Legal Business

No dishonesty but two Addleshaws partners handed £5,000 fine at tribunal following ‘discrepancies’

No dishonesty but two Addleshaws partners handed £5,000 fine at tribunal following ‘discrepancies’

It won’t rank near the summit of publicity-hogging mis-conduct cases seen at major law firms in recent years but two Addleshaw Goddard partners have each been fined £5,000 after being summoned to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) this week.

The financial penalty, which came following an investigation into discrepancies over disbursements, had been agreed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and endorsed by the SDT. The hearing on Tuesday (5 November) was uncontested.

As reported last week, property partner Emmett Peters and finance partner David Wilson were referred to the SDT by the SRA after a separate investigation.

The pair, who were fined for ‘mis-describing’ disbursements, were represented at the tribunal by Tim Dutton QC, a highly prominent silk at Fountain Court and a former chair of the Bar Council.

The SRA accepted that there was no lack of integrity on the part of either individual and that the disbursements, however they may have been described, were both properly incurred and chargeable to the clients concerned. The SDT heard Wilson had caused discrepancies in 74 legal bills, while Peters had in 94.

There was no allegation that the pair, who will also contribute towards costs incurred by the SRA, were dishonestly involved or seeking any personal gain and it was recommended that the matter be concluded without the need for a substantive hearing.

Dutton argued that both had already suffered financial penalties after being held back at 2011 partnership levels, in one case amounting to a six-figure loss.

Addleshaw is not subject to any further disciplinary action and the SRA noted the firm’s constructive approach in relation to these matters. No clients suffered any loss.

In a statement, Addleshaw said that its financial systems had been through a ‘thorough review’ by the accountant Deloitte, who had declared the law firm’s systems ‘fit for purpose’.

The SRA referred Peters and Wilson to the SDT after discrepancies were identified in the course of an enquiry into the activities of a former partner Mark Gilbert, which the regulatory body had been investigating.

Addleshaw stressed that the referral for the two current partners was unlinked to the actions of Gilbert, who resigned from the firm in April 2011. The circumstances and matters in relation to Gilbert remain before the SDT.

Francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Addleshaw stands by its men as two partners face SDT hearing

Addleshaw stands by its men as two partners face SDT hearing

The legal profession has seen a handful of high profile cases of commercial lawyers caught out in allegations of fraud or questionable behaviour in recent years, a process that often involves the employing law firm rapidly turning on its own staff.

But while the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has referred two partners of Addleshaw Goddard to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) following an investigation into disbursements, the firm looks to be standing by its men.

The SRA referred property partner Emmett Peters and finance partner David Wilson to the SDT after discrepancies were identified in the course of an SRA enquiry in to the activities of a former partner Mark Gilbert, which the regulatory body had been investigating. Addleshaw stressed that the referral for the two current partners was unlinked to the Gilbert enquiry. Wilson and Peters are due to attend an initial hearing next week at the SDT.

Addleshaw issued this statement: ‘In the course of our and the SRA’s enquiries into discrepancies relating to the personal expenses and disbursements of Mark Gilbert, a property partner who resigned from the firm in April 2011, a number of other unconnected discrepancies were identified relating to the description of certain disbursements in some of the matters of Emmett Peters and Dave Wilson. Our investigation satisfied us that those disbursements were properly incurred and that neither individual was dishonest or involved in any personal gain.’

The statement also stressed that Addleshaw had co-operated with the SRA and was not itself being investigated and that no client had suffered any loss. In the context of the two partners, Addleshaw’s statement adds: ‘Emmett Peters and Dave Wilson both… co-operated fully with the SRA investigation and there is no suggestion from the SRA in referring them to the SDT that the relevant disbursements were not properly incurred, nor is any allegation made that either Emmett or Dave was dishonestly involved or seeking any personal gain.’

Francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Hong Kong drive: Addleshaws makes foray into local law two months after HK launch

Addleshaw Goddard’s objective to offer capability across the major disputes and arbitration centres has been given a boost by its launch today (8 August) of a local law practice in Hong Kong through a formal tie up with a newly established local firm led by partners from Minter Ellison and DLA Piper.

The new office will be led by former head of litigation and employment at Minter Ellison, Nigel Francis, and DLA Piper corporate partner Brett Stewien, who have practiced in Hong Kong for 25 and 14 years respectively.

Stewien, who was made partner at DLA’s Hong Kong office in 2011, has already started, while the starting date of Francis, a former legacy Herbert Smith partner who is qualified in both Hong Kong and England and Wales, is as yet unconfirmed.

Once approved by local authorities, thought to be after at least three years, the associated firm will be fully absorbed into Addleshaws and the duo will become full partners at the firm.

The news comes after the firm established an English law office in Hong Kong in May, the fifth international base for the firm, which has, in the last 18 months, launched in Dubai, Oman, Qatar and Singapore.

Managing partner Paul Devitt told Legal Business that the new practice forms part of the firm’s international strategy to open own offices in international arbitration centres.

‘Principally we could see initially a real opportunity in disputes and international arbitration, especially because with Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong, we effectively cover all of the disputes and international arbitration centres, other than New York and Paris, and that feels very strong place to be,’ said Devitt.

‘We don’t think, however, that our opportunities are limited to disputes work. In the Gulf we’ve built out in Oman and Qatar additional corporate, commercial and financing capability, and clearly in Hong Kong we have corporate. We continue in those own offices that we’ve [already] established [making] additional investments and bringing in individuals that bring in other capabilities,’ Devitt added.

The new office will work in close partnership with the firm’s Singapore base, which is led by litigation partner Jamie Harrison, who joined Addleshaws from Winston & Strawn in 2009.

While the firm has no current plans to open elsewhere, Devitt said the firm is considering various models for international expansion, including exclusive relationships with local firms. Addleshaws currently has one such formal alliance with best friend firm Hashidate Law Office in Tokyo, which it entered into in June this year.

The move in Hong Kong comes as a number of international firms have boosted their local law practices, including Jones Day and DLA Piper, which last month hired Mayer Brown banking and finance partner Benjamin Sandstad.

Francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Reports season 2013 – Addleshaws sees income slide but holds profits steady

Reports season 2013 – Addleshaws sees income slide but holds profits steady

Addleshaw Goddard today (31 May) became one of the first major UK law firms to announce its 2012/13 financial results, confirming that revenue has dipped by 2% to £167m against its previous financial year. The top 25 UK law firm saw profits per equity (PEP) partner edge up 2% to £457,000.

Despite the generally subdued outlook and weak demand in the UK market the performance will be viewed as disappointing for Addleshaws, which has struggled to achieve sustained growth over the last five years.

Addleshaws’ managing partner Paul Devitt said: ‘Of course, we would have liked to have seen income growth for the year alongside the improved PEP and margin and so, in that sense, we’re disappointed. Nevertheless, after a slow first half to the year, it was good to see some growth in the second half.

‘Most significantly, we made strong progress with the following key priorities – we secured and improved important client relationships and panel positions; we further developed and embedded our innovative and adaptable delivery and pricing approach; we enhanced significantly our capability and reach outside the UK; and we increased substantially the strength in depth of our partner team. They are all key developments of the business. We are well positioned to win market share and grow.’

The few financial results that have yet emerged for 2012/13 have so far shown widely diverging fortunes with Mishcon de Reya and property boutique Forsters both announcing double-digit percentage revenue growth. However, many advisers are struggling to expand given the sustained downturn in Western economies.

Addleshaws has been moving to re-position itself over the last two years, with the 700-lawyer firm recently abandoning its UK focus to invest heavily in forging an international network. The firm launched five new offices over the last financial year in Dubai, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar and Singapore and has made nine lateral partner recruits over the year.

