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‘There’s no-one of the scale to rival us’ – HSF’s new litigation head talks strategy

Justin D’Agostino has taken over as global head of dispute resolution at commercial litigation heavyweight Herbert Smith Freehills. Here the Asia-based lawyer talks to Legal Business about joining the dots of an expanding practice.

What effect will a Hong Kong-based disputes head have on the global practice?

Being based in Asia gives me a good opportunity to be in the middle of it all; it’s a positive from that respect. It will be different having the global head not being based in London but we have very strong local disputes managers in London. I will be joining the pieces across the globe.

What areas would you like to strengthen?

From a practice point of view I’m looking at where the growth areas are. Disputes is at the heart of the firm. Corporate crime and investigations is a big growth area: we appointed a new head, Kyle Wombolt last year and he’s done really well.

International arbitration is growing all the time, the practice is very busy but we have room to grow. Two of our arbitrators have taken silk, which is a game changer.

Which regions would you like to move into?

I’d like to exploit the axis between Asia and the US. Arbitration with [New York-based partner] Larry Shore, and mainstream litigation with [New York managing partner and litigator] Tom Riley. There’s a lot of investment from China to the States and vice versa. Disputes arise from those investments and investigations.

How have you reacted to the senior departures within the disputes practice?

We have a very deep bench, even just in London. In late March we appointed Tim Parkes to take ownership of the commercial litigation practice in London. He’s a heavyweight and an important appointment. Tim is but one of a number of partners of that ilk, the heavy bench is still there in London. One of the things that all firms need to do is invest in the next generation of heavyweights as well.

US firms in London are increasingly disputes focused, are you worried about growing competition?

The depth of bench in the main offices is second to none. Our unique selling point is the global platform, if you’re doing a big cross-border dispute, we have that depth.

Obviously the market’s moving and there’s competition, but there’s no-one of the size and scale to rival us in London and globally.