Legal Business

‘A leading player’: Fieldfisher ups real estate game with RPC construction and projects team

Enterprising top-25 firm Fieldfisher has made a significant construction and projects play, hiring a team including two partners from RPC.

Dan Preston, who was RPC’s head of construction and projects, is joining Fieldfisher alongside fellow partner David Thorne in addition to a team of five associates. One of those is senior associate Jamie Key, who will join Fieldfisher as a partner.

Preston, who deals with both contentious and non-contentious construction work, will become head of construction and projects at Fieldfisher. His clients include the Morgan Sindall Group and Sir Robert McAlpine, and has represented property giant Hammerson in the Technology and Construction Court.

Thorne, who counts VolkerWessels Group as part of his client book, has in recent years focused on construction disputes, also based in the Technology and Construction Court.

Antony Phillips, Fieldfisher’s head of real estate, told Legal Business: ‘We are now a very significant real estate practice offering the entire range of services that any sophisticated real estate buyer of legal services will require.

‘They [Preston and Thorne] are incredibly high profile and highly-regarded construction lawyers, and they offer a genuinely top-tier construction team in themselves. Putting them together with our team makes us a leading player in the market.’

Preston, Thorne and the rest of the RPC team will join Fieldfisher on 1 May, where they will primarily be based in the firm’s London office.

The team appointment comes at an intrepid time for Fieldfisher, with the firm undergoing significant expansion in the last 12 months. In January, Fieldfisher set up a separate law firm focused on hedge funds, derivatives and alternative investments called Cummings Fisher.

Last year saw Fieldfisher realise its long-term ambition of opening in Spain, agreeing a tie-up with local firm JAUSAS to gain new offices in Barcelona and Madrid.

Legal Business

Corporate partner David Wilkinson wins Fieldfisher senior partner election

Corporate partner David Wilkinson has beaten competition from real estate head Anthony Phillips to win Fieldfisher’s senior partner race, replacing incumbent Matthew Lohn after six years in the role.

Wilkinson will serve a three-year term starting 1 May 2019. Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick confirmed that Wilkinson will continue in a ‘dual role’ as fee-earner and senior partner, and described him as a ‘well-respected partner.’

Wilkinson, who is a Fieldfisher lifer, outweighed his rival Phillips in terms of longevity: he joined as a trainee in 1990, before being made partner in the corporate practice in 1999. Since then he has been involved in a number of high-profile deals, including advising Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov on his 2007 purchase of a 14.6% stake in Arsenal Football Club.

Wilkinson commented: ‘I am very much looking forward to working closely with Michael and the firm’s executive committee and supervisory board as we continue to grow and integrate our offices across Europe.’

He added: ‘Key parts of my role will be to ensure that our values remain at the heart of everything that we do and that we continue to engage with, and listen to, our clients to improve still further the quality and scope of our services.’

Phillips, who is a solicitor advocate, is currently Fieldfisher’s head of real estate. He also has pedigree with the firm, joining in May 2005 from Mayer Brown, before going on to sit on the firm’s executive committee between 2010 and 2018.

Lohn had originally been appointed Fieldfisher’s managing partner, but an extended leave of absence saw then-technology partner Chissick take over on an interim basis in 2012. In 2013, Chissick was confirmed as full-time managing partner with Lohn taking on the senior partner role.

Upon stepping down, Lohn will continue in his role as a partner in Fieldfisher’s public and regulatory department.

The election comes after incumbent managing partner Chissick was re-elected last year. He ran unopposed, with his next three year term beginning on 1 May 2019.

Wilkinson ascends at a boom period for Fieldfisher, the firm unveiled an above-trend 26% uptick in its H1 revenues for the 2018/19 financial year, hitting £97m.

Legal Business

Fieldfisher swims against the current with launch of stand-alone alternative investments law firm

Never a firm to rest on its laurels, fast-paced Fieldfisher has taken the unusual step of launching a separate law firm focused on hedge funds, derivatives and alternative investments.

The new entity – called Cummings Fisher – sees Fieldfisher hire three partners from other law firms to run it. Financial services partner Claire Cummings, who founded alternative investments boutique Cummings Law in 2003, has been appointed managing partner. She will be joined by James Tinworth, formerly head of Stephenson Harwood’s hedge funds practice, who will lead the funds practice. Ron Feldman, previously a partner at asset management consultancy MJ Hudson, will spearhead the derivatives practice.

