This month has seen Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy posting its highest ever London revenues with a whopping 9% rise to $114,100,000 and its best year ever, both globally and in Europe. It has also announced several high-profile hires including high-yield specialist Apostolos Gkoutzinis from Shearman & Sterling and a four-partner restructuring team led by Yushan Ng from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.

A number of other US firms have similarly poached partners from either lesser US firms or from the City practices and the culprit is a new breed of US firm offering hyper-flexible remuneration models.

This is true in New York as well as London with firms such as Kirkland & Ellis continuing to make waves on both sides of the Atlantic as the Chicago-bred juggernaut last month announced the hire of one of Manhattan’s top M&A names.

In the latest of a series of headline-grabbing moves, Cravath, Swaine & Moore M&A star Eric Schiele is to transfer to Kirkland’s New York arm. Schiele – who had been at Cravath for more than 17 years, making partner in 2008 – was established as one of the leading lights at the Wall Street leader.

The loss underlines the aggressive inroads Kirkland (and other firms) have been making in New York, including just over a year ago recruiting Cravath corporate partner Jonathan Davis. Kirkland had previously sent a jolt through the clubby Manhattan legal community in 2012 with its recruitment of Cravath’s rising star partner, Sarkis Jebejian.

The move also underlines the pressure increasingly facing traditional New York leaders with conservative remuneration models to retain their top partners as aggressive rivals dangle unprecedented packages.

While senior departures were until recently almost unheard of among the New York elite, another Cravath deal heavyweight, Scott Barshay, last year quit for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in one of the most expensive transfers ever in the legal profession.

Such pressures are, of course, felt even more intensely by Magic Circle and other leading city practices with 2017 seeing Kirkland & Ellis (again!) in December securing the services of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s most prominent private equity partner David Higgins in a $10m package. Other major London hires for Kirkland include Linklaters’ real estate M&A rainmaker Matthew Elliott and Freshfields finance partner Michael Steele in 2015.

US firm Quinn Emanuel was also busy last year with the hire of Clifford Chance’s touted tax investigations head Liesl Fichardt. Latham & Watkins continued the trend by poaching London-based partners Jon Holland and Andrea Monks from Hogan Lovells to focus on financial services litigation and related regulatory work, two of the most in-demand practices areas currently.

With this ever-increasing stream of US firm hires, there will be plenty of prestigious rivals in New York and the Square Mile watching very closely to see if these disruptor firms continue to poach their top talent in 2018.

For further information, or to discuss your options with the US firms, speak to James Yates on: +44 (0)20 3893 8965 or at: james.yates@esperoconsulting.com.