Legal Business

Disputes perspectives: Tracey Dovaston

Disputes perspectives: Tracey Dovaston

I’d like to say becoming a lawyer was a very well-thought-out decision in my teenage years, but it wasn’t. I recall taking a career aptitude test at school, and it was one of the few professions I’d actually heard of. Law sounded interesting, and I’ve always enjoyed the legal wrangling in various TV shows. Showing my age, it included the less esoteric ones at the time, like LA Law in the late 80s and early 90s.

I picked Herbert Smith. I applied to a number of places, but I had heard partner Lawrence Collins, now Lord Collins of Mapesbury, speak at a careers event at university. Herbert Smith was well-known as a preeminent litigation firm and so I thought that was where I wanted to go. I wrote to him directly. I didn’t think it would make any difference, but it did. When I started, I was a trainee in his litigation department. I had an opportunity to work with him first hand, and he supported me in the early stages of my career.

Legal Business

‘Let’s tear up the rule book’ – Boies chief sets out her stall for a radical rethink of the elite law firm model

‘Let’s tear up the rule book’ – Boies chief sets out her stall for a radical rethink of the elite law firm model

If law firms are to survive and thrive, they must dramatically modernise the way they work and serve their clients; they must become more adaptable, flexible and collaborative if they are to prosper. While clients have accelerated and evolved in their respective sectors, the legal industry itself has failed – at best to keep pace – at worst to change in any meaningful way. Either way, law firms remain significantly and meaningfully behind the curve.

Covid-19 may be the disruptor the legal industry has long needed, sparking change and generating the long-awaited revolution. If so, how will these changes manifest? And how do we create the blueprint for the modern law firm?

How we value our services

For many decades, lawyers have valued their services with reference to the number of minutes spent thinking about and working on a matter; time is the value proposition, rather than the outcome. While this may have been effective and acceptable 25 years ago, we have failed to adapt and deliver a true value-based proposition.

The fee model is outdated and increasingly out of step with client needs. The legal profession remains one of the few areas of business that is wedded to charging by the hour, yet the societal shift that is taking place suggests the value of time is increasingly more important than the time spent. It’s about what and how you deliver rather than the quantum of time. This will require law firms to re-think how they deliver value and price their services. Incremental changes are no longer adequate; valuing our services by the hourly rate needs to be abandoned. Rather, we should price by way of the true value we deliver to clients. Just as investment banks price their services on the achieved deal, so should law firms; litigators need to price on outcomes rather than the hours plodding through the process. In this way we will finally be truly aligned with our clients. Let us tear up the rule book.

At Boies Schiller Flexner we spend time listening to our clients’ needs around fees – whether it be certainty, skin in the game or flexibility. We then craft a bespoke menu of fee options specific to the client and matter, designed to ensure our respective interests are aligned.

Rethinking the one-stop law firm

This also chimes with how clients are increasingly using law firms. The one-stop law firm upon which so many firms built their model in the 1990s and 2000s is losing its lustre. Sophisticated clients increasingly unpack legal services to receive the best expertise in different areas. They choose one firm for financing requirements; another for corporate work and yet another for litigation.

This evolution will require law firms to ensure they have the best-in-class lawyers in all of their offerings and be willing to collaborate with other firms as clients cherry-pick the right lawyers to meet their objectives. As a leading litigation firm, Boies Schiller lawyers frequently co-counsel with the corporate, finance and restructuring departments of Magic Circle and leading US firms across the City. This trend is only set to increase.

How we work

Other key changes will happen within law firms themselves, generating a significant cultural and structural shift. Covid is sparking a major re-evaluation. Nearly every lawyer – across all generations – has adapted to working from home and it is unfathomable that we will return to the old order. This means workspaces will need to be completely re-thought; no longer can thousands of square footage dedicated to meeting rooms, in-house dining facilities and individual offices be justified. They are unsustainable economically and will be rejected by lawyers and clients, presenting an opportunity to change the working model.