Cummings Fisher will be based at 1 Mayfair Place, London’s hedge fund and alternative asset management hub. Despite the separate office, Cummings Fisher will still be able to access Fieldfisher’s pool of lawyers and its outposts dotted across Europe.

Structurally, Cummings Fisher is a completely separate firm rather than a division or new brand of Fieldfisher. It is an independent, SRA-authorised firm that is owned and supported by Fieldfisher. It is not an Alternative Business Structure (ABS).

Guy Usher, head of financial markets and products at Fieldfisher, told Legal Business that the idea for a separate law firm came after seeing the success of Fieldfisher’s near shore operation in Belfast: ‘We wanted to do a similar service with a competitive price point for investment managers. We needed more hedge fund clients for this to work though, which is why we approached Claire. In fact, she was the first person who answered our email asking to meet for a coffee!’

Cummings added: ‘We are building up the practice we already had at Cummings Law. We had lots of smaller clients that we would often regard as friends, but now with the ability to exploit Fieldfisher’s resources, we are able to offer more for our larger clients.’

The Cummings Fisher launch builds on a sustained period of international growth and new product lines for Fieldfisher. In 2018, the firm opened the low-cost hub in Belfast, with a long-term view of staffing it with 125 people. The Northern Irish office provides document negotiation and legal support from a team largely consisting of paralegals.

In early 2017, Fieldfisher launched Condor, an alternative legal services platform which offers clients process-efficient services. Among those on offer are contract negotiation and outsourcing, contract automation, AI and robotics.

In other firm news, last week it was revealed that corporate partner David Wilkinson and real estate partner Anthony Phillips had launched bids to succeed Matthew Lohn as Fieldfisher’s senior partner.

Legal Business

European Court of Justice makes landmark Brexit ruling as Fieldfisher prevails in $1.9bn Ukrainian banking dispute

As a crunch parliamentary vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal looks to be postponed, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled the UK is free to unilaterally revoke its decision to a divorce from the EU.

The landmark ruling means that UK parliament can instruct the government to bring an end to the Brexit process, if it so wishes.

The dispute pitted a batch of Scottish anti-Brexit politicians, namely Andy Wightman, Ross Greer, Alyn Smith, David Martin, Catherine Stihler, and Joanna Cherry against the government, the Council of the EU and the European Commission.

As a result of the ruling, the argument from the two EU institutions that the consent of the other 27 member states would be needed for the UK to revoke its withdrawal was defeated.

Hogan Lovells’ public law partner Charles Brasted commented: ‘In the long-term, practical questions remain as to whether, if the circumstances were to arise, the option for the UK to outstay its welcome is politically realistic. In the more immediate term, confirmation that the UK can still choose to remain in the EU is likely to harden minds, and cause more entrenchment, on both sides of the political divide against the compromises presented by the government’s deal.’

A raft of lawyers were enlisted for the case, with the anti-Brexit politicians represented by Edinburgh firm Balfour + Manson, which instructed Matrix Chambers’ Aidan O’Neill QC as lead counsel. He was supported by Brick Court’s Maya Lester QC, and Joylon Maugham QC’s Good Law Project offered crowdfunding support.

Blackstone Chambers’ Thomas de la Mare QC acted for the government, while London firm Bindmans advised MPs Chris Leslie and Tom Brake who intervened in favour of the anti-Brexit politicians.

Meanwhile, Fieldfisher has successfully represented Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky in a case against the eastern European nation’s largest bank, PrivatBank.

Kolomoisky, and fellow defendant Gennadiy Bogolyubov, had been accused by the bank of defrauding it out of $1.91bn, with PrivatBank subsequently attempting to impose a worldwide freezing injunction (WFO) on them. Both men were the majority shareholders in the bank prior to its nationalisation in Ukraine in December 2016.

In the High Court, Justice Fancourt dismissed the WFO after identifying ‘serious non-disclosure and misrepresentation’ by PrivatBank in its claim. As a result, Justice Fancourt ruled that the maximum possible value of PrivatBank’s claim should be slashed from $1.91bn to just $515m.

Fieldfisher partner Andrew Lafferty, who led on the case, told Legal Business: ‘Our client has always maintained that the bank’s claims were politically motivated and misconceived. The judge has found that at least three quarters of their claim was not arguable at all.

