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Disputes round-up: White & Case continues hiring drive with RBS litigation head as HSF partner appointed deputy High Court judge

White & Case is continuing its bid to add firepower to its London disputes bench with the hire of The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)’s former head of litigation and investigations Laura Durrant as a partner.

Meanwhile, Swiss disputes firm LALIVE is opening an arbitration-focused office in London and Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) litigation partner Adam Johnson QC has been appointed a deputy High Court judge.

Durrant started her career as an associate with HSF in 2006, before opting to move in-house to RBS in 2010 where she went on to occupy a number of roles. Most recently, she acted as the banking giant’s head of litigation, regulatory and investigations.

For White & Case, Durrant’s arrival continues a recent trend of hiring ex-banking lawyers. The firm brought in fellow litigation partner Chris Brennan in June, after previous spells at Lloyds Banking Group and the Financial Conduct Authority.

It also marks a concerted attempt by the expansive US firm to aggressively hire for its City disputes bench to enable it to contend with the Magic Circle. Last month, the firm enlisted contentious construction and engineering partner David Robertson to its arbitration team from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft litigation partner Steven Baker to its commercial litigation practice.

John Reynolds, White & Case disputes partner, told Legal Business: ‘We have made a concerted effort to bring in the right people for the banking litigation team, we’ve made four laterals in the area this year. The combination between Chris, myself and Laura I feel fantastically optimistic about, we all get on really well.’

Charles Balmain, head of EMEA disputes for White & Case, commented: ‘As we continue to compete toe-to-toe with the magic circle, it’s exciting to welcome an experienced and accomplished lawyer like Laura, who has a strong market profile and excellent relationships with key figures in the banking industry.’

Elsewhere, Withers has taken advantage of the recent exodus at the newly-formed Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, appointing legacy Bryan Cave’s head of arbitration Emma Lindsay.

Lindsay, who will be located in Withers’ New York office, is a dual-qualified international disputes lawyer and typically represents corporates and sovereigns across a range of jurisdictions.

Peter Wood, head of Withers’ disputes division, said: ‘Her arrival at the firm extends our international arbitration capabilities to the US. With Emma in place in New York, we can now offer our clients expert arbitration advice across the US, Asia and Europe.’

After the emphatic endorsement of being appointed to Queen’s Counsel in 2017, HSF litigation partner Adam Johnson QC has now been elected to serve as a deputy High Court judge.

Johnson QC will act on a four-year term and is expected to sit for around 30 days a year, dealing with complex cases which would otherwise be undertaken by permanent High Court judges. He has substantial experience from his time at HSF, joining the firm in 1988 and acting on high-profile mandates such as representing RBS in the litigation arising out of the 2008 rights issue.

Out of a total of 32 deputy High Court judges appointed, only four were solicitors. Picked alongside Johnson QC was Bristows’ competition and regulatory head Pat Treacy, former Powell Spencer and Partners lawyer Margaret Obi, and former Thompsons partner Mary Stacey.

Johnson QC told Legal Business: ‘I have been practising law for over 30 years and the profession has given a lot to me, so there is a sense that it was important for me to give something back. As a solicitor I hope that the expertise I have had in that role will provide a slightly different and valuable perspective.’

Finally, Swiss outfit LALIVE has announced that it is opening an office in London. The new outpost, which will be focused on commercial and investment treaty arbitration, will be led by a two-partner team consisting of Marc Veit and Timothy Foden.

Veit has been with LALIVE since 2014 while Foden has recently joined the firm after previously acting as of counsel at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

LALIVE has bucked recent fears by placing its faith in the UK as a post-Brexit arbitration hub. Veit commented: ‘We believe that the UK will remain a key location for international arbitration post-Brexit. London’s attractiveness as a seat for international arbitration may actually increase as third parties may see England as being a more neutral venue outside of the EU.’