Post-Covid-19, with heightened reliance on technology-driven services, it will be increasingly important that law firms are lean, nimble and capable of pivoting rapidly to meet changing markets. Huge overheads and real estate footprints will make this far more difficult to achieve.

How we use technology

Technology has shown itself to be a saviour, connecting us to colleagues and clients, enabling work to be executed seamlessly and with relatively little disruption. This has inevitably changed working patterns with people operating flexibly from home. While there will be a continued need for office space and face-to-face meetings, I can see a time when law firms adopt a more flexible model with employees booking desks on days that they need to be in the office. At the click of a button, technology such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom has also dramatically changed the way meetings are conducted across the globe, reducing the need for overseas travel and the world’s carbon footprint in the process. This will continue to be the norm rather than exception. And savings made on real estate can and should be invested in cutting-edge technology in the office and home working.


Many law firms already have innovation departments, implementing artificial intelligence mechanics in research and document assembly, practice management coordination and predictive coding. This will inevitably have an impact on how work is researched, creating efficiencies and an evaluation of what support structures will be needed. As employees become more tech-savvy and self-sufficient, the traditional role of the legal assistant, for example, will need to evolve and diversify.

The drive for efficiency and structural change, better use of technology and the ability to be more fleet of foot in meeting client expectations are just some of the fundamental characteristics that will be the hallmark of the modern law firm.

Sheryl Crow sang, ‘A change would do you good’. That’s never been more true for the legal industry than right now. Creating the blueprint for the modern law firm will be an exciting journey that should be embraced rather than feared. Prepare for the revolution.

Natasha Harrison is co-managing partner and London head of Boies Schiller Flexner

Legal Business

The future of disputes debate: The justice brand

The future of disputes debate: The justice brand

Alex Novarese, Legal Business: Will the UK legal system be more or less trusted post Brexit?

Abhijit Mukhopadhyay, Hinduja Group: As a business, we trust English law and the English courts. Whenever we do business in any part of the world, unless it is in the US, we always go for English law. So long as the courts remain a brand – and they will, irrespective of whether Brexit happens – London will be attractive.

Legal Business

HSF public international law head to boost Boies Schiller City practice following Miles exit

HSF public international law head to boost Boies Schiller City practice following Miles exit

US litigation specialist Boies, Schiller & Flexner has hired Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) head of public international law Dominic Roughton.

Roughton (pictured) will complement the firm’s international arbitration group in London, following the exit of long-serving Wendy Miles QC who quit for rival US firm Debevoise & Plimpton last month.

The firm has also signed a lease to double its office space moving from its current location in Tower 42  to a 13,000 sq ft location on the top floor of 5 New Street Square.

Experienced in international state-to-state and investor-state disputes, Roughton has acted as counsel in commercial arbitrations under ICC, LCIA, UNCITRAL, SCC, SIAC, JCAA and CIETAC rules.

Boies Schiller managing partner Jonathan Schiller said: ‘International arbitration has been a key area of focus for our firm ever since it was founded 20 years ago, and we have built a record of which we are justifiably proud.

Managing partner for Boies Schiller’s London office, Natasha Harrison, told Legal Business: ‘He’s not a direct replacement [for Miles]. It’s about adding substantial depth to the international disputes practice, particularly in international arbitration. Dominic has an exceptional public international law background which complements our existing commercial arbitration offering.

‘Our strategy for growth is led entirely by client demand. That means finding the right people to meet that demand. Dominic and Matt Getz, recruited last year as part of the global investigations practice, are prime examples of exactly the right people.’

Harrison also indicated that the firm plans to make more partner promotions in London in the near future, after Fiona Huntriss’ promotion last year.

The arrival of Roughton follows the move Kenneth Beale made to Boies Schiller in June 2015, joining from WilmerHale’s arbitration group.

The firm generated £7.6m in the year to October 2015. The UK practice has handled major work for Barclays and M&G Asset Management, as well as acting for bondholders on a high-profile dispute impacting Canary Wharf.

In 2016, Boies Schiller brought a case against the Greek state on behalf of gambling company OPAP, after the state appropriated valuable license rights in the Greek lottery.