‘As a firm we may have hidden our light under a bushel when it comes to disputes, despite historically working on some big claims. It’s great to have our name associated with such a high-profile dispute.’

PrivatBank was represented by Hogan Lovells, while Bogolyubov was advised by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Legal Business

‘Continues to fly’: Fieldfisher true to form with 26% revenue hike as Chissick gets re-elected

Cementing its reputation as one of the UK’s highest-performing firms, Fieldfisher has recorded an above-trend 26% uptick in revenue in its half-year results for 2018/19.

The £97m turnover outstripped the £76.7m for the comparable period, the first half of last year. The revenue figure covers Fieldfisher’s UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Silicon Valley offices. The firm’s Swiss Verein offices in Netherlands, Italy, Spain and China are not included.

A strong showing from Fieldfisher’s German offices was credited as a key driver in the notable revenue increase, with those seeing 60% growth in turnover in the last year.

Also making impressions was the Paris office, which jumped 36% in revenue, while the firm’s new Frankfurt outpost has grown from one partner at the time of its April launch to 4 partners now.

In terms of practice groups, dispute resolution, tech, outsourcing and privacy, finance and corporate were cited by the firm as the highest performing, with each of them delivering more than 37% revenue growth in the six-month period.

Michael Chissick (pictured), Fieldfisher’s managing partner, told Legal Business: ‘It has been a very consistent three-year performance. We have had a strong run in our focused sectors, while GDPR continues to fly for us.’

Chissick says that GDPR has ‘exploded’ in the last year and the firm has benefitted from the rise in cyber security work: ‘We are doing about one cyber security incident per day for our clients. It’s an area of law which barely existed about five years ago, I find that fascinating.’

The H1 results build on similarly pacey full-year financials for 2017/18, which contributed to the firm’s winning Legal Business’ law firm of the year award in April. In June, Fieldfisher announced a sharp 24% rise in global revenue to £207m, accompanied by a healthy 17% jump in profit per equity partner (PEP) to £750,000.

Chissick’s tenure as managing partner has been characterised by fierce global expansion. In September, the firm concluded a much-anticipated tie-up in Spain with local firm JAUSAS, giving Fieldfisher access to offices in Barcelona and Madrid. According to Chissick at the time, it brought an end to the era of European expansion, at least for the time being.

Also this year, Fieldfisher established a low-cost hub in Belfast in conjunction with Donaldson Legal Consulting, to provide document negotiation and legal support from a team largely consisting of paralegals.

Chissick has also been eyeing up a post-Brexit Dublin launch. He said: ‘It’s something we’re looking at for 2019. We have a good track record of delivering on new offices.’

In May, Chissick was re-elected as managing partner for a third consecutive term. He ran unopposed, and will begin his next three-year term on 1 May 2019.

Legal Business

The new El Dorado: Fieldfisher launches in Spain as Latham doubles Madrid team in 12 months

Ignored by much of the global elite until a few years ago, Spain is quickly becoming one of the hottest legal markets in continental Europe, with Latham & Watkins more than doubling its headcount in less than a year while UK challenger firm Fieldfisher delivers on its much anticipated launch.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick announced on 25 September that the firm had completed a three-year-long search to combine with 60-lawyer firm JAUSAS.

Legal Business

‘It hasn’t been easy’: Fieldfisher concludes European odyssey with long-awaited Spanish launch

Fieldfisher’s recent frenetic push into key European markets has culminated today (25 September) with a much-anticipated tie-up in Spain with local firm JAUSAS.

The combination, which will operate under the firm’s Swiss Verein structure, gives Fieldfisher access to offices in Barcelona and Madrid under the name Fieldfisher JAUSAS, a long-stated ambition of managing partner Michael Chissick.

JAUSAS was formed 52 years ago and comprises of 60 lawyers, 14 of which are partners. It generated €8.4m in turnover during the last financial year, and is led by managing partner Agustín Bou. Key practice areas are corporate, competition, life sciences, dispute resolution, employment and IP. The firm’s corporate team also branches out into investment management and private equity and boasts a China desk serving Chinese investors.

Chissick told Legal Business: ‘I spent years working on this; it hasn’t been easy to find the perfect Spanish partner. Getting them to take the plunge and give up their independence wasn’t easy. They’re the pre-eminent life sciences firm in Spain.’

