Stephen Goldie discusses Brodies’ growing litigation practice and the increasing popularity of ADR
Brodies’ position as the leading independent law firm in Scotland is well established. The only Scottish firm in the UK top 50, Brodies continues to employ more lawyers, increase revenue and has achieved more directory rankings than any other firm in its jurisdiction. But, like other firms in the UK, there are any number of new challenges, changes and uncertainties shaping the climate in which we live and work.
Much of our progress is underpinned by listening to, and understanding, what is on our clients’ minds. Developing our legal services to remain relevant is an ongoing priority. Sure, we hope to offer insight and analysis of upcoming developments from legislative changes, and technology will always play an important part in delivery, but clients will always need valuable judgement and expertise.
We continue to grow our litigation practice with people capable of doing new things. With a disputes team approaching 150 people, we remain at the forefront of dispute resolution and litigation in our jurisdiction. With an ambitious growth strategy, we continue to listen to our clients and develop our disputes practice to deliver services that are relevant to their needs. We already act in many high-profile complex disputes and represent clients from across the private and public sector. We are also involved in several high-profile cases in the Supreme Court and, through international arbitration, across the globe.
‘With a team approaching 150 people, we remain at the forefront of dispute resolution and litigation in our jurisdiction.’
Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities remains the demand from clients to stand up and fight a case to a conclusion before a judge or an arbitrator. We have continued to invest in our advocacy practice with more practising solicitor-advocates than ever before. The lines between traditional routes to appearance and solicitors with rights of audience in the higher courts are less obvious to clients than they once were. Clients should have a choice in terms of how they are represented in court. Advocacy by Brodies brings together ten solicitor advocates, each with a market specialism. Combining the right in-house advocacy experience with solicitors with deep levels of subject knowledge can, in appropriate cases, provide clients with an exceptionally efficient proposition in service delivery.
Increasingly, our clients are also looking to an adviser who can provide an authoritative voice on our country’s constitutional affairs and genuine insight. A good example is the regard in which our public law practice, led by our chair Christine O’Neill, is held. In her role as First Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Government, O’Neill has displayed the intellectual rigour required to deal with cases of constitutional significance and complexity, up to and including the Supreme Court.
Away from court and constitutional debate, there is an increasing trend, particularly among commercial clients, for choosing alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Following the introduction of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010, Scotland established a modern arbitration regime, which has allowed many disputes to take place out of the public eye. Confidentiality for clients remains an important consideration in their contractual arrangements and, consequently, arbitration fits as a preferred forum for dispute resolution. Unlike some other international jurisdictions, if arbitration disputes spill into the court system, there are ways in which the Scottish court system can maintain confidentiality for the parties.
In sectors such as food and drink, manufacturing and energy, clients are increasingly including ADR clauses in their domestic, cross-border and international contracts, highlighting that it is not just the preserve of large multi-national organisations. We are seeing far more SMEs and supply chain businesses considering a private, faster and more flexible option for dispute resolution, whether through expert determination, mediation or arbitration. Our oil and gas clients favour well-established international arbitration routes and, as such, we are increasingly engaged to deal with international disputes.
We are seeing more SMEs and supply chain businesses considering a private, faster, more flexible option for dispute resolution, whether through expert determination, mediation or arbitration.
Continuing the theme of ADR, other areas within our business are also reporting significant increases in activity. Our contentious construction practice has successfully pursued in excess of 35 adjudications in the past year alone and is currently engaged in claims with a value over £350m. Construction and engineering disputes together with the claims taken against professionals in this area are ever present, which reflects ongoing activity in the supply chain, whether for major infrastructure or development projects.
Finally, a trend that has been ongoing across many sectors is the increasing burden arising out of regulatory issues, including formal investigations, which when combined with reputational and often business critical matters, demands immediate boardroom attention to protect corporate and, indeed, individuals’ interests. Strong project management skills combined with legal acumen and good working relationships with regulators are a valuable commodity that is often highlighted to us in client feedback.
In an ever-changing landscape, the challenge we set ourselves is to keep evolving, learning from clients and putting that learning into practice quickly to deliver tangible results.
This article was written by:
Head of litigation, Brodies LLP