Exit terms at Australian firm HSF are notoriously stringent, with the firm recently battling a claim against eight former partners who quit to join White & Case. Court documents from the dispute revealed that former partners cannot join a ‘direct competitor’ within six months of resignation and are also prohibited from practising within ‘restricted areas’ surrounding HSF offices in the same time period.

HSF said New York partner Laurence Shore would lead the global public international law practice with assistance from partner Christian Leathley and partner Andrew Cannon.

Read more: ‘Focal points – Law boutiques and the art of focus’

Legal Business

Corporates sign up to female equality in arbitration pledge launched by Boies Schiller and Freshfields partners


Energy giants BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell are among the first corporates to sign up to a pledge for gender equality when selecting arbitrators launched by senior partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

The Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge is a call for the international arbitration community to commit to increase the number of women appointed as arbitrators after decades of being dominated by older males.

In 2015, women accounted for just 16% of arbitrator appointments to London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) run arbitrations. Women made up 71 of the 449 appointments last year, with the bulk of those coming from the LCIA itself, as party-appointed arbitrators continued to be male-dominated. Of the 208 appointments made by the parties in dispute, just 7% were women, compared to 28% female-male ratio when selected by the LCIA. Diversity is equally as poor, often worse, among other arbitral centres and often not reported.

A year-long in the making, the pledge is the brainchild of two of the arbitration community’s leading female names, Sylvia Noury of Freshfields and Wendy Miles QC of Boies Schiller. The pair will co-chair a 30-person steering committee overseeing the group’s progress, which includes BP’s assistant general counsel Joanne Cross and ConocoPhillips’ managing counsel Suzana Blades.

The pledge has attracted over 300 signatures since being launched on Friday, with Orange general counsel Isabelle Hautot, General Electric vice president and senior litigation counsel Bradford Berenson and vice chair of the European Central Bank’s review board, Concetta Brescia Morra, all signing up. Crucially, given their increasingly powerful role in determining who hears and decides upon disputes that end up in arbitration, a large number of arbitral institutions have also signed up, including the LCIA, the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

The pledge aims to ensure that:

• Committees, governing bodies and conference panels in the field of arbitration include a fair representation of women;

• Lists of potential arbitrators or tribunal chairs provided to or considered by parties, counsel, in-house counsel or otherwise include a fair representation of female candidates;

• States, arbitral institutions and national committees include a fair representation of female candidates on rosters and lists of potential arbitrator appointees;

• Where they have the power to do so, counsel, arbitrators, representatives of corporates, states and arbitral institutions appoint a fair representation of female arbitrators;

• Gender statistics for appointments (split by party and other appointment) are collated and made publicly available; and

• Senior and experienced arbitration practitioners support, mentor/sponsor and encourage women to pursue arbitrator appointments and otherwise enhance their profiles and practice.

Legal Business

Boies Schiller posts first London revenue figures, raking in £7.6m


Boies, Schiller & Flexner has filed its first office revenues since launching in the City raking in £7.6m through to the end of October 2015.

Having launched its first London base in 2014, the US firm has managed to generate 3% of global revenues that reached $380m. The litigation powerhouse saw gross revenues grow 10% in 2015 from the previous year, with partner profits exceed the $3m mark for the second year straight.

Since its launch into the City, Boies Schiller been instructed by a series of clients and has a few panel wins under its belt including for M&G Asset Management. The office also won the pitch for the high profile Canary Wharf dispute on behalf of Class A1 Noteholders, which includes financial institutions Legal & General and Prudential. It successfully pitched against the likes of Herbert Smith Freehills, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Sidley Austin, Akin Gump and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

London managing partner Natasha Harrison told Legal Business: ‘Over 70% of London office revenue is generated from local clients, with the balance being generated by US clients. For us this is the perfect balance. We are self-funding and profitable, but also connected to the US, and able to serve our US clients on their important international disputes.’