With the merger slated to go live tomorrow (26 September), it will bring Fieldfisher’s total office count to 24. This comes after a concerted campaign of European expansion: the firm opened offices in both Luxembourg and Frankfurt earlier this year.

Fieldfisher also opened a high-volume hub in Belfast in August, and, more further afield, established its third Chinese office in Guangzhou during the same month.

After a sustained period of expansion, Chissick said it is time for Fieldfisher to cool down: ‘We wanted to be in all the major commercial centres of Europe and we’ve done that now. Now’s the time for integration and bedding down, I wouldn’t expect another major European launch for a while.’

Fieldfisher – named Legal Business Law Firm of the Year in 2018 – has been one of the highest-performing firms in the UK legal market in recent years, and it maintained its form in June by unveiling a 24% uptick in turnover to £207m while profits per equity partner grew by a healthy 17% to £750,000.


Legal Business

International round-up: Fieldfisher opens third China office as Pinsents settles Madrid dispute

Ever-expansive Fieldfisher has bolstered its presence in Asia having opened a third office in China, while Pinsent Masons has settled a dispute with its former Spanish best friend firm over its Madrid outpost.

Fieldfisher’s new office in in Guangzhou, which will focus on corporate, M&A, dispute resolution and IP work, is staffed by a seven-lawyer team from local firm Geenen Law Office.

Three are partners: Zhongran Lian, Kuan Liu and Connie Wong. Lian is a commercial litigation and arbitration specialist, with more than 30 years’ experience in representing both state-owned and private companies. Similarly, Liu is an arbitration and litigation partner with over 20 years’ experience in civil and commercial cases.

Wong has a broad corporate history and has advised a range of clients on both inbound and outbound cross-border investments.

The Guangzhou hub marks Fieldfisher’s third Chinese office, following launches in Beijing in November 2016 and Shanghai in February 2017.

Fieldfisher’s Chinese operation now consists of 14 partners and 21 lawyers as well as paralegals and support staff.

Managing partner of Fieldfisher China, Zhaofeng Zhou, told Legal Business: ‘We are following our clients, we have big clients in the Guangzhou region. Geographically it also has lots of potential due to financial investment from the Chinese government.’

Zhou noted that Guangzhou is one of China’s four first-tier cities with the others being Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. It is the capital of Guangdong province, which has a GDP similar to Spain. The firm considers it home to companies from many of its key sectors, including automotive and biotechnology.

Meanwhile, a wrangle between Pinsents and former Spanish best friend firm Ramón & Cajal has been concluded.

Ramón had initially sued Pinsents after it hired four of its lawyers following failed merger talks in 2016. The UK-based firm had appointed Diego Lozano, Antonio Sánchez Montero, Inmaculada Castelló and Idoya Arteagabeitia, despite Ramón alleging that the hires violated a previously agreed no-hiring provision.

The Spanish firm turned to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan co-head Richard East to fight its claim, while Pinsents enlisted Ashurt partner James Levy and Blackstone Chambers barrister Thomas Croxford.

A spokesperson for Pinsents said: ‘The parties have settled the litigation and their previous good relations are now restored.  The parties do not intend to comment further.’

Legal Business

‘Not starting from scratch’: Fieldfisher opens high-volume hub in Belfast

Mid-tier pacesetter Fieldfisher has become the latest firm to explore volume legal services, opening a low-cost hub in Belfast to be staffed by 125 people.

The new Northern Irish office will provide document negotiation and legal support from a team largely consisting of paralegals. The venture is being launched in conjunction with Donaldson Legal Consulting (DLC), with which Fieldfisher has had a Belfast tie-up since the end of last year.

Via the DLC combination, Fieldfisher already has a Belfast base for its alternative legal services platform, Condor, which combines document data management and technology solutions with low-cost legal expertise.

DLC founder Alison Donaldson has been appointed managing partner of Fieldfisher Belfast and will be in charge of both the new office and the Condor operations.

Economic development agency Invest Northern Ireland has put forward a £630,000 grant towards the creation of these new jobs. The office currently has around 30 members of staff, with a view to employing some 125 people within the next three years.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We are not starting from scratch, we already have 30 people there supporting clients, mainly in the financial sector. We’ve got to remain competitive with other firms who have similar operations.’

The firms Chissick is referring to include Clifford Chance (CC), who in February unveiled a surprise acquisition of Carillion’s pioneering in-house legal arm. The Newcastle-based Carillion Advice Services (CAS) was acquired for an undisclosed sum and consists of around 60 paralegals.

