Law firm Winston & Strawn is stepping up as one of the first large-scale law firms to make private equity a major part of its practice. The most recent move to further its reach in private equity is the addition of two new partners, Laurence Bronska and Andrew McCune, to the Chicago office.
Bronska and McCune both join the firm from Altheimer & Gray’s Chicago office where they have practiced law in the private equity area for 14 and 12 years, respectively, most recently as partners. Bronska, who joined Altheimer & Gray just as the private equity industry was beginning to grow, developed his practice representing traditional private equity sponsors and funds, as well as mezzanine investors. McCune, who like Bronska joined Altheimer & Gray straight out of law school, set out to get involved in private equity and developed his skills in the area during those 12 years.
Both men said the move to Winston & Strawn was just the next step in growing with the private equity market. “It was largely a recognition of the resources Winston had to offer to private equity clients, converging with a change in the private equity market and what clients were looking for,” said McCune. “Once we heard Winston & Strawn was really focusing its efforts on expanding its private equity practice . . . all these factors created an opportunity that was too good to be true.”
Bronska added, “[Altheimer & Gray] has a very nice reputation, certainly in Chicago, as being a strong firm in [private equity], but I think one of the things that we each recognized was that as the industry has grown, and has become more established, the need for legal services have become more diverse.”
Therefore, the two set off for Winston & Strawn, where the firm was “dedicated to promoting an effort in the area” and which has “the resources and the platfrom to accommodate what we perceive to be the needs of clients,” said Bronska.
Winston & Strawn currently has 49 lawyers working on its private equity practice, according to the firm’s Web site. The firm will likely add to that number in the future. Bronska and McCune said the firm certainly has intentions to continue its private equity growth. The majority of the firm’s private equity lawyers are based out of its Chicago and New York offices, with a strong technology practice in Washington, D.C. and a European venture capital practice in Paris. The firm also has offices in Los Angeles and Geneva.
Despite Winston & Strawn’s recent efforts at expanding its private equity practice, the firm has been involved in that and related arenas, including lending, mergers & acqusitions and asset securitization, for some time. “They’ve had particularly through their lending practice tremendous exposure to the industry,” said McCune. “And I think to a large part, [the expansion] is a reflection of the maturation of private equity . . . But the industry is large enough where there’s enough opportunity out there now to support a very vigorous practice at a large firm like this.”
McCune also added that while Winston & Strawn may have taken a while to realize the private equity market is here to stay (and grow), it is still coming in earlier than most other large law firms. He said that private equity clients, other than those with the colossal Kirkland & Ellis, have become accustomed to being served by a broad range of small- and medium-sized law firms and may be hesitant to look to a large firm like Winston & Strawn. “That is certainly a mistaken impression . . . because the quality of service is really enhanced when you have a focused private equity practice in a big firm,” said McCune.