Legal Business

Fieldfisher, Capsticks and Capital Law win spots on SRA’s new general advisory panel

Fieldfisher, Capsticks and Capital Law have all won roles on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) inaugural general counsel (GC) panel, Legal Business can reveal.

This follows the decision by the SRA in May to name Capsticks as its sole provider for disciplinary and litigation work, opting to abandon a law firm panel approach. It is understood that tenders for both panels were run in parallel to each other.

The GC panel will last for a 3 year term initially, with the possibility to extend for a further two years.

Fieldfisher will advise on issues surrounding regulatory reform, policy development and governance, while Capsticks will advise on public law including judicial review, public policy, and information law requirements.

The GC team was formed in 2015, to provide legal advice to the SRA.  It advises on public law and regulatory issues, including judicial review, effective decision making and broader corporate support to the organisation.

The six firms that formed the previous litigation and investigations panels were Kingsley Napley, Simmons & Simmons, Capsticks, Devonshires, Russell-Cooke and Bevan Brittan.

At the time, the SRA’s chief executive Paul Philip said that moving to a sole provider model would ‘help to ensure consistency across all our legal work.’

Capsticks’ working relationship with the SRA dates back to 2009, and the firm was appointed to the SRA’s litigation panel after a successful retender in 2013. Disputes partner Daniel Purcell will lead for the firm on the new sole mandate.

Meanwhile earlier this month, Legal Business revealed that Fieldfisher was advising the SRA on the contractual provider which will eventually assist the SRA on delivering the new Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) also known as ‘the super exam’.

A team from the firm, led by technology partner Sam Jardine and head of privacy Hazel Grant, tendered for the work over six months ago.

It is understood that the work is at an advanced stage, with the SRA expecting to tender the contract out imminently. The contract was due to be tendered by this summer.

Fieldfisher are the only firm working with the SRA on the draft contract for an independent organisation, which will take ultimate responsibility for the delivery of the SQE once it is finalised.


Legal Business

Cutting out the middle man: Capital Law opens £50m litigation fund


Welsh firm Capital Law has launched a £50m commercial litigation funding service, marking the first time a UK law firm has established its own disputes funding pot.

Publicly launched today (1 February), the fund is secured and will be managed by Capital Law directly, rather than by an external litigation financier obligated to other equity and asset management partners.

The firm will operate cases on a no-win, no-fee basis and, if the claim is won, fees are priced on a bespoke basis but indicative terms are up to 25% of the damages recovered, or up to two times the committed amount. Fees are also staggered to ‘reflect risk and encourage quicker recovery,’ a statement said.

The firm said it is: ‘cutting out the middle man and its associated financial implications’ while the team’s experience in litigation ‘ensures quicker and cheaper funding, with a decision on whether a case should be funded in weeks rather than months, providing far greater confidence and control to the potential litigant.’

The firm handled the high-profile Roadchef dispute, a 17-year long £100m legal battle against the motorway service operator’s former chief executive, Tim Ingram Hill, regarding an employee share scheme. That case was bankrolled by Harbour Litigation Funding.

Capital Law senior partner Christopher Nott tells Legal Business: ‘It took me two years to do this. The partners are used to me going off on bonkers schemes every now and then, so my colleagues gave me a bit more latitude than you might get in a conventionally structured firm. Litigation funding is very clunky – the middle man makes it so. It’s also very expensive. We’ve got a traditional spread of clients and most live in the ordinary world of commerce – the things they need dealing with can range from £100k to £1m – funders only deal with the top end of that.’

He added: ‘When we first became aware of the case the Roadchef employees had against their former employer 20 years ago, it was impossible to finance litigation and the easiest thing for everyone to do would have been settle it cheaply. We believed in the case, and, through funding from the hedge fund, thousands of Roadchef employees now stand to benefit.’

Nott added when realising a claim can be an asset, businesses can now seek to recover that without taking on the finance and risk themselves.

‘As it is controlled and managed by us, it ensures that all decisions are taken quickly and costs involved within a business’ litigation claim can be covered. Its structure and lower cost also enables Capital Law to fund smaller cases that may have been previously ignored, whilst also allowing it to fund larger litigation cases that may have been “written-off,”‘ Nott said.

In other litigation funding news Burford Capital announced in October last year it was investing $30m in US competition law boutique Hausfeld for its office opening in Germany.

Legal Business

A 17-year dispute: Roadchef workers win legal battle against DAC Beachcroft client over employee shares


Hundreds of workers at motorway service operator Roadchef are set to share a windfall after a 17-year long legal battle against the company’s former chief executive regarding an employee share option scheme.

More than 600 people working for Roadchef, which has 21 service stations in England, Wales and Scotland, were due to benefit after former managing director Patrick Gee, who led the 1983 buyout of the firm, decided to allocate them around 20% of the company’s shares in the mid-80s. Gee died, however, before the scheme was completed and his successor, Timothy Ingram Hill was accused of cheating staff out of millions of pounds by disregarding Gee’s wishes. When Roadchef was bought out in 1998 by Delek, an Israeli multinational, the shares made Ingram Hill almost £27m.

Bankrolled by Harbour Litigation Funding, the claim involved the 1998 transfer of shares in Roadchef between two trusts, EBT1 and EBT2. EBT1 operated an employee share ownership plan for the benefit of employees while EBT2 was used to provide share incentives to senior management. The dispute brought to court concerned the circumstances in which the senior management trustees granted options over the shares to Ingram Hill personally, who served in several high powered positions at the company over a period of time including as managing director, chairman and chief executive.

Hardwicke Chambers trio Nigel Jones QC, PJ Kirby QC and Emily Betts were instructed by Capital Law for the claimant, while Fountain Court Chambers duo Michael Brindle QC and Giles Wheeler were instructed by DAC Beachcroft for the defendants.

The claimant argued that transfer of shares from EBT1 to EBT2 was void and that the transfer made was in breach of trust or breach of fiduciary duty owed to the beneficiaries of EBT1. There were further allegations that Ingram Hill dishonestly assisted in the breach, as he received the shares in the knowledge that they had been transferred in breach.

Having considered whether or not the transfer of the shares was entirely valid, void or voidable, in January 2014 Justice Proudman found that, irrespective of any wrongdoing on the part of Ingram Hill, the transfer was void as it was outside the power of the trustees. Proudman held that the claimant could therefore void the transfer of the shares. The High Court also found Ingram Hill liable for breach of fiduciary duty as he did not obtain the informed consent of other directors because he did not tell them he intended to secure the options over the shares.

The success for the claimants at trial ultimately led to a settlement between the parties. In a statement today (2 February), Capital Law said: ‘The terms of the settlement with Timothy Ingram Hill (and others, including his wife, Mrs Ingram Hill) remain confidential. The Roadchef Employee Benefits Trustees Limited will now undertake negotiations with HMRC and other parties to determine precisely how much money will be available for distribution. They will continue to work to administer the trust as swiftly as possible so that the beneficiaries can receive their respective share without further undue delay.’