All or nothing: Only a handful of DBAs entered into as confusion reigns over hybrid model

‘It’s an extraordinary thing – hundreds of lawyers should have entered into damages-based agreements (DBAs) by now.’

So says Leslie Perrin, former managing partner and senior partner of Osborne Clarke, who is now chairman of litigation funding group Calunius Capital, with around £40m of capital to invest in disputes.

Instead, DBAs, which came into force under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and entitle a lawyer to claim a percentage of their client’s damages by way of fees, have failed to take off at all. Perrin adds: ‘The confusion around the regulations has been such that I don’t think more than a handful of DBAs have been entered into all across the country. There’s so much ambiguity and grief for the first people going down that road and disputes lawyers are unanimous in holding this position.’

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BT moves to extend its use of legal outsourcing in the UK

BT has begun an extensive legal process outsourcing (LPO) tender for its work in India and the US and is expecting to introduce a new provider for UK work as the telecoms giant moves to outsource over 30% of its UK global services legal work.

The move comes as the FTSE 100 company’s alternative business structure (ABS) arm, BT Law, has won three new contracts and looks to be used as a platform to turn the legal department from a cost to a profit centre, including potentially offering employment law advice.

BT general counsel (GC) Dan Fitz and new director of compliance Gareth Tipton say they are midway through the tender with providers including incumbent UnitedLex – which already takes on 30% of the global services division’s legal work in the UK. The process will take up to three months to complete.

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Visa Europe’s GC joins A&O’s global antitrust practice

Allen & Overy (A&O) has hired Visa Europe’s general counsel (GC), executive vice president and company secretary Vanessa Turner as a partner in its global antitrust practice.

Turner will be based in the Magic Circle firm’s Brussels office, advising European and international clients dealing with EU and other regulators on merger clearance, cartels and other antitrust and competition matters. Continue reading “Visa Europe’s GC joins A&O’s global antitrust practice”

Mills & Reeve adds DLA’s defendant insurance team

DLA completes withdrawal as CMS adds RPC head

Mills & Reeve and CMS Cameron McKenna boosted their offerings at opposite ends of the insurance spectrum in June, taking staff from the Birmingham office of DLA Piper and the City office of RPC respectively.

Top-50 UK firm Mills & Reeve acquired a nine-strong defendant insurance practice from DLA, marking the conclusion of DLA’s withdrawal from the lower margin area of law, as first announced last year. Continue reading “Mills & Reeve adds DLA’s defendant insurance team”

Taylor Wessing to review secretarial jobs

96 London support staff put on notice of potential redundancy.

Taylor Wessing is to make 26 of its City secretaries redundant with all 96 secretaries in London put on notice pending a consultation.

The firm but expects the process to last for at least 30 days.

A statement released by UK managing partner Tim Eyles said: ‘The realisation of our strategy is dependent on us ensuring that all areas of our business are structured with a view to providing the best and most efficient service possible to our clients.

The redesign of our secretarial support is driven by that focus.’

Taylor Wessing in May announced that its revenues increased by 7% annually in 2012/13 to £228m, with UK revenues up 4% to £104.5m. The firm has yet to confirm partner profits for the financial year.

Taylor Wessing joins a growing list of major UK practices to announce job cuts in recent months including DWF, Berwin Leighton Paisner and Osborne Clarke, with 2013 shaping up to be the toughest legal labour market since 2009, when more than 2,000 jobs were cut in the UK.

Last month Ashurst launched a wide-ranging consultation with 350 support staff in London after announcing plans to launch a ‘north-shoring’ arm in Glasgow to provide back office and legal support.

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Ashurst’s new Glasgow unit ‘part of a continuing trend’

Law firms look outside City to meet client cost expectations

It is a sign of the times that the majority of City partners can’t understand the fuss around Ashurst’s new low-cost base in Scotland.

The top-15 UK firm announced in mid-June that it is to create a 150-strong unit in Glasgow, headed by former Dundas & Wilson partner Michael Polson, which will cover back office support and volume legal work, initially document review in litigation and corporate.

The move echoes earlier initiatives, launched to more fanfare, by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) (then just Herbert Smith) and Allen & Overy (A&O), which set up volume support operations in Belfast in 2011 and 2012 respectively as a means of lowering client costs.

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Legal profession forms united front on proposed cuts to legal aid

Last month court staff across the country took the unusual step of going on strike in a rare show of solidarity among all strands of the legal profession against the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)’s controversial proposals to slice £220m off the £1.2bn annual criminal legal aid budget.

The strike, while said by lawyers and court officials alike to have caused little disruption, stands out for being part of a series of measures taken by the ordinarily fragmented profession to emphasise its profound disapproval of reforms proposed by justice secretary Chris Grayling, including the introduction of price competitive tendering (PCT), the removal of the automatic right to legal aid for defendants with disposable income of more than £37,500 and the restriction of the right for defendants to choose their own solicitor.

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Calm down, it’s just an IPO

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IPO market set for best year since 2007

While corporate partners continue to protest about the lack of large mandates this year, when it comes to the IPO market, conditions are undoubtedly looking up – for now. The London Stock Exchange has had the best year to date for UK company floats since 2007, with nine flotations to date totalling $4.5bn (£2.86bn), according to Dealogic.

This time last year there had been just one float, raising $48m (£31m).

Stock market volatility remains an issue, with deal lawyers including Norton Rose Fulbright equity capital markets (ECM) partner Mark Lloyd Williams – who advised on the February float of house builder Crest Nicholson Holdings (£553m) – referring to conditions as ‘choppy’ and indicating that the position is kept under review from week to week.

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Back at the gate: US invaders raise fresh questions over private equity status of CC and Linklaters

David Stevenson surveys a fast-changing buyout landscape to find US ‘barbarians’ once again pressing in on City leaders

Unfortunately for top City firms looking to defend their position in private equity, it takes more than a five-year freeze in credit markets and a sustained downturn in leveraged buyouts to stop foreign rivals trying to move in on their patch.

Such a dynamic has once again thrown scrutiny on Linklaters’ now decade-long effort to carve a credible position in the private equity market and the position of Clifford Chance (CC), by contrast traditionally established as the market leader in Europe’s buyout scene.

In the former case, the debate continues among peers (and some internally at Silk Street) over the extent to which Linklaters has forged a practice worthy of its much-vaunted general corporate team. In CC’s case, a purple patch in public M&A last year arguably did not extend to private equity, while the firm has had to contend with the resignation in April of global head of private equity David Walker for Latham & Watkins.

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A&O finance veteran joins Co-op

Alistair Asher takes on GC role as firm acts on major bank rescue

Securing a major deal and having one of your partners take a senior role with the same client is a nice trick to pull off but Allen & Overy (A&O) appeared to have managed that last month after securing a lead role on the Co-op’s rescue plan and ‘donating’ a veteran partner to the lender’s management team.

On 18 June, A&O confirmed that global financial institutions head Alistair Asher is leaving to join the Co-operative Bank as its new general counsel.

Asher will advise on the restructuring of the mutually owned lender and help speed up its management overhaul under its new chief executive Euan Sutherland. Asher retired on 1 July after 34 years with the Magic Circle firm and took on the new role immediately. The veteran partner had previously advised the Co-op on its 2009 merger with Britannia Building Society.

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