The office comprises 16 fee-earners, including four partners, three counsel and six associates based in London, and last month, the office launched a City investigations practice with the hire of disputes and investigations lawyer Matthew Getz who joined as a partner from Debevoise & Plimpton. This came after Kenneth Beale and Wendy Miles joined from WilmerHale to bulk up the office’s arbitration practice in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

‘We have been focused on growing our international disputes practice in London, and a core part of our strategy is to develop our offering to clients in the international investigations area, including white collar, regulatory and criminal investigations,’ said Harrison. ‘It is all about identifying leading lawyers in their field who can deliver the highest quality of service to our clients. With Matthew on board, we can meet rising client demand for this work, especially in the financial services sector.’

Harrison joined the firm from Bingham McCutchen at the end of 2013 to head the firm’s foray into the London market in 2014. The launch was the firm’s first office outside of the US mainly to service the firm’s major clients including Barclays, which Boies Schiller had been representing over Libor related issues.


Legal Business

Hedge funds pick Quinn Emanuel and Boies in multi-million dispute with Indian car parts maker


Litigation powerhouses Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Boies, Schiller & Flexner, have been selected by hedge funds who purchased bonds issued by India’s Castex Technologies to prepare for a $200m dispute in the English courts.

Quinn Emanuel’s London co-managing partners, Richard East and Sue Prevezer QC, have been enlisted by one group of hedge funds to prepare a case alleging unlawful share manipulation by car parts maker Castex after a steep rise in its share price triggered an ability to swap its bond debt for equity in the ailing company.

Likewise, Boies Schiller’s London managing partner Natasha Harrison has been drafted in to represent another hedge fund that bought Castex bonds in a $200m issue in 2012. Quinn is representing a group of hedge funds who have interests in convertible bonds, known as the 6% group, while Boies is representing a major holder of the 2.5% foreign currency convertible bonds that are set to be converted to equity at the end of September. The two sets of bonds are governed by English law and have an English jurisdiction clause to send disputes to London’s courts.

Castex’s share price on the Bombay Stock Exchange tripled between April and July, potentially allowing the manufacturer to swap the bondholder debt into equity. Its share price has fallen since then.

The bondholders, which have already complained to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and the Indian regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), allege that the mandatory conversion of the bonds into equity was carried out by fraudulent means and the right exercised unlawfully.

East told Legal Business: ‘Our clients suspect foul play and we have been instructed to prepare for litigation. There was a huge increase in the stock, which almost tripled, and it all coincided with the mandatory conversion. The stock price has since gone down every day.’

Harrison added: ‘Castex is one of a number of cases we have been instructed on behalf of international investors against Indian listed companies who have failed to implement proper corporate governance, and/or have breached or defaulted upon their foreign currency convertible bonds. It will serve to discourage international investment into India if this type of conduct and lack of corporate governance is allowed to prevail.’

Legal Business

Boies Schiller boosts London presence as it takes on third City partner with WilmerHale hire


Eighteen months on from its City launch, Boies, Schiller & Flexner has hired its third partner with Kenneth Beale joining the disputes shop from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s arbitration group.

The hire comes as the firm looks to bulk up its offering within its three core practice lines: investigations, litigation and international arbitration. Beale starts in his new role on July 6 and will be joined by three associates from various firms including White & Case.

Beale, who was of counsel at WilmerHale with particular experience of disputes involving Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia, was understood to have been on track to partnership at the firm but decided to leave to join fellow arbitration partner Wendy Miles, who also left last September to boost Boies Schiller’s City arbitration offering.

The arrival of the team will take office headcount to 15, which counts three partners and 12 associates including two secondees. The firm has also taken out extra office space in Old Broad Street’s Tower 42 that will house up to 25 heads.

After more than a decade at WilmerHale’s London and Washington DC offices, Beale returns to Boies Schiller where he spent time as a summer associate in the early 2000s under co-founder and managing partner Jonathan Schiller.

Beale has experience of advising in criminal and corporate investigations, cross-border disputes and international arbitrations across the oil and gas, manufacturing, financial services, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and defence sectors.

