Ropes & Gray Expands West Coast Effort –

As the LBO market quickens its pace, Ropes & Gray is looking to hire more private equity professionals for its San Francisco office, which officially opened its doors last December.

David Chapin, head of the law firm’s corporate department, sees the new office as an opportunity to service its West Coast buyout shop clients face to face and expand its footprint in a market he considers overlooked.

“We view it as a vibrant market that has been underserved,” Chapin said. “These [private equity] firms have traditionally had to import legal services from other places…but they would love to have more sophisticated transactional experience in the LBO arena on the ground.”

To be sure, the West Coast has been a growth area for leveraged buyouts in recent years, with tech buyouts becoming more popular and new, active firms like Golden Gate Capital-a Ropes & Gray client-setting up shop there. (Other Ropes clients on the West Coast include Bain Capital, Gryphon Investors and The Shansby Group.)

Managed by partner John Chesley, a transplant from the Boston office, the San Francisco office focuses on private equity, health care and investment management. Along with Chesley, there are four associates and one consultant currently working in that location, but over the next few years the office is expected to grow to 15 to 20 attorneys. “[Hiring] has been a little slower than we had hoped, but we’ve got a few irons in the fire,” Chapin said. “We’re in discussions with some senior people to come join us.”

While the West Coast is perhaps best known for technology buyouts, Chapin said past experience with private equity financing structures is more important. “The firms we do business with operate in a wide range of industries,” he said. “You need the private equity experience to be a credible player.”