by payment company Square, has joined Freshfields as the co-head of its U.S. corporate and M&A practice, the firm announced. Zoubek helped guide more than $100 billion in transactions as a career Cravath lawyer, according to his former firm bio.

Zoubek said he opted to leave Cravath, where he made partner in 2007, to look for a new challenge. He joined Freshfields because of the firm's "unbelievable collection of people across so many areas that are critical to getting deals done" and due to the strength of its brand across the world, he said.

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"It was super exciting to joining a team of that breadth," Zoubek said.

He adds his expertise to the firm as deals are growing in complexity, said Ethan Klingsberg, the other co-head of Freshfields' U.S. corporate and M&A practice. With the world — and the U.S. legal industry — in the grips of a global M&A boom, there is "very high demand for high-end corporate law talent," he said.

"That’s what Damien is, and it’s super to have him join the incredibly strong stable of corporate lawyers we have," he said.

Klingsberg made headlines in 2019 when he brought his practice to Freshfields from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. A recruiter who sued Freshfields that year estimated the firm offered Klingsberg $10 million in annual compensation. (Freshfields has previously declined to comment on Klingsberg's compensation and called the figure inaccurate.)

Lateral moves to and from Cravath are rare. The elite Wall Street firm helped to pioneer a lockstep system that emphasizes homegrown talent and bases pay on seniority, a model most of its competitors have abandoned in an effort to attract and retain rainmakers. The American Lawyer pegged profits per equity partner at Cravath at $4.57 million in 2020.

But moves do happen. Cravath recently poached the head of Sullivan & Cromwell's tax group, Ronald Creamer Jr. In February, it brought on a Debevoise & Plimpton partner, marking the first time in at least a decade that Cravath had swiped a partner from a rival law firm.

In March, Cravath lost a capital markets partner who helped Palantir Technologies Inc go public to Sidley Austin.

In announcing Zoubek's hire, Freshfields touted its range of high-profile work over the past year, including advising on the $39 billion acquisition of U.S. drugmaker Alexion Pharmaceuticals by Britaint's AstraZeneca, and Politico's $1 billion sale to German publisher Axel Springer.

(This story has been updated to clarify that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was founded in the U.K.)

Read More:

Freshfields touts U.S. inroads one year after Silicon Valley launch

Sidley taps Cravath partner, longtime SEC counsel to expand capital markets practice

Cravath plucks ex-Treasury official from Debevoise, ending long lateral lull

AstraZeneca to buy Alexion for $39 billion to expand in immunology

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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