Legal Business revealed earlier in the year that Addleshaws had held abortive merger discussions with Nabarro. The firm highlighted instructions for Admiral Taverns on a £200m acquisition, a £750m PFI mandate for BDR Waste and a £135m equity capital markets deal for Clinigen Group as key work over the 12-month period.

francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

First partner appointment for newly merged Bond Dickinson

First partner appointment for newly merged Bond Dickinson

Addleshaw Goddard real estate partner Paula Dillon is to join newly merged Bond Dickinson in its first post-merger hire.

Dillon, who was recruited by legacy Dickinson Dees before its merger with Bond Pearce, will join the Leeds office next month. The merger goes live on 1 May.

Dillon is well regarded for all aspects of property development, investment and development-related secured lending. She is moving across from the Leeds arm of Addleshaw Goddard, where she was a partner for 14 years.

Speaking of her appointment, Dillon said: ‘I am excited by the opportunity to use my market knowledge and contacts to play a major part in the development of a high quality full-service offering in Yorkshire and to further develop the excellent platform that Dickinson Dees has already established.

‘The announcement of the merger with Bond Pearce was an added bonus, bringing yet more quality resource, and a strong reputation in the real estate sector to bear.’

John Marshall, senior partner at Dickinson Dees, added: ‘We are delighted to announce Paula’s appointment to join Dickinson Dees. Her profile in Yorkshire together with her wealth of experience will strengthen our offering even further and her appointment comes at an exciting time for the firm as we progress towards our merger with Bond Pearce on 1 May.’

Dillon’s appointment follows on from that of real estate partner and former head of Pinsent Masons Leeds office, Mark Owen, who joined Dickinson Dees last year.

In recent months, Dickinson Dees has recruited five other partners into its Yorkshire office: corporate banking lawyer John Connor, insolvency and restructuring lawyer Andy Stirk, corporate lawyer Shiv Sibal and litigator Nick Mason.

francesca.fanshawe@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Addleshaw Goddard and Nabarro end merger talks

Addleshaw Goddard and Nabarro have confirmed that they were in merger talks at the start of the year but the former is understood to have called the talks off.

In separate statements released by both firms, Addleshaws and Nabarro said that discussions would not progress any further.

Nabarro said: ‘Nabarro and Addleshaw Goddard did hold very preliminary conversations to explore a possible merger. However, both firms agreed not to pursue discussions further.’

It is thought that Addleshaws decided that there weren’t sufficient business interests for the firm to merge with Nabarro. One former Nabarro partner said the talks were being held before Christmas, with the firms exchanging financial information, although both firms declined to comment on this point.

Legal Business

The appeal of the hourglass

The appeal of the hourglass

One particularly interesting statistic emerged from our in-house survey last month: 33% of respondents said they felt law firms were not handling their work at the appropriate level. And the biggest losers in all of this? The senior associates.

Legal Business

Battle Royale

Battle Royale

Two oligarchs; $6.5bn; and enough lawyers to form an entirely new firm. This is Berezovsky v Abramovich, the largest litigation in the world

In Hermès on Sloane Street on Friday 5 October 2007 Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, is enjoying a quiet afternoon shopping. Two doors down in Dolce & Gabbana, his former business partner is also indulging in a little retail therapy. In better days the two would visit each other’s superyachts and holiday together. But by 2007 the relationship had soured, and Berezovsky was itching to issue a writ suing his former friend for $6.5bn.

Legal Business

Free at Last – Enyo Law

Free at Last – Enyo Law

Three litigation partners left Addleshaw Goddard last year to set up a conflicts-free, disputes-only boutique. LB finds out how well the model is working.

For many, it’s a depressingly familiar scenario. You’re an experienced litigation partner handling financial services and contentious civil fraud disputes, advising corporates, entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals. A senior in-house lawyer from a bank asks you to represent them against another major financial institution after being given your name by a partner from a rival firm. A conflict check then reveals a banking partner at your firm had dinner with the other side and anticipates some corporate work in the pipeline. You have no choice but to decline the instruction.