Boies Schiller’s London head, Natasha Harrison, said: ‘Ken is a valuable and important addition to our growing London office. His expertise in investigations and international arbitration will add further resource and depth to the office as we continue to build the international disputes practice.’

Founded in 1997, Boies Schiller launched its first office outside of the States in London in the summer of 2013 with the hire of former Bingham McCutchen star partner Harrison. The launch came in a bid to service the firm’s major clients including Barclays, which Boies Schiller represented over Libor related issues.

Recent work out of the London office has seen Boies Schiller advising the Class A1 Fixed Noteholders of Canary Wharf in a dispute to a spens payment, which is listed for trial in the final week of July; and obtaining a judgment from the High Court in April in favour of a group of Spanish conglomerate FCC’s debt holders.

Legal Business

Boies Schiller hires WilmerHale’s Miles to boost London arbitration


US litigation powerhouse Boies Schiller & Flexner has hired long-serving arbitration partner Wendy Miles from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr to kick start a London arbitration practice.

The hire comes as the firm aims to expand its arbitration capabilities in the City a year on from setting up shop in the region. It takes the London office headcount to two partners as she joins London managing partner Natasha Harrison and two associates while litigator Duane Loft splits his time between New York and London.

Miles quits WilmerHale after 15 years at the firm, having joined in 1999 and been made up to partner in 2005. It leaves the firm with 4 partners in the London office and John Pierce who splits his time between London and New York. She built a practice focused on instructions in disputes between European and Asian parties, particularly in the energy sector, and regularly advises in international arbitration proceedings administered under international arbitral institutions and rules, including the ICC, LCIA, HKIAC, PCA and UNCITRAL.

She is known in the market for advising, alongside WilmerHale’s London international arbitration head Gary Born, southern Sudan in a ground-breaking boundary dispute at The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague – a case that redrew the boundaries of the oil-rich Abyei region following years of civil war, and was one of the first arbitration proceedings to be aired live via the internet.

Born said: ‘We are delighted by Wendy’s move and fully supportive. Wendy is a perfect fit for Boies Schiller and we wish them all the best.’

Boies Schiller, founded in 1997 and known to be among the most profitable firms in the US, launched its first office outside of the States in London last summer with the hire of former Bingham McCutchen star partner Harrison. The launch came in a bid to service the firm’s major clients including Barclays, which Boies Schiller represented over Libor related issues.,

For more on Boies Schiller’s high-profile launch in London, see Global London – The justice play

Legal Business

London launch: Boies Schiller hires Bingham heavyweight Harrison to spearhead City practice


US litigation powerhouse Boies, Schiller & Flexner has hired Bingham McCutchen star partner Natasha Harrison to head the firm’s foray into the London market, its first office outside of the US.

Harrison has been a partner at Bingham since 2004 and is described by the The Legal 500 as an ‘incredibly commercial for a litigator’. She was instrumental during the Icelandic bank crisis, acting for bondholders of the three collapsed Icelandic banks, Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir, the world’s second largest insolvency.

The highly profitable 258-lawyer firm has chosen to open an office in the City to service the firm’s major clients including Barclays, which Boies Schiller has been representing over Libor related issues. The firm’s team defending Barclays is led by managing partner Jonathan Schiller and chairman David Boies.

The 258-lawyer firm was reported to have been considering a move to London as far back as 2008 but its growing London portfolio, including the successful defence of Barclays against a $13bn claim brought by Lehman Brothers over the purchase of its North American broker unit, has brought the decision to a head.

Although the firm has not finalised the office headcount, it is expected to bring in a group of associates to support Harrison.

Schiller (pictured) said: ‘Natasha is a distinguished English lawyer, with a leading practice in finance litigation and arbitration, areas in which our firm’s works is increasing globally each year. She will be the managing partner in our London office and joins our talented partnership in addressing clients’ most critical issues around the world.’

Boies Schiller’s 2012 profits per partner stood at $2,725,000, according to The American Lawyer 2013.