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Losing QCs: BLP’s plan to compete with the Bar hit by another advocacy exit

Stuart Isaacs QC, the man brought in to lead Berwin Leighton Paisner‘s advocacy unit and compete with the Bar, has departed for King & Spalding.

Berwin Leighton Paisner launched its advocacy unit, to much fanfare, at the start of 2011. Isaacs was brought in to lead the unit, arriving from South Square barristers’ chambers, and his exit is the latest blow to an already depleted team.

Just last month, the brains behind the operation, head of arbitration Nicholas Fletcher QC, departed for 4 New Square. An influential board member, Fletcher launched the strategy to take disputes ‘from instruction to trial’.

The exit of two of the firm’s three Queen’s Counsel in just two months has hit that strategy hard with head of charities Janet Turner QC lacking experience with corporate work.

BLP said in a statement: ‘BLP will continue its focus on providing fully integrated dispute resolution services to its clients, including trial advocacy. We have nearly 30 solicitor advocates, partners who sit as arbitrators and part time as judges, and we have increasingly been conducting advocacy in International Arbitration particularly in London, Moscow, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. We intend to continue to build our team of senior trial lawyers/advocates.’

For King & Spalding, Isaacs becomes the firm’s second Queen’s Counsel this year, with head of arbitration Tom Sprange having been appointed as QC earlier this month. Isaacs has chaired the advocacy in over 200 commercial cases during a 30-year career and was the first London QC authorised by the Singapore Attorney General to practice as a foreign lawyer. He sits regularly as an arbitrator and is a deputy judge of the High Court of England and Wales.

Isaacs said that ‘King & Spalding has a superior disputes practice’ and announced that he plans to create the ‘one-stop-shop’ for disputes that BLP failed to realise. ‘I am glad to be partnering with King & Spalding’s talented, entrepreneurial team of lawyers who share my vision,’ he added.

He is the firm’s fourth partner hire in London since the start of October and the fourteenth disputes lawyer in the City office. King & Spalding hired capital markets duo Markus Bauman from Latham & Watkins and Tom O’Neill from Linklaters at the end of 2014. It also persuaded Bingham McCutchen restructuring partner Elisabeth Baltay to join King & Spalding rather than follow the exodus of that office to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer Feld.

‘Stuart enhances our disputes offering in London and Europe, as well as in Asia, where he has a fantastic reputation,’ said Reggie Smith, global head of King & Spalding’s disputes group. ‘He will contribute significantly to developing new business in London and securing opportunities that require strong advocacy at trial.’