Moving more towards Fieldfisher’s position in the market, Taylor Wessing announced in July that it was opening a low cost centre in Liverpool. The new base is slated to open in September and will launch with an initial team of 11 lawyers and business support staff.

Fieldfisher has been on a robust financial run in recent years, announcing a 24% uptick in revenue earlier this year. The firm’s UK business brought in £135.6m, up on last year’s £110m.

Legal Business

Revolving doors: Morrison & Foerster makes City move as Fieldfisher and Reed Smith develop international practices

US player Morrison & Foerster emerged as the only firm to make a significant lateral hire in the City last week, while Fieldfisher bolstered its new Luxembourg office and Reed Smith made a triple hire in the Middle East at the expense of Pinsent Masons.

MoFo strengthened its London finance practice with the hire of Benoit Lavigne from Ropes & Gray where he was a partner, focusing primarily on leveraged finance, acquisition finance and special situations lending. The hire is MoFo’s third London office hire of 2018, as the firm strengthened with additions from Clifford Chance and Jones Day earlier this year.

Managing partner for Europe Paul Friedman said: ‘Benoit is highly regarded in finance circles in London, and his cross-border experience will continue to enhance our ability to support our clients with their growing global finance needs.’

Elsewhere in the UK, regional firm Coffin Mew boosted its practice in Thames Valley with the hires of Tim Watkins from Hadef & Partners and Derek Walsh from Thrings. Watkins joins Coffin Mew’s international corporate transactions practice, bringing with him experience in cross border acquisitions and high-profile commercial projects, including the establishment of Abu Dhabi’s national airline, Etihad Airways.

Walsh, meanwhile, will now head up the firm’s agricultural and rural business practice, having previously spent 12 years as an agricultural specialist at Things where he focused on representing farmers and rural businesses on contract disputes.

In Europe, Fieldfisher set about enhancing its Luxembourg offering with two fresh hires to the newly-launched office. Jean-Luc Dascotte has been appointed as a tax partner, joining from Brussels-based tax firm Tiberghien where he acted as managing partner in Luxembourg.

Accompanying Dascotte will be corporate partner Richard Ledain Santiago who joins from Allen & Overy, where he acted for a range of local and international clients in areas of M&A, joint ventures and structured finance. Both hires have been long-expected at Fieldfisher, with local managing partner Ingrid Dubourdieu previously being the only partner at the new office.

Dubourdieu said: ‘This is the latest stage in our rapidly progressing plan to enhance the range and versatility of our Luxembourg office by adding further specialisms. Luxembourg’s tax market has gone through tremendous changes over the last 24 months that affect all corporates and it is our view that further changes flowing from new EU legislation and Brexit will increase opportunities for law firms like Fieldfisher.’

Meanwhile across the border in France, DWF set about establishing a new IP practice with the hire of litigation partner Simon Christiaën from Lazareff Le Bars where he led the IP litigation and dispute resolution department.

Christiaën boasts 25 years of experience in the IP field, with a particular focus on judicial action and arbitration, previously advising on infringement and IP issues for industrial manufacturers and distributors. At DWF, Christiaën will work closely with litigation partner Florence Karila and corporate partner Anne-Sylvie Vassenaix-Paxton.

Meanwhile, Reed Smith completed the international recruitment round, making a triple hire in the Middle East, including two new recruits from Pinsent Masons. Sachin Kerur, Michelle Nelson and Shourav Lahiri all join, as Reed Smith sets about improving its international arbitration and construction and projects sectors in the region.

Kerur had previously been Pinsent Masons’ head of the Middle East region, and will now assume the role of office managing partner for Reed Smith in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, bringing with him experience advising regional governments and the private sector on a series of infrastructure projects across the Middle East and India.

Nelson also joins Reed Smith from Pinsent Masons, where she specialised in international arbitration and high-value infrastructure projects, while Lahiri joins from his own firm in Asia, having also spent time at Pinsent Masons as partner.

Reed Smith managing partner for Europe and the Middle East Tamara Box lauded the hires, saying: ‘Sachin and Michelle are highly regarded in the region, and we are thrilled to have them join us. They have worked closely with Shourav for many years and together this team will be a real boost to our Middle East offering and represents a game-changer in the local legal market.’