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As the hiring battle for top lawyers escalates, elite U.S. law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is poaching private equity specialists from rival Kirkland & Ellis, including Neil Neel Sachdev.

In addition to Sakhdev, the firm will also hire senior Kirkland lawyers in London, including capital markets partner Matthew Merkle and debt financing partner Kanesh Balasubramaniam, according to people familiar with the matter.

Kirkland confirmed that Paul Weiss also hired a number of rival U.S. debt financing lawyers, including Eric Wedel.

The hires represent the latest high-profile poaching in the London and New York legal markets, where senior deal lawyers can earn more than $10 million a year, rivaling top bankers. Following the deal boom, lawyers specializing in private equity are becoming some of the most sought after in the industry.

Kirkland Partners earned an average of $7.5 million last year, the highest of any law firm, according to data provider The American Lawyer.

Sachidev declined to comment. Kirkland said he “thanks them for their contribution to the partnership and (wishes) them the very best in their new venture.”

Kirkland achieved an industry-leading net income of $6.5 billion in 2022, thanks in part to a business that has catered to the rapid expansion of the private equity industry over the past three decades.

Rival firms are now emulating its strategy of attracting top lawyers who specialize in the takeover industry.

Kirkland opened a London office in 1994 and has spent the past few years poaching some of its top lawyers from private equity groups, including David Higgins of Freshfields and Adrian Maguire to cement his place in London. Earlier this month, the company announced that it had hired Alvaro Membrillera, a senior associate at law firm Paul Weiss in London, to advise the private equity firm on the deal.

Sachidev, who has been with Kirkland for more than 20 years and was instrumental in building Kirkland’s European operations, is leaving.

He advises private equity groups on leveraged buyout financings, including Bain Capital, BC Partners and Warburg Pincus.

Sachdev is the latest major departure in recent weeks following the departure of private equity lawyer Roger Johnson from Kirkland, according to people familiar with the matter.

Paul Weiss is one of the most well-known law firms on Wall Street, and its clients include Apollo Global Management, a large US private equity group.

The firm is led by Brad Karp, and its partners include superstar M&A lawyer Scott Barshay. Paul Weiss also hired Morgan Stanley’s chairman of mergers and acquisitions Rob Kindler in June. The firm’s London practice is relatively small, employing more than 30 lawyers, according to its website.

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