‘We’re changing law firms just through being who we are and by the different perspectives that we bring,’ Linklaters counsel Jacqueline Chaplin tells Legal Business.
With every generation of disputes practitioners come new perspectives and an enthusiasm to leave a mark on the practice. And, in the past year, firms have been forced to adapt to significant business change in a way that – were they undisturbed by the pandemic – they may have tiptoed around implementing for years. Now, disputes practices have the opportunity to maintain the momentum for modernisation and embrace different perspectives and new challenges.
We spoke to 30 up-and-coming practitioners listed in The Legal 500’s London international arbitration and commercial litigation rising star rankings in 2020 and 2021. With an emphasis on those qualifying after the global financial crisis in 2008, we look at their practices and the issues they see driving change in the sector.
The rising stars category was introduced in The Legal 500’s 2020 UK guide (published in September 2019) and shines a light on the senior associates, counsel and non-partner level lawyers with the potential to become future market leaders.
These stars were chosen based on a number of criteria, including work experience, thought leadership, and client and market feedback. Some of those highlighted in our inaugural 2020 list have since been promoted to partner and have achieved The Legal 500’s ‘next generation partner’ accolade, with the intention being to continue to track their careers and build their profile in our guide.
As Andrew Cooke, a senior associate and rising star at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) points out: ‘the [rising star] rankings also show which of the firms have the courage to back their rising talent’. This is in part because only those firms able to demonstrate their commitment to championing and retaining their talented younger lawyers are likely to secure the coveted ranking.
This development is obviously important for the careers of the individual lawyers concerned but it is also absolutely crucial for the future of a firm’s practice. ‘It’s important for everyone that that’s where you see the future of the practice’ says Mark Levy QC, Allen & Overy’s head of international arbitration. ‘It’s getting harder and harder to make partner and, where juniors already have that as a challenge, having a focus on laterals rather than promoting from within means you’re never going to keep anybody.’
Given the need to protect the future leaders of disputes departments, we wanted to get their take on some key issues facing their firms. On the agenda are diversity, tech, innovative cost structures, alternative funding and the growth of competition in the market.
‘The law used to be the preserve of the privileged but that’s changed,’ notes Chaplin. ‘My generation is a more diverse group of people from more diverse backgrounds, with different perspectives’.
And it is true that the idea of a one-size-fits-all disputes lawyer is being challenged increasingly with each generation as firms, practitioners and, notably, clients put much greater emphasis on the value of diversity.
As we highlighted in a recent Legal Business article, ‘The gender agenda’, this is particularly evident when looking at gender diversity in The Legal 500 UK rankings. The 2021 guide saw an increase of around 10% in the total percentage of women ranked across the commercial litigation rankings in London this year, with women now making up a third of all individual lawyers ranked in this practice.
Inevitably, it is the rising star generation that is most diverse. Across international arbitration and premium commercial litigation, women make up just over half of the rising stars, shining a light on the continuing disparity in gender diversity between junior and senior lawyers.
‘People in senior positions need to make a conscious effort to say, “I’m not going to just mentor but also champion these people that we want to bring through”, because that’s the only way it’s going to happen.’ Catherine Emanuel, HSF
Of course, gender is also only a very small part of the picture and there are many other minorities that continue to be underrepresented in law generally and in The Legal 500 disputes rankings. The UK disputes market still has a long way to go when it comes to both social mobility and racial diversity, with a lack of black lawyers in senior positions in particular.
All of the rising stars interviewed agree that more has to be done to rectify this. Catherine Emanuel, a senior associate at HSF, says: ‘People in senior positions need to make a conscious effort to say, “I’m not going to just mentor but also champion these people that we want to bring through”, because that’s the only way it’s going to happen.’
Another priority among the younger generations is that the profession is able to adapt to new technology and change. While in the past some lawyers may have had concerns that technology was a threat to their jobs, this is no longer the case. As one of our rising stars comments: ‘One fear that lawyers sometimes have is that technology is going to make what we do less important. I find that actually technology helps us do what we do better and that it opens up avenues for us to be more strategic and deliver a better service to our clients’.
One example of this is the incorporation of virtual hearings in litigation and international arbitration over the past 12 months. While currently necessary, this could continue to offer ongoing benefits for clients in certain circumstances, including cutting fees and travel expenses.
As Penny Martin, counsel at Three Crowns notes: ‘For the right cases, and with the right technology, they can work well, in fact so well that you can even forget you are interacting remotely. Covid accelerated a change that may have taken years to come, and I don’t see any reason why virtual hearings shouldn’t be now here to stay. It just gives us another option and the more flexibility arbitration can offer to its users, the better.’
AI and data analytics – including tools that inform the outcomes of cases – is another area ripe to change the way disputes lawyers work. While the impact has been seen in a range of scenarios, its application could be particularly valuable in the growing area of group litigation. ‘One of the biggest challenges in class actions is getting an early indication of the potential financial exposure,’ says Emanuel. ‘Tech can help clients model ranges of potential outcomes that can help inform decision-making and set strategic direction from an early stage in a case’.
In addition to assisting defendant firms in assessing clients’ financial exposure, predictive analysis facilitates the assessments of cases’ suitability for third-party funding – another area expected to shape the evolution of the disputes marking in the coming years.
‘In my view, third-party funding is going to continue its ascent into the stratosphere over the next five years as companies seek to recover losses incurred during the crisis without taking the immediate cash-flow hit of financing litigation themselves,’ Charles Allin, legal director at DLA Piper, observes.
Third-party funding, insurance solutions and novel fee structures have the potential to proliferate the market with claims that would otherwise have been avoided for fear of the financial burden. Against this backdrop and mounting competition, the pressure on large firms to attract and retain both clients and talent is greater than ever.
As with the arrival and expansion of specialist disputes firms post-2008, the expected increase in litigation could increase this pressure further. As Yasseen Gailani, recently promoted to partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, notes: ‘That trend is going to accelerate as the overall market for litigation continues to grow’. He expects clients to look to firms’ track record, their ability to act without conflict, availability of novel fee structures, as well as the experience of its lawyers.
This only amplifies Levy QC’s warning to firms about the importance of training and retaining junior talent as a vitality to future-proof practices. So, which firms are excelling in training and retaining future leaders?
Below we highlight the top City practices currently housing the rising stars of the disputes market. We focus alphabetically on firms in the top three tiers across commercial litigation and international arbitration, with lawyers included within The Legal 500’s rising stars lists over the past two years.
AG is home to legal director Natasha Winter. A rising star for commercial litigation, she acts for UK and international clients in a range of disputes and also supports the firm’s competition and insurance litigation teams.
Allen & Overy
For the magic circle, the pressure is on to maintain competitive with a variety challengers in the disputes market. Despite this, A&O is confident that its practice is well placed for the future. It boasts a triple threat of homegrown rising star disputes lawyers in Naomi Briercliffe, Sunil Mawkin and Helen Biggin, who between them cover public international law arbitration, commercial arbitration and commercial litigation.
Recently promoted counsel Briercliffe is a UK representative of the ICC Young Arbitrators Forum. Suitably for a career influenced by her interest in international politics, she has not been short of politically significant matters, including win for Cambodia before the ICJ; acting for Iran against the US and being part of an all-female advocacy team representing the UAE.
Senior associate Sunil Mawkin is noted for commercial arbitration and is particularly active in the APAC region. His focus on construction disputes makes him well-placed to soak up the expected deluge in contractual disputes resulting from Covid-19.
Another of A&O’s recently promoted counsel, Helen Biggin, is making a name for herself in investigation-heavy litigation involving fraud. She also counts structured finance litigation among her areas of expertise and is active in advising clients on the risks in the aviation sector.
Naomi Briercliffe, Allen & Overy
Year of qualification: 2011
The Legal 500 International Arbitration Rising Star 2021
What advice would you give to lawyers wanting to break into international arbitration?
‘Work hard, make sure you’re a safe pair of hands and make sure people are aware of your interests. Demonstrate enthusiasm and passion for the things that you think you might ultimately want to do and be prepared alongside your busy caseload to do other things that could give you relevant experience.’
Ashurst is known for its track record in the energy sector and recently promoted partner Myfanwy Wood is well placed to continue this legacy. She also has particular experience in Africa-related disputes.
Covering all bases, the firm has a future star in commercial litigator Sophie Law, who debuted in the rising star rankings in The Legal 500 UK’s 2021 guide.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
‘Technology disputes arise in all sectors now, so it’s becoming more of an area of practice as opposed to just a sector’, says BCLP partner Claire Morel de Westgaver. Having trained at Bird & Bird, she applies her background in technology disputes to assist a wide range of clients.
CC has been consistent in assuring its place among leading corporate disputes firms.
Among the future stars is Christina Schuetz, who has a strong track record in shareholder and joint venture arbitration. She is particularly active in cases relating to Eastern and Central Europe and co-founded the Russian and CIS Arbitration Network, which, which is now 10 years old.
She is also one of several rising stars closely monitoring the growing area of environmental disputes. CC set up an environmental, social and governance (ESG) taskforce in November last year, in preparation for an influx of related work.
Clyde & Co
For Clyde & Co, disputes are at the core of the firm and account for around 70% of its work. Legal director Anna Myrvang is among the firm’s rising stars for commercial litigation with particular experience in financial services disputes.
CMS has been committed to developing talent across its six core sectors, a focus that it doubled down on as it forged a new identity following the three-way merger of Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang in 2017.
Straddling two of the six sectors, future star for international arbitration Kushal Gandhi complements his primary financial disputes focus with an interest in tech. Alongside colleague and fellow newly promoted partner Vanessa Whitman, he is driving the firm’s fintech and cryptocurrency disputes practice – an area which is seeing increased activity.
For litigation, Louise Boswell is another to watch. She was also recognised as a rising star is 2020 and promoted to next generation partner last year.
Kushal Gandhi, CMS
Year of qualification: 2009
Made partner: 2020
The Legal 500 International Arbitration Rising Star 2021
What are the biggest challenges in the market?
‘One of the biggest challenges is going to be clients’ changing attitude to disputes. People often think of disputes as a dirty word, as no one wants to get into one, but what’s happening is that some businesses are seeing that actually disputes can be income and profit generating.’
Cooke, Young & Keidan
‘We tend to attract the more entrepreneurial type of lawyer’, says Sinead O’Callaghan said of Cooke, Young & Keidan, noting that the attractions of joining the disputes boutique include ‘the greater level of autonomy in terms of the type of work you can bring in and carry out’.
Commercial litigation rising star Charles Allin handles work across the energy and financial services sectors, contentious M&A as well as fraud and asset-tracing work.
The latter areas are expected to be increasingly busy for the firm, particularly as a result of its freshly launched third party funding solution, Aldersgate Funding. As Allin reports: ‘It is already generating a lot of interest in relation to fraud and insolvency matters.’
Among Eversheds Sutherland’s future commercial litigation leaders is Lucy Webster. She counts IP, media and energy sector disputes among her specialisms and benefits from in-house experience, having completed a secondment at Shell.
She has a particular interest in the transition to clean energy, including wind and solar, and is closely following the emergence of climate change disputes.
Herbert Smith Freehills
It is hardly a surprise that this commercial litigation powerhouse has a bench of future talent lined up to preserve its reputation. Known for its ability to pick up large, market-shaping and novel disputes, the firm similarly encourages its up-and-coming practitioners to not specialise too early to build experience in a range of disputes.
Andrew Cooke is among the firm’s future stars and is equipped with a broad practice covering corporate disputes, insolvency and restructuring and aircraft leasing-related litigation – all areas expected to only increase post-pandemic.
Fellow rising star, South Africa-qualified Catherine Emanuel, is carving a niche in defending group litigation orders. Her experience makes her uniquely well-placed to tackle the emerging trend, this includes being part of the team that negotiated a settlement for the Post Office in the widely publicised group action brought against it over the Horizon IT scandal. Offering insight into the developing area, she says: ‘Class actions are a whole new beast because, if a client is considering settlement, it is not just the claimants’ expectations in play, there are a range of other parties who have a financial interest in any deal – claimant lawyers and litigation funders in particular.’
Hogan Lovells’ disputes team has unequivocally distinguished itself as a leading City disputes practice. Looking to the future, the firm’s foot remains firmly on the accelerator. With two rising stars already among its ranks, it attracted another recognised international arbitration specialist Akima Paul Lambert from Debevoise & Plimpton this year.
Lambert joined along with experienced partners Kevin Lloyd and Richard Lawton and fellow new partner Ardil Salem. This boost came soon after the firm announced its round of New Year promotions, which added two partners and seven counsel in London across its contentious teams.
Among the counsel promotions was Annabel Maltby. She has a breadth of experience including in energy, financial services and life sciences and is particularly optimistic about the impacts that tech will have the future of the sector.
Another future star, counsel Daniel Armstrong, is focused on commercial litigation involving allegations of fraud arising out of Russia, Ukraine or the CIS region.
Jones Day’s Sarah Batley leverages her experience in civil fraud and asset tracing in commercial litigation. She says: ‘As a litigator, I bring that strategic dexterity – and the forensic approach to analysing and scrutinising evidence which I honed on those fraud cases – to commercial disputes.’
Latham & Watkins
Another of the firms looking to benefit from the expected rise in ESG cases is Latham & Watkins. Rising star associate Samuel Pape, who specialises in international commercial and investment arbitrations – particularly in energy, mining, aerospace and finance sectors – expects this to be a growth area as states take action to mitigate climate change and its impact.
‘Because of my background and experience, I can obtain awards and challenge them too.’ Jacqueline Chaplin, Linklaters
Pape recently represented Columbia in an early example of this type of dispute, defending several claims brought by Canadian mining company investors who sought compensation for mining bans put in place in an environmental conservation zone.
According to a former Linklaters’ associate, the firm’s traditionally transaction-heavy focus and big-ticket banking and M&A litigation meant that in the past lawyers with international arbitration ambitions were often sucked into
‘the vortex that was the Linklaters’ litigation team’.
This has since changed. With the arrival of ex-HSF partner Matthew Weiniger QC in 2015 marked as a turning point for the practice, international arbitration is strong focus. Linklaters-lifer, counsel Jacqueline Chaplin, is a testament to this continuing. She specialises in commercial arbitration, often involving states or state-owned entities and says: ‘Because of my background and experience, I can obtain awards and challenge them too.’
‘During this unique period of uncertainty, what clients are going to need more than ever are trusted advisers through thick and thin, not just one bet-the-company piece of litigation,’ says senior solicitor Christopher Charlton.
Future star Charlton mirrors Macfarlanes’ increasingly strong disputes reputation and combines corporate and commercial litigation as part of a broad focus.
Norton Rose Fulbright
‘Getting the right combination of people, process and technology is key to driving value for clients’, observes rising star counsel Matthew Buckle. Buckle, who handles international arbitration with a particular focus on energy, construction, project, technology and sports disputes, is one of the disputes team ambassadors for the firm’s change and technology programme, Transform.
Rising star senior associate Daniel Gardiner has focus on the energy and natural resources sectors, within which he handles commercial litigation and arbitration. This year, he acted for Central Area Transmission System in one of the first virtual cases to be heard in the Court of Appeal in 2020.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
In little over a decade, Quinn Emanuel has catapulted to the top tier of the London disputes market. Since opening in 2009, when it largely capitalised on being a firm fee of conflicts to bring claims against banks, the office has grown to more than 75 lawyers covering a full range of commercial disputes.
‘We’re different to many of the other boutiques in London in that we have experts in commercial litigation, restructuring, civil fraud, construction arbitration and pretty much every major practice area,’ says newly promoted partner Yasseen Gailani. Gailani counts finance-related disputes as his specialist area. He is also increasingly handling claims brought against auditors and other professional third parties coming out of an insolvency situation.
The group continues to grow its reputation for international arbitration and counts of counsel Hanna Roos among its future stars. Her sector specialisms include energy and life sciences.
Yasseen Gailani, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Year of qualification: 2009
Made partner: 2020
The Legal 500 Commercial Litigation Rising Star 2020
The Legal 500 Commercial Litigation Next Generation Partner 2021
What do you most enjoy about your job?
‘When Dan Wyatt joined RPC eight years ago, we knew we were hiring a future commercial litigation star. Fast forward to 2021, Dan has become a widely admired lawyer by clients’ – Geraldine Elliott, head of RPC’s commercial disputes group, tells Legal Business.
As a recently promoted partner, Wyatt’s focus includes commercial litigation and civil fraud, particularly relating to Russia and former Soviet Union countries.
Simmons & Simmons
Another firm pursing ESG-related disputes, Simmons’ focus is being driven from several angles from the investment on ESG portfolios, ESG issues arising from projects and a rise of allegation of human rights violations.
As a former corporate social responsibility consultant, international arbitration rising star Basil Woodd-Walker is well placed to advise on this area.
Slaughter and May
Slaughter and May’s disputes practice is another that has had to fight for recognition against the weighty reputation of its corporate team. Nevertheless, the firm’s contentious offering wins its fair share of complex, cross-border work and certainly does not shy away from the stream of referrals from its transactional counterpart.
Looking to the future, associate Megan Sandler is one to watch. A regular in the Commercial Court, she has a broad commercial litigation experience acting for a range of leading corporates and the versatility to handle the firm’s diverse case load. She also benefits from in-house experience having recently completed a six-month secondment at a large international bank.
Arbitration boutique Three Crowns has shot up the ranking following its launch in 2014. Despite being a relatively junior firm, it houses leading names in arbitration and is a top choice for junior talent with international arbitration ambitions.
Penny Martin, Three Crowns
Year of qualification: 2013
The Legal 500 International Arbitration Rising Star 2021
What is the best part of your job?
‘The opportunity to witness first hand the clash of jurisdictions, different legal cultures, and the development of industries that drive the global economy. Dispute resolution gives you a unique insight into some of the major developments of our time.’
The firm’s future looks equally bright as it continues to attract leading and future talent seeing the benefits that the arbitration-only set-up offers. Counsel and rising star Penny Martin primarily focuses on energy disputes, notes that ‘rather than being a small department in a much larger firm, we are the firm’ and counts ‘more flexibility to take on the right mandates and to evolve along with the market’ as one of the benefits